PARIS – Attacks and hostile rhetoric against Muslims in France have sharply increased, a phenomenon largely blamed on the resurgence of the far-right in the southern European country, a new report has found.
“All forms of racial and religious intolerance are contrary to the values of the French Republic and should be dealt with accordingly,” Abdallah Zekri, President of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, told FRANCE 24.
A new report by the Observatory found that anti-Muslim attacks in France have sharply increased in 2011.
It showed that racist attacks against French Muslims rose by 34% in 2011.
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“The figures do not include acts of discrimination against Muslims or Islam generally, such as the rhetoric and declarations of certain politicians and their parties who openly stigmatize the Muslim faith, or in protests by “Identity” groups chanting slogans that are openly hostile to Islam,” the report said.
The Observatory also cited a 42-percent increase in racist attacks and assaults on French Muslims in 2012.
It said that 175 Islamophobic acts were reported in France in the period between January and October.
“What is happening in 2012 is alarming,” the report said.
It cited the occupation of a mosque in the western city of Poitiers by a group of far-rightists in protest at the building of the Muslim worship place.
France is home to a Muslim community of six million, Europe’s largest.
Earlier this month, Claude Dagens, the Bishop of Angouleme, lamented the rising sentiments against Muslims in France and within the Roman Catholic Church.
A recent IFOP poll found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
It showed that 43 percent of respondents opposed the building of more mosques in France, up from 39% in 2010.
The poll also revealed that 63% of respondents oppose the wearing of Islamic headscarf in public, compared to 59% two years ago.
Officials blamed the rising anti-Muslim sentiments on the resurgence of the far-right in the European country.
The rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in France could be partly explained by “the tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far right,” Zekri said.
The popularity of the far-right has grown in France and many European countries in recent years over the current economic crisis in Europe.
In the May presidential election, far-right leader Marine Le Pen came third, winning 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round, a record for the party.
Zekri also blamed the inflammatory rhetoric by politicians against French Muslims to win votes for the rising Islamophobia in the European country.
“This tension has also contributed to a radicalization of the political rhetoric of some mainstream politicians who exploit racial tensions for populist political gains,” he said.
Zekri also blamed the debate on “national identity that was launched by former president Nicolas Sarkozy and the law banning the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils.”
Sarkozy had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
In 2004, France under Sarkozy banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.
The French government also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.French Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.
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