French police criticized for dressing as Muslims during drug raid

Police in Marseille have been criticized over the arrest of a suspected drug dealer made by two officers dressed in traditional Muslim attire. The suspect was detained on Wednesday in La Bricarde neighborhood in the north of the city, along with two other alleged members of his crew in an operation in which 1.2 kilograms of cannabis and 300 euros in cash were seized. An otherwise unremarkable arrest, were it not for the fact that two of the officers were dressed in a qamis and jilbab, long tunics typically worn by conservative Muslims. The arrest was caught on camera and quickly spread through social media.


The arrest was part of an operation by a special brigade within the national police, a spokesperson of the Regional Directorate of Public Security [DDSP] confirmed.

Many were angered that the police were dressed specifically as Muslims when other civilian clothing could just as well have been used.

“It’s normal that banlieusards feel stigmatized when the police use these kind of procedures, which speaks volumes about the city conditions,” wrote a person who originally posted the video on Twitter.

This is the first time that I’ve heard of the police using this strategy. I don’t think it’s right for the police to pretend to be Muslim just in order to arrest someone, even if the rules do go out of the window in this game of cat-and-mouse,” “Wassim,” a local resident, told France 24. “They could have simply been in mufti, without having to pretend to be Muslim.”

But others have not been so quick to criticize, saying it was necessary for the officers to blend into an area that’s deeply suspicious of police.

“In the neighborhoods, there are people who act as lookouts and immediately alert the dealers when the police are coming,” said “Clara,” another local resident. “So, I think that trying to blend into the crowd in order not to attract attention is a good way of catching traffickers.”

France claims Islamic State links to ‘imminent’ terror plot uncovered

French authorities claimed Friday the Islamic State had a direct hand in helping five suspected militants plot “imminent attacks” against possible targets including Paris police hubs and Euro Disney.

French police had earlier said they believed they had foiled attacks planned for Dec. 1 against the Paris headquarters of police and intelligence officers and the Disney theme park, which is especially popular during the holiday season.

But the latest details, made public by a senior prosecutor, draw alleged links to the Islamic State and a core network of suspects — four French citizens who were longtime friends. The suspected fifth plotter, a homeless Moroccan man, was arrested in the southern port of Marseille.

A raid Sunday in Strasbourg uncovered firearms and instructions from “the Iraqi-Syrian region” to acquire more weapons, said Paris prosecutor François Molins. Also found were documents professing allegiance to the Islamic State, he said.

“The state of the threat is and remains particularly high,” Molins said.

The names of the Strasbourg suspects were given only as Yassin B., Hicham M., Samy B. and Zakaria M. Icham E., the suspect arrested in Marseille, was homeless, Molins said.

The revelation of the foiled plot comes before the second and final round of France’s conservative presidential primaries on Sunday. Throughout the campaign, the issue of national security has dominated.

“Obviously, these terrorist have chosen a specific moment: the elections,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, director of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, a Paris-based think tank. “It means the terrorists have a clear political strategy, because, of course, their actions would have an affect in benefiting the extremists.”


Son of a pied-noir rallies under the banner ‘Muslims of France’

He confirms being “heavily influenced by the philosophy of the General,” and “converted to Islam around the age of seven.” Bruno Perez, 52 years old, is the UDMF candidate in Marseille for the upcoming local elections. “I am a Gaullist who never drifted,” he affirmed.

On February 12 the UDMF, founded in 2012, announced its presence by running eight candidates in the upcoming elections but a week later decided to only run two in Marseille, Bruno Perez and Houria Medjbar. “I was contacted three weeks ago by the UDMF,” Perez recalls, “I didn’t know this party or its leaders. It’s a friend who put me in contact. He is also my substitute for the election.” He states that now “we are in a hurry,” and that his political stance “has nothing to do with promoting sharia!”

Son of a pied-noir who moved to France in 1962, Perez was stunned by the reaction provoked by his candidature: “In the Muslim Democratic Union of France, we are all Muslims, but that’s not what is most important. Before anything else we are democrats, republicans, and we respect secularism…but we are there to repeat that Muslims of France, is not the Islamic State.”

Perez has a history in politics. In 1995 he campaigned for the RPR. “It’s there that I met Houria Medjbar,” he explained, “who’s now been my friend for twenty years.” A Charles Pasqua supporter, he then followed the former Interior Minister of the Gathering of the French People and presented himself under the label in the 2001 local elections, gaining 3% of the votes.

Music Mix: Spirituality and Protest: ‘Rebel Music,’ by Hisham D. Aidi

The subject matter of “Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture” could not be more far-reaching unless its author, Hisham D. Aidi, had unearthed data about youth culture and musical influences on other planets. As far as Earth goes, his highly original and ambitious book has got it covered.

“Rebel Music” exhibits a breathtaking familiarity with different forms of radicalizing music and the widely different ways it is understood in different cultures, with a special emphasis on Islamic youth. Mr. Aidi starts his book simply in the South Bronx, an epicenter of young Muslims’ hip-hop obsession.

Mr. Aidi goes there, in part, because he hopes to talk to the French rap crew 3ème Oeil (Third Eye) from Marseille. They are equally glad to meet him when he tells them he’s from Columbia, mistaking the university (where he is a lecturer) with the record company. No matter. He has the illuminating experience of finding a French D.J. who says he has dreamed of visiting the Bronx his whole life, because his role model is the Bronx D.J. Afrika Bambaataa. Mr. Aidi meets others there who are simply searching for a Muslim-friendly environment. If this book has a unifying theme, it is the eagerness of young Muslims in every culture to find musical expression that feels honest and a safe haven in an endlessly combative world.

“Rebel Music” has no chance of ending on a note of peaceful resolution. But it does lay out an array of fascinating conflicts, taking on a subject that has rarely been addressed in book form. Its most tender chapter describes Judeo-Arabic music, which flowered in Algeria in the 1960s but later became a lightning rod for controversy. Like every topic brought up by Mr. Aidi’s jampacked compendium, it deserves a closer look.

Marseille 2014: Socialist Party Candidate Patrick Mennucci loses the mosque battleground

April 10, 2014


On Friday March 28th, the walls of a mosque in downtown Marseille were covered with posters in Arabic containing defamatory writings against Jean-Claude Gaudin, the current Mayor of Marseilles. While the police have yet to receive an official complaint, it has been suggested that the act was a means for the followers of Patrick Mennucci – the Socialist Mayor of the district where the mosque is located  – to seek revenge on the campaign led by Muslim leaders against ‘marriage for all’ and the introduction of gender theory classes in schools.

For Omar Djelil, a candidate for the 2nd and 3rd districts of Marseille and former Secretary General of Al Taqwa Mosque, a major concern of these elections is to cut off Patrick Mennucci, who supports gay marriage, from his Muslim electoral base. According to Djelil, the campaigns that he himself led against Mennucci via posters and social networks, after the candidate’s call to make Marseilles a ‘gay-friendly’ city, explains in large part the abstention rate of the Muslim electoral body otherwise known for supporting the Socialists. ‘However, we only used social and political arguments. We didn’t insult anyone personally, unlike those recent posters put up on our mosques’, said Djelil.

According to the leaders of religious communities, the municipal campaigns have indeed penetrated into places of worship: ‘although nobody dares to take a stance during the Friday prayer sermon, since mosques are very much under watch.’ On the other hand, gender theory classes and gay marriage are being overtly denounced. On several occasions, veiled women were seen distributing tracts against gay marriage in front of schools, said one witness.

As for the far-right Front National (FN) party, the regional candidate Stephane Ravier did well in certain districts, even making double the amount of votes of the incumbent mayor in one area. Apparently, the FN isn’t as threatening to Muslims and the generation born to parents from the former colonies: in the towns of Flamants, Frais-Vallon and Merlan, voters of Comorian and North African origin, the majority of whom are Muslim, didn’t hesitate to give their votes to Ravier.

Marseille mega-mosque gets go-ahead

News Agencies – June 19, 2012


A French appeals court has approved the construction of a large mosque in the city of Marseille, home to an estimated 250,000 Muslims. The mosque, seen as a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France, has attracted national controversy.

The court overturned an October ruling by Marseille’s administrative tribunal that cancelled the project’s construction permit for supposed failures to meet urban-planning requirements. A community association led by a local butcher had filed a complaint against the building permit, saying the mosque project did not fit with the surrounding urban environment. The 22-million-euro ($28-million) project would see the Grand Mosque, boasting a minaret soaring 25-metres (82-feet) high and room for up to 7,000 worshippers, built in the city’s northern Saint-Louis area.

Construction Permit for Marseille Mosque Revoked

News Agencies – October 31, 2011


A French court has annulled the construction permit for a mega-mosque in Marseille.

The court ruling represents a major setback for proponents of the mosque, which has long been touted as the biggest and most potent symbol of Islam’s growing place in France — and Europe.

The move comes as a French newspaper published the contents of a leaked intelligence report about the rise of Islam in Marseille. The document states that “even if the number of individuals who have been radicalized to the point of supporting the Jihadists is relatively low, Islamic fundamentalism has progressed to the point where it has won over the majority of the Muslim population” who live in the city and who now number over 250,000. The Administrative Tribunal of Marseille ruled on October 27 that the mega-mosque project would have to be cancelled because of failures to meet urban-planning requirements. The court raised particular concerns over the project’s failure to finalize a deal for a 450-space parking lot and to reassure planners that the mosque would fit in with the urban environment.

Several decades in the planning, the project was granted a construction permit in November 2009. At the time, city officials said the new mosque would help the Muslim community better integrate into the mainstream and foster a more moderate form of Islam. The first cornerstone of the 8,300 square meter (92,000 square feet) project was laid in May 2010.

First Bricks Laid for Marseille Mosque, France’s Largest Mosque

French Muslims celebrated when work began to build the country’s biggest mosque in the southern port city of French Muslims. Muslim and government leaders alike hope that work on the Grande Mosque will serve to bind the city together and serve as a community anchor. Marseille is France’s second largest city and home to 250,000 Muslims, many of whom are currently praying in basements, rented rooms and dingy garages. The mosque is expected to be completed in 18 months.

Marseille mosque construction stirs resentment

Plans to build a grand mosque in France’s second-largest city of Marseille have set off fears. “I’m going to bomb it when it opens,” an older French man told The New York Times Monday, December 28, wishing to be unnamed.

Plans are underway to build a $33-million grand mosque in the port city in April 2010. “It’s a good symbol of assimilation,” said Noureddine Cheikh, the head of the Marseille Mosque Association.

The new worship house will have a minaret that would flash a beam of purple light, instead of Adhan, for a couple of minarets to call for prayers five times per day.

But the mosque plans have stirred opposition from far-rightists in the city, where Muslims make up a quarter of its more than 1.5 million population.

The far-right Regional Front and local politicians have filed lawsuits to block the Muslim building.

Analysts agree that the Marseille mosque opposition reflects the growing anti-Muslim sentiments in the country and across Europe. “Today in Europe the fear of Islam crystallizes all other fears,” said Vincent Geisser, a scholar of Islam and immigration at the French National Center for Scientific Research. “(Islam) is a box in which everyone expresses their fears.”

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities

The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.