Following France Attacks, United States Should Take Concrete Steps to Curb Extremism

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First sends its deepest condolences to the government and people of France for the unspeakable acts of violence that killed and injured so many in Paris. The organization notes that President Obama’s statement following the attacks should be a call to action: “This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”

“Right now addressing the urgent security situation and helping the citizens of France heal from the unspeakable tragedy are the most immediate things to focus on,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke, who was in Paris during the past week to meet with French officials and nongovernmental organizations working on extremism and antisemitism. “And as we look for answers, President Obama’s words remind us of the bigger picture; what differentiates France, the United States, and other democratic nations is our shared and unshakable belief in respect for human rights, rule of law, freedom, equality, and democracy. We cannot let those who seek to destroy our humanity and create a clash of civilizations succeed.”

Corke has been working on a report about how the rise of the far-right, Muslim extremism, and antisemitism are converging to fuel intolerance and violence in France. Today Human Rights First released preliminary recommendations that stem from her ongoing research and recent trip to Paris, including recommendations for how the United States can best support France and provide the sort of solidarity that ensures, as Obama said, that our “values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism.”

Human Rights First’s recommendations include:

  • Combating hatred and violent extremism should not only occur through military, intelligence, and police measures. Governments should see this tragedy as a call to strengthen the transatlantic security institutions based on democratic principles.
  • A commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law must be at the heart of counterterrorism measures. The United States and France, with participation from civil society, should share experiences around advancing human rights to build more cooperative relationships with communities affected by terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Many of the refugees who have fled Syria to Europe are fleeing terrible violence, in many cases at the hands of the same group of people that share responsibility for the Paris massacre and other extremist groups. They deserve a Europe-wide inclusive solution to the current crisis; they should not be a focus of exclusion, hatred or violence.
  • Public statements from U.S. officials should be sensitive to the current marginalization of many Muslims in France. In France, the Muslim community is diverse and also suffering from hate crimes, discrimination and social and economic marginalization. How U.S. officials speak about this tragedy should avoid fueling a “clash of civilization” narrative and instead urge tolerance and inclusion.
  • Better information is needed to understand the root causes of extremism, antisemitism, and intolerance in France. The United States should work in partnership with France to boost capacity for data collection on hate crimes, victimization surveys, and the factors driving radicalization.
  • The United States should support the strengthening of civil society cooperation to build partnerships and exchange of experiences to develop strategies to combat intolerance – particularly the interrelated forces of extremism and antisemitism. This should include funding exchanges, educational opportunities, and grants to collaborative civil society initiatives.
  • A joint task force including government officials, civil society, youth and religious leaders should be created to look at concrete and tangible areas where collaborative effort could yield outcomes such as combating hatred on the Internet.

“We know that the cycle of violence is hard to break,” Corke concluded. “The response to Friday’s deadly attacks will be determinative in whether France moves toward a path of solidarity or polarization. This matters to all of us—to protect our citizens and shared values.”

For more information see Human Rights First’s fact sheet on extremist violence in France. To speak with Corke, please contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.


Published on November 15, 2015


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