New French Report Shows Rise in Attacks on Muslims, Sustained Targeting of Jews
By Annie Glasser
France’s National Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) recently released a report on the fight against racism in France. The CNCDH reported 429 anti-Muslim threats and attacks in 2015 – a striking 223 percent increase from the previous year, and 808 antisemitic threats and attacks in 2015 – a five percent decrease from the previous year.
The reported surge in anti-Muslim threats and attacks is attributable in large part to backlash from the terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremists in France last year—most notably, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, and the Paris attacks in November. The attacks and consequent backlash fall within a bigger picture in which extremism is often fostered by exclusion and discrimination against French Muslims.
The CNCDH’s troubling figures are consistent with a Human Rights First report released in January, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, which explores how antisemitic violence, left unchecked, leads to the persecution of other minorities and an overall increase in repression and intolerance. The findings suggest that the cycle of violence where hate is met with hate has widespread negative consequences.
All people are equally endowed with fundamental rights and freedoms, and the French government is responsible for respecting and protecting these rights for Jews, Muslims, and other groups alike. This is one of the reasons Human Rights First monitors the increasing power of far-right political parties and warns against their intolerant rhetoric as a significant immediate threat to minority groups.
The National Front for example, a historically antisemitic political party, has shifted its rhetoric in recent years to target Muslims. The far-right group now most often espouses hate against migrants—mostly Muslims from war-torn Middle Eastern countries—who are seeking refuge and asylum in record numbers in France and across Europe. But when a political party fashions an ideology around hatred, all people should be worried because it creates an environment in which exclusion and discrimination are acceptable norms.
Although Human Rights First is heartened by any decrease in antisemitic attacks, the five percent decrease that CNCDH reports should not yet be assessed as a positive trend in combating antisemitism. The overall level is still high. The 808 antisemitic attacks in 2015 account for 40 percent of all racist actions in that year. Yet the Jewish population accounts for only one percent of the total population. The French government should remain vigilant in its mission to combat antisemitism, in addition to the growing Islamophobia. Elected representatives and civil society should be better equipped to speak out against all hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents.
Addressing the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism in March, U.S. Special Envoy Ira Forman encouraged European governments to adopt a working definition of antisemitism as a tool with which to equip policy makers and civil society in order to more effectively identify and punish antisemitic acts. As anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise, Human Rights First urges European governments to address the severity of the situation for both Jews and Muslims, and to equip civil society with the skills and resources to better identify, respond, and speak out against hate-motivated attacks on all religious minorities.
Human Rights First encourages continued reporting on hate crimes and appreciates the work of CNCDH and other efforts by the French government to shed light on the gravity of the issue in France today. It is important to have accurate and up-to-date data to inform policy decisions. The reporting of racist, hate-motivated crimes is the first step to combating their prevalence.