Deputy mayor in France sends police to school to protest Arabic language classes

A city council official sent police to a primary school in France to protest the school’s decision to offer its students the option of learning the Arabic language. The deputy mayor of Six-Fours-les-Plages in southeastern France was acting on an inaccurate claim on Facebook that said students were being forced to learn the language.

Jean-Sébastien Vialatte confirmed that police officers were sent to the Reynier primary school twice in November to tell school officials that the deputy mayor opposed the teaching of Arabic there, local media reported Wednesday. The incident came to light when a local lawyer disclosed court documents revealing a failed legal suit by the council to halt these classes. Vialatte added that officials had their doubts about the teacher as well because he wasn’t a state employee.

An image shared in September by a parent of one of the children who attends classes at the school inaccurately said the Arabic language classes were mandatory sparking an outcry among parents in which politicians quickly joined.

Frédéric Boccaletti, a local politician and member of the far-right National Front, shared the image on his Facebook page blaming “friends” of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Moroccan-born minister of education, as the people behind these mandatory classes. He also condemned Vialatte for allowing the classes to continue.

French Muslim activist Yasser Louati said the incident was representative of the “normalization of state-sponsored racism.”
“Sending the police to make sure an Arabic class isn’t held shows how much hate government institutions can express for Arabs. In 2015, we had cases of primary school children being humiliated, assaulted, and even taken to the police by their teachers,” Louati reportedly said. “Then we had school girls being barred from school for wearing a long skirt or the prohibition of substitute meals for Muslims and Jews.”

“The only solution for French Muslims and any citizen who loves justice and equality is to band together and engage in a power struggle with decision makers. The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are an opportunity … nobody benefits from a society built on hate,” he added.

Beziers mayor to be tried for Muslim ‘problem’ comments

Robert Menard, who is an ally of France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, will face a charge in a Paris court of incitement to hatred or discrimination.

“In a class in the city center in my town, 91 percent of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance”, he said in September 5 comments on news channel LCI.

 

Also in September, on France’s first day back to school, he tweeted his regret at witnessing “the great replacement”, using a term by xenophobic writer Renaud Camus to describe the country’s white, Christian population being overtaken by foreign-born Muslims.

Menard, who is the mayor of southern France town Beziers, denied his comments were discriminatory.

“I just described the situation in my town,” he told AFP. “It is not a value judgement, it’s a fact. It’s what I can see.”

According to France-based anti-racism group Licra, the trial is set for March 8.

Menard prompted outrage in October by putting up anti-migrant posters and calling for a local referendum ahead of the arrival of asylum-seekers in his town.

Under the headline “That’s It, They’re Coming”, is an image of a crowd of migrants, all of them men, outside the cathedral in Beziers.

Menard was for 23 years the head of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, which has distanced itself from him since he left in 2008.

German National Day celebrations in Dresden overshadowed by bomb blasts and right-wing agitation

A history of far-right activity

On October 3, Germany celebrated the 26th anniversary of its reunification. This year, the official festivites were hosted by the city of Dresden. For two years now, the capital of the East German state of Saxony has been the site of weekly demonstration by the Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident), a far-right anti-immigration collective with close yet somewhat oblique links to Germany’s new right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany.

Concomitantly, Saxony has recorded the by far highest rate of anti-refugee violence of all German states in recent years. ((https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/03/germany-reunified-26-years-ago-but-some-divisions-are-still-strong/ )) Critical questions have been raised about the State’s security and judicial apparatuses, and their personal links with as well as broad institutional sympathies for far-right movements – a criticism that was recently made even by the Saxon Minister of the Economy, Martin Dulig (SPD). ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/sachsen-polizei-sympathisiert-laut-minister-martin-dulig-mit-pegida-a-1080343.html ))

Bomb attacks on a mosque and a conference centre

Consequently, security fears ahead of the National Day celebrations ran high. Whilst the authorities’ main attention was focused on potential Islamist plots on October 3, the city was actually rocked by twin blasts on a mosque and a congress centre less than a week before Unity Day.

The self-made explosive device caused extensive damage to the entrance area of the mosque, although the Imam and his family, who had been inside the building at the time, remained unhurt. ((http://www.mdr.de/sachsen/dresden/sprengstoff-anschlaege-in-dresden-100.html )) Due to security concerns, the Imam now contemplates returning to his native Turkey, after nearly 20 years in Dresden. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2016-10/einheitsfeier-dresden-sachsen-deutsche-einheit-pegida ))

Investigators have not yet been able to apprehend a suspect in this case. Initially, a claim of responsibility was published on a militant left-wing website. Whilst this claim was widely picked-up upon in conservative publications, it subsequently turned out to be a falsification. ((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bekennerschreiben-dresden-105.html ))

“Traitors of the people”

The subsequent celebrations on Unity Day thus occurred under tight security control. However, in a widely-criticised move, police planners allocated a central spot to Pegida demonstrators, allowing them to congregate in the very heart of the historic city outside the Church of Our Lady, destroyed during WWII and reconstructed a few years ago as a memorial to peace and understanding. As leading politicians such as Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck arrived at the scene, they were insulted as “Volksverräter” (“traitors of the people”) by the angry crowd. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-10/dresden-tag-der-deutschen-einheit-einheitsfest-farce ))

Demonstrators had already directed the same slogan at Dresden’s mayor the previous day when he received representatives of the city’s three mosques in the city hall on the occasion of the Islamic New Year. As the police sought to calm the situation, scuffles broke out that also targeted the mayor. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-10/dresden-oberbuergermeister-dirk-hilbert-pegida-poebeleien ))

Rehabilitating old vocabulary

The Unity Day Pegida rally appeared to be even more heavily frequented by full-fledged neo-Nazis than the movement’s usual congregations. Quotes by Joseph Goebbels adorned some of the protestor’s signs, and a black man walking past was vilified by the crowd as spectators broke out in ape-like sounds and shouted “Deport him!” ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2016-10/einheitsfeier-dresden-sachsen-deutsche-einheit-pegida ))

The term “Volksverräter” – originally used by right-wingers in the Weimar Years to disparage the supporters of peace and of the German democratic constitution – has become the battle cry of the Pegida movement. ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/dresden-proteste-volksverraeter-aber-gerne-doch-kommentar-a-1115094.html )) Concomitantly, Frauke Petry, leader of the Alternative for Germany, recently suggested that the term “völkisch” should once more receive a positive connotation – again, a word and concept strongly associated with far-right racial ideas of the inter-war years. ((https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article158049653/Wir-wollen-keinen-Buergerkrieg-in-Deutschland.html ))

In this view, the existence of the German Volk as a blood-based community is most strongly threatened by the arrival of Muslims: at Pegida’s main rally on October 3, speakers accused the German government of seeking to exterminate the German population by using “Islam as a weapon of mass destruction”. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2016-10/einheitsfeier-dresden-sachsen-deutsche-einheit-pegida ))

Questions about police complicity

In a move that appeared to vindicate their critics, the Saxon police not only did not step in as pro-Pegida protestors disrupted the Unity Day celebrations; police in fact appeared to condone these actions: aside from giving pride of place to Pegida by allocating them a spot outside the Church of Our Lady, a policeman used a loudspeaker to wish the gathering crowd of Pegida supporters “a successful day”.

The crowd responded by chanting: “One, two, three, thank you police” (“Eins, zwei, drei, danke Polizei”). Whilst the individual policeman is now facing disciplinary action, the Dresden police as a whole re-emphasised that it conceives of itself as “a guarantor of neutrality”. ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/dresden-einheitsfeiern-polizist-wuenschte-pegida-erfolgreichen-tag-a-1115009.html ))

Day of the Open Mosque

Incidentally, October 3 also serves as the ‘Day of the Open Mosque’ in Germany, and thus as an opportunity for the country’s roughly 1,000 mosques to present themselves to the public. The day had been initiated by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), one of a number of rivalling Islamic associations, in 1997.

The government’s Commissioner for Integration, Aydan Özoguz (SPD), called upon Germans to use the day of the open mosque to take a stand against Islamophobia. ((http://www.epochtimes.de/politik/deutschland/bewusst-am-tag-der-deutschen-einheit-rund-1000-moscheen-oeffnen-ihre-tueren-a1360804.html )) After the events in Dresden, this stance is surely needed.

State Council rules burkini ban ‘a serious violation of fundamental freedoms’

The State Council has suspended the burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes) in a much-anticipated ruling.

“The judge of the State Council concludes that article 4.3 of the disputed decree represents a serious and illegal violation of fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom,” the State Council wrote in its press statement. “As the urgent situation requires, it cancels the order of the judge of the administrative court of Nice,” which validated the decree, “and orders the article’s suspension.”

The judge wrote that if “the mayor is responsible for the local police,” he “must reconcile his mission’s goal to maintain public order with respect for freedoms guaranteed by the law.” The restriction of these freedoms should therefore be “adequate, necessary and proportionate to the need for public order.” But in Villeneuve-Loubet, “no element produced before [the Council] showed that risks to public order occurred, on public beaches…regarding the dress worn by certain persons.”

This decision is a victory for the opponents of the burkini ban decrees, which judged that the items of clothing were not “respectful of morality and of secularism” and even allowed police in Nice and Cannes to ticket women wearing a simple veil.

Muslim leaders critique burkini controversy

Amar Lasfar, President of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) and rector of the mosque in southern Lille, disapproved of the recent burkini controversy in a recent 20 Minutes interview. “For years, we have tried to attack radical Islam and terrorism, to tell Muslims that France does not target them, and this type of debate and decision has the inverse effect.”

In a letter addressed to Manuel Valls, Christian Estrosi, First Deputy of the Republicains to the mayor of Nice, wrote that “the complete covering of the face or body to go to the beach does not correspond with our ideal of social relations.”

Lasfar states that “the burkini is not part of the Muslim religion” and that he does not advocate wearing a burkini. But for religious leaders, that is not the point of the debate. “For me it’s not a question of religion, but of liberty,” says Lasfar. “But someone tell me what the difference is between a diving suit and a burkini.”

“That’s enough. It’s been blown out of proportion,” deplores Abdullah Zekri to BFMTV. The President of the Observatory Against Islamophobia stated he is “exasperated by everything I hear, Muslims, halal, the burka…”

 

Halal supermarket ordered to sell pork and alcohol

A halal supermarket in a Paris suburb has been told by local authorities it must start selling alcohol and pork or else it will be shut down.

Good Price discount mini-market in Colombes has been told by the local housing authority, from which it rents its premises, that it has not followed the conditions on the lease that stipulate that the shop must act as a “general food store.”

The authority argues that all members of the local community are not being served properly if there are no alcohol or pork products in the Good Price store, which is run as a franchise and which last year replaced another small supermarket.

“The mayor of Colombes, Nicole Goueta, went there herself and asked the owner to diversify the range of products by adding alcohol and non-halal meats,” the mayor’s chief of staff, Jérôme Besnard, said.

He said locals, particularly older residents, had complained that they could no longer get the full range of products at Good Price, which replaced a regular supermarket, and had to travel some distance now to do their shopping.

“We want a social mix. We don’t want any area that is only Muslim or any area where there are no Muslims,” Mr Besnard said, adding that the town’s reaction would have been the same had a kosher shop opened on that spot.

The Colombes housing authority argues that the store breaches French republican principles by prioritising a certain group within society rather than catering to all categories.

It has taken legal action to bring an end to the lease which would normally run until 2019. The case goes to court in October.

Soulemane Yalcin, who runs the shop under franchise, said he was merely catering to the demands of his customers in this area of large public housing estates.

“It’s business,” said Mr Yalcin.

“I look around me and I target what I see. The lease states ‘general food store and related activities’ – but it all depends on how you interpret ‘related activities’,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

He has hired a lawyer to fight the housing authority’s bid to get him evicted.

Are Americans ready for a Muslim president? New poll suggests maybe

A recently released Gallup poll found “tidal shifts” over the past 60 years in Americans’ willingness to support a well-qualified black, female, Catholic or Jewish candidate for president.

But the study also found that 60 percent of Americans would be willing to vote for a president who was a “generally well-qualified person who happened to be Muslim.”

“If the 60 percent is to be used as a proxy of acceptance of Muslims, I am encouraged by an upward trajectory,” wrote Saud Anwar, the mayor of South Windsor, Conn., and that state’s first Muslim mayor.

 

Students late for school because of prayer?

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said that in Mulhouse, numerous Muslim students arrive late to school because of daily prayer.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said that in Mulhouse, numerous Muslim students arrive late to school because of daily prayer.

Jean Rottner interviewed Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who said that in Mulhouse, numerous Muslim students arrive late to school because of daily prayer. She claims that Mulhouse’s UMP mayor Jean Rottner first discussed the issue with her. Rottner originally stated that several teachers had complained that parents who attended morning prayers with their children brought them to school late.

An inspection by the department of education refutes NKM’s allegations and Rottner clarified his remarks following an internal meeting of UMP members, contending that it is not the students themselves who go to pray but rather their parents.

Municipal leaders released a statement asking that the mayor to “discuss these questions with the Municipal Council et Malhousiens” rather than “confiding in Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.”

Thierry Sother, who represents the group Europe Ecology-The Greens deplores “elected representatives who stigmatize their town as well as portraying a false and negative image of Mulhouse.”

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, claims jihadists are ‘sexually frustrated losers’

Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that jihadis are "sexually frustrated losers."
Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that jihadists are “sexually frustrated losers.”

London’s mayor had some choice words Friday for Muslims who turn to radicalism, calling them sexually frustrated losers who turn to terrorism out of a deep-seated lack of self-confidence. Johnson further contended that turning to radical Islam was a form of compensation for men with deflated egos and a lack of purpose: “They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong — like winners.”

The 50-year-old politician, who reportedly has his eyes on the premiership, went on to criticize elements of the Islamic community for not doing enough to convince young men to turn away from extremism: “I often hear voices from the Muslim intelligentsia who are very quick to accuse people of Islamophobia… But they are not explaining how it can be that this one religion seems to be leading people astray in so many cases.”

“Somebody in a position of responsibility should be making responsible comments,” Mohammed Khaliel, director of the community cohesion organisation Islamix, told the Guardian on Friday. “For somebody allegedly aspiring to be prime minister of the country, is this really the style and level of comments that he should be making?

Charlie Winter from the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by ex-Islamists to challenge and counter extremism, called the mayor’s analysis “ludicrous,” stating that many defy the caricature painted by Johnson.

Increase in cases of radicalization in Rotterdam.

This year 29 cases of radicalization have been reported, compared with 20 in 2013 and 16 in 2012, so there has been increase. According to the major, Ahmed Aboutaleb, this doesn’t mean that more youth become radicalized, but persons are more alert.

The newspaper had an interview with Aboutaleb, in which he says that the term ‘jihadism’ can be explained in different ways, but it is problematic when it is characterized by ideas of racism, discrimination or not being able to find a job (in the Netherlands), although religion seems to be the most important factor. The mayor also says that if people reject [the foundations of] the Dutch society, they can leave, but also should hand in their passport.