April 4, 2014
France’s annual report on racism has revealed a dramatic increase in intolerance among French people, reaching its highest level since 2002, amid concerns among anti-racism groups of the growing anti-immigration sentiments in the society.
“The commission’s report presents figures that are very worrying for French society,” wrote Louis-Georges Tin, president of Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) for the Nouvel Obs website.
Commissioned by the government’s National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), the annual racism report for 2013 was based on survey results by the French institute conducting opinion polls.
According to the bleak report, nearly 35% of surveyed people acknowledged being “racist”, compared to 29% in 2012.
Out of 1000 respondents, ninety identified themselves to be “quite” racists, while 260 said that they are “little” racists.
The most vulnerable races to discrimination in the French society are the Roma and Arab Muslim minorities, as 87% of respondents agreed that they are “separate groups in French society”.
The annual report, which aims to fight racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, found that “levels of intolerance were apparently on the rise for the fourth year running and the number of French people concerned by immigration stood at 16%”.
The rise of Racism in France can be linked to the recent victories by the far-right National Front (FN) party that won local elections in 11 towns. About 63% the French people believe that immigrants are not working.
More than two-thirds of the respondents said that hijab poses a problem for the French community.
The annual report has also found that racial language became more common over the past year, mainly targeting Muslim and Roma minorities.
Although the results of the public survey found a critical increase in racism among French people, members of the CNCDH claimed that racism in France “was decreasing over the long term”.
“The time of ratonnades (violent attacks on North African immigrants) has passed, but the racism that exists today is more underhand and it is no longer reserved for the extreme fringes of society. It penetrates all levels,” Christine Lazerges, President of CNCDH told a press conference this week.
“The scapegoats today are primarily the Roma, who have been stigmatized, including by the government and then North African Muslims.”
According to Lazerges, CNCDH president, the survey results reflect a “growing lack of intolerance and acceptance for those who are different”.
France is home to a Muslim community of nearly six million, the largest in Europe.
French Muslims have been complaining of restrictions on performing their religious practices.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011.
Last December, a French government report has proposed ending the ban on Muslim headscarves, teaching Arabic and emphasizing the ‘Arab-Oriental’ dimension of French identity.
The report stressed that France, with Europe’s largest Muslim population, should recognize the “Arab-oriental dimension” of its identity.
Yet, in the same month the French minister of education has maintained 2004 ban on hijab for Muslim volunteers in school trips, ignoring a legal advice from France’s Council of State.