Perpetrators or suspects: French Muslims at an impasse

August 6, 2014

August 8, Less than a week apart, two public figures have characterized French Muslims as being “too discreet in their denunciation of extremists that claim to be a part of Islam.” On July 28, Figaro journalist Natacha Polony published her article “Letter to a young Muslim compatriot” in which she says that she’s “hurting for her France.” On August 2, Jean d’Ormesson, also a journalist for the Figaro, called on French Muslims to explicitly denounce the Muslim state in Iraq.

Nils Sinkiewicz states that, “On the one hand, the difference between the good and bad Muslims is considered evidence in itself. On the other, the good Muslims are urged to say loudly and clearly that they disapprove of the bad ones. This is hardly consistent, but ‘There are things that are better when said,’ according to Polony.”

French Muslims are required to be both patriotic members of society and to assimilate, “leaving them no choice between the role of the terrorist…or the groveling alien eager to prove his loyalty.”

In the wake of an attack on a church in Alexandria, UMP member Bernard Carayon declared that “the Muslim organizations of France [must] declare a moderate Islam, they must prove that they are not satisfied with press statements that are moving and courteous, that they advocate as a whole against the violence of their fundamentalist coreligionists.”

Sinkiewicz asks, “And what if the advocates for peaceful coexistence have fed misconceptions instead of stopping them? The media attention focuses more on the corruption of the real Islam that it is held to be a religion ‘of love, of peace, and of tolerance.’ From this perspective, terrorist acts are a godsend for the cunning wrongdoers who otherwise couldn’t ask Muslims to ‘prove’ their loyalty without being reminded of the principles of this secularism that is so dear to them.”

In a 2013 IPSOS survey, 74% of Frenchmen found Islam to be “intolerant and incompatible with the ‘values of the French society.’” Beyond the convenient opposition between the good Muslim and brutal Islamist it is “time to admit that far from closing the debate about Muslims in France, the idealization of Islam has instead trapped Muslims and non-Muslims in a never-ending polemic on the moral obligation to condemn everything that moves away from the brochure. One small step for peaceful coexistence–a giant leap for the dialogue of the deaf.”

Muslims or not, citizens called on to express their solidarity with Gaza

July 22, 2014

Close to two weeks after Israel’s army began bombing the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 650, most of whom were women and children. Many more have been injured and over 100,000 Palestinians have been displaced according to the United Nations. The Gathering of Muslims of France (RFM) firmly condemns “blind violence that violates international law and reiterates its deepest emotion and greatest concern at the unprecedented killing spree.”

According to the RFM is a country that “engenders great respect in the region,” and must “play a determining and decisive role for the immediate end to this violence and work for the establishment of justice and peace in this bruised region.”

The RFM “calls on the Muslims of France, politicians and all loving citizens of peace and justice to express their solidarity with the Palestinian cause, with respect for the republican pact which links and concerns us all.”

The organization reinforced the need for peaceful protest and reiterated that French Muslims reject “all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Muslims of France are equally respectful of the sanctity of places of worship and are deeply committed to the safety of persons and property.”

French Muslims are invited to “benefit from these blessed days of Ramadan to pray that the martyrdom of the Palestinian people can stop as soon as possible.”

Signed,

Anour Kbibech, President of the RFM

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations: Muslim leaders call for calm

July 16, 2014

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, called for peace and “strongly recommends respect for places of worship” following the incidents on Sunday, July 13 in front of two synagogues in Paris.

His statement condemned the “misbehaviors” that “should not disrupt the lives of Frenchmen, no matter their religious beliefs.”

His speech came in the wake of a pro-Palestinian demonstrations responding to the current conflict between Israel’s government and Hamas, some of which ended in violence. “The current Muslim opinion concerning this conflict must remain calm and work for peace in this blessed month of Ramadan,” wrote Boubakeur. “The escalation of violence has already caused several casualties and we call for all national and international authorities to stop the violence,” he declared. The Great Mosque of Paris announced that it would hold a “prayer for the absent” to honor the victims. The mosque “called for all other mosques to do the same.”

The president of the Union of French Mosques, Mohammed Moussaoui believes that peaceful demonstrations in support of Palestinians are “legitimate and justified,” while reaffirming that “nothing justifies an action that harms our Jewish citizens, their institutions, or their places of worship. Such an action, strongly condemnable and morally unjust and unacceptable, would also affect the interest of the Palestinian people and the support that they could have in French public opinion.”

The president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Roger Cukierman, expressed his “utmost concern” to Hollande concerning the demonstrations. The Jewish community views the incidents “as a break from the republican pact…the Jewish community feels isolated within its national community,” stated Cukierman after meeting with the president. “No pro-Palestinian supporter should confuse anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Because today there is identification between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Five people were sent to criminal court for violence and for disruption of public order after the demonstrations on July 13.

Muslim woman harassed by men in Paris

July 17, 2014

Just before midnight on July 3 a veiled Muslim woman was returning to her home in Paris’s banlieue. As she approached her home two men began to harass her. They began to push and insult her, saying “‘We’re going to make you break Ramadan, we’re going to make you try pork and drink alcohol, we’re going to show you what it is to be a submissive woman,’” the woman reported. “‘One of the two put his foot on my head, while the other kicked my arms and stomach. The one who had the white hat began to straddle my chest’” and exposed himself to her saying “‘this is what a real man looks like.”

They continued to insult her and hit her and sexually harass her. “‘I told them that if they wanted my phone I would give it to them,’” she said. “’The one with the white hat took it and hit it against a railing. Then he threw it on the ground.’” Then one of them tore her veil off her head and “‘pretended to masturbate on it. He told me that from now on that was what my veil was good for. I heard laughter from farther away. The two men turned around and left immediately.’” Shocked, she remained in her house for over a week and has recently submitted a complaint for “sexual assault” and “aggravated violence.”

Jewish and Muslim friends, remain foremost Frenchmen

July 13, 2014

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of any discussion at the moment” begins Tareq Oubrou in a recent op-ed. “I call on my fellow citizens, no matter their religious beliefs, to calm. I know well that certain, quick to vilify any attempt to move in this direction, will interpret this message as treason, even if it is a call to live together and to learn to decipher the subtleties of our society.”

Oubrou called on French Muslims to distinguish between “what is political and what is religious” and said that French Jews must also do this. He stated that the current conflict is political rather than religious. Oubrou stressed that each community must adopt this viewpoint in order to work towards peace and that “Jews must recognize the state of Israel’s part in the conflict, just as Muslims must also recognize the responsibility of organizations that ‘sow disorder.’”

“We are Frenchmen, citizens of the same country, we have the task of living together in harmony. So, we need to know how to discuss, to accept an opposite side’s dialogue and most of all, most of all to never move from political position to violence,” he said.

He recognized France’s importance as one of the most important Western countries to house large Muslim and Jewish communities. “We need courageous men and women to speak to their communities and make them see reason when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creeps too far into our lives.” Oubrou stated that the “colonization of Palestinian territories needs to end, international law must be applied. It seems to me that it is the only way to appease Muslims in the world. And Muslims must say loud and clear that the multiple aggressions by Hamas are condemnable.”

Oubrou stated “while adopting different political positions in regard to this deadly conflict, a dividing line between French citizens remains necessary to live together in France.”

Extremists Indicted for Occupying Mosque

July 7, 2014

The case dates back to October 20, 2012 and concerns the occupation of the Grand Mosque of Poitiers by Generation Identity, a far right youth movement that occupied the mosque during its construction. According to the group’s website, its goal is to “banish scum, those who want to police our lives and our thoughts, mass immigration, schools that hide the history of our people, etc.”

The two presidents Damien Rieu and Arnaud Delrieux were arraigned on July 4. Rieux, the group’s spokesperson, was held in police custody for theft and incitement of racial hate, among other charges. Delrieux was not present during the incident but was indicted for complicity.

Additionally, the group itself was indicted as a corporation. More than seventy of its members were present on October 20, 2012 but only six have been implicated in the case. In a joint statement the two leaders denounced the “judiciary harassment of socialist power.”