THIS refers to the article ‘Countering Islamophobia’ (June 16), which, among other things, said: “Some violent actions by Muslim individuals influenced by extremist ideology too have been used by racist and ultra-right groups to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments as seen in France … Surely in some cases the state’s policy of cultural discrimination has also contributed to anti-Muslim sentiments”. In the case of France, the mild wording “some violent action” does not seem appropriate.

Since 2012, France has suffered 52 terrorist attacks of self-proclaimed Muslim individuals or groups claiming to act on a religious basis, killing 270 and wounding 973. As is common knowledge, a number of the victims were Muslims.

In some additional cases, even if the same religious claim was obvious, the terrorist dimension was not upheld by the courts.

In comparison, over the same period of time, only one terrorist attack targetted Muslims in France, leaving two wounded. France is very fortunate not to have witnessed massive terror attacks against the Muslim community.

The figures quoted above do not take into account other attacks against Muslims or on their places of worship, and they also do not reflect attacks against non-Muslim individuals or their places of worship. The breakdown of anti-religious acts in France in 2019 was: anti-Christian 1,052, anti-Semitic 687, anti-Muslim 154.

In 2020, according to the Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM), or the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the highest body of Muslims in France, anti-Muslim acts numbered 235. Data regarding other religions is not available yet. These figures demonstrate that, even if they are targeted, the Muslims are not the only ones, and not the largest group of victims of anti-religious hatred.

This situation is of course not acceptable. The French authorities are taking all the necessary steps to protect all its citizens and foreign residents against acts of terrorism and hatred. There is no such thing as a “state’s policy of cultural discrimination” in France. Discrimination is strictly forbidden and is combated by the French authorities, as per the country’s constitution, laws, and international and European commitments.

The CFCM, in its Charter of principles for Islam in France (Article 9), presented on January 18, 2021, clearly stated: “… denouncing a so-called State racism amount to defamation … In our country, too often targeted by adverse propaganda, millions of believers are free to attend or not to attend religious gatherings. This freedom that we consider normal is not what we see in a number of societies in today’s world”.

It is unfortunate that the said write-up did not show interest in that significant document that conveys the views of French Muslims.

Marc Baréty

Ambassador of France

Islamabad

  • Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2021*

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