Headscarved women new targets of anti-Islam groups
23 June 2013 /EMRE DEMİR, PARIS
Headscarved Muslim women are increasingly becoming targets of persons with Islamophobic sentiments in France, with the number of racist attacks against them rising dramatically in the last two months, according to observers in the country.
Several of the attacks on headscarved women covered by the media in the last two months took place in Argenteuil, a suburb in northwestern Paris. The representatives of Muslim organizations in France are deeply concerned that these incidents are linked.
They highlight that new extreme right-wing organizations in France such as Bloc Identitaire and Riposte Laique are gaining in popularity among young people by carrying out anti-Islamic attacks. Evaluating the recent attacks targeting Muslim headscarved women in France to Sunday’s Zaman, Raphael Liogier -- an academic from the faculty of political science at the University of Provence, Aix-Marseille I -- said Islamophobia has been replaced by paranoia.
Liogier, the author of “The Islamization Myth,” said: “We can no longer talk about Islamophobia. If we were in a situation of phobia, it would not lead to acting out but just to rejection. Therefore, we cannot define these incidents as the results of a phobia, but paranoia. In the case of a phobia, you can be in rejection or fear. However, we observe more aggressive actions against ‘the other’ in these incidents. Such incidents were not the case before 2003 or 2004.”
Stating that this anti-Muslim paranoia has intensified since 2003 when US troops invaded Iraq, Liogier said: “There were no theses claiming that Muslim people had a plan to impose their cultures on French society, or that Muslims were conducting colonialism in reverse in France before 2003. The physical attacks that veiled women have recently been exposed to are not considered by some Islamophobic authors to be the result of phobia,” but a legitimate self-defense movement against the aggression of Muslims.”
Noting that the extremist marginal groups such as Bloc Identitaire and Riposte Laique conducting recent racist attacks against veiled women in France cannot be explained with leftist or rightist ideologies, Liogier said: “Such actions have not originated from rightist or leftist ideas. They are fomenting the idea that Europe’s identity is being shattered. These groups gathered around the myth that France is being Islamicized. The rightist groups use religious and national values such as those represented by Joan of Arc to create the perception of a threat, while leftists use freedom of expression and gender equality. Such ideas can sometimes be influential on a wide range of French political parties with various political ideologies.”
French Muslims critical of government’s indifference
Critical of the lack of interest that the French government and media have shown for the racist attacks targeting veiled women in the last two months, Samy Debah -- president of the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) -- told Sunday’s Zaman that it is very embarrassing that French politicians remained silent in the face of the attacks. He added: “What is Interior Minister Manuel Valls waiting for to react against the attacks or release a statement condemning the attacks? The French government should take necessary precautions for such racist attacks against Muslims as soon as possible. According to the CCIF’s annual report released in 2012, headscarved women are targeted in 87 percent of racist attacks that Muslims are exposed to in France.”
Amar Lafsar, president of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), a national body with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, told Sunday’s Zaman that Muslims living in France say they live in fear. “We know France is not an Islamophobic country. However, the Muslims victimized by racists should regularly inform French public officials about the attacks they experience.”
Abdallah Zekri, president of the Paris-Based Anti-Islamophobia Observatory, told Sunday’s Zaman that the number of racist attacks that Muslims experience in France has risen by 42 percent over the past year. Noting that a recent ban on burqa-like Islamic veils and discussions over halal meat in France played a great part in the widespread trend of racist attacks against veiled Muslim women in the country, Zekri commented: “The fact that politicians have recently increased the frequency of their provocative remarks, in which they show Muslims as targets, have also led the extremist rightist groups to intensify their attacks against the Muslims in France.”
The French ban on wearing a burqa in public was enacted in April 2011. Under the terms of the legislation, anyone wearing the headdress in public will face a 150 euro fine or be forced to take lessons in French citizenship. The act drew harsh reactions and led to debates in France when it was first adopted.
Some recent attacks targeting veiled women in France
The latest attack against a veiled woman in France took place on June 13 in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. A pregnant Muslim woman, Leila O., was physically attacked by two men and was seriously injured. The 21-year-old, who was four months pregnant, suffered a miscarriage. The attackers first tried taking her headscarf off and later cut her hair and tore part of her clothing. After she screamed out that she was pregnant, one of the attackers started kicking her in the stomach.
A 33-year-old Turkish headscarved woman was physically assaulted by a motorcyclist while walking on the street in the French city of Reims on June 9.
A woman of North African origin was physically attacked by a man with her 1-year-old baby in Beziers on May 24. The woman was injured in the attack.
Again on May 24, Jean-Claude Boistard -- the mayor of Montsoult, a suburb in northern Paris – refused to allow a woman to enter the municipal building since she was wearing a veil. Boistard defended himself by stating that because the municipal building is a public place, no one can enter the building with religious symbols.
A 17-year-old Muslim girl, Rabia, was accosted by two persons in the street in Argenteuil on May 20. The assailants tore her veil off and assaulted her. Regarding the incident, Rabia told Le Parisien that the assailants were yelling “Dirty Arab” and “Dirty Muslim” at her.
Two men physically assaulted a 21-year-old Muslim woman in Argenteuil on May 1 and ripped her veil off. The French police raided the home of a suspected assailant who was allegedly preparing to stage an armed attack on Muslims on June 19 in Argenteuil.
‘I am sorry, O Prophet…’
MADINAH – Former Dutch Islamophobe and a former leading
member of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ party Arnoud Van
Doorn visited the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah to pray and say sorry for
becoming part of a blasphemous film.
Doorn was among the Freedom Party leaders who produced the blasphemous
film, Fitna. Last month he reverted to Islam after an extensive study
about the religion and the Prophet (peace be upon him).
He said that the worldwide outrage against the film made him study about
the Prophet (pbuh) and that eventually led to his conversion.
He headed for Makkah to perform Umrah after meeting the two imams of the
Prophet’s Masjid, Sheikh Ali Al-Hudaifi and Sheikh Salah Al-Badar, who
enlightened him on how to lead the life of a good Muslim and confront
challenges facing Islam in the West.
A member of the Dutch parliament and The Hague City Council, Doorn
announced his decision to accept Islam on his Twitter profile. He also
posted a tweet in Arabic declaring that “there is no god but Allah and
Muhammad is his Prophet.”
At first, other users took the news as a joke. After all, an active
supporter of a notorious Dutch hater of Islam, Wilders, he repeatedly
approved Islamophobic statements and public actions, and personally
participated in them.
But Doorn, who now serves as a regional adviser at the City Hall in The
Hague, personally confirmed his decision to practice Islam in an
official letter to the city mayor.
Most recently, the politician filed a formal application to the mayor of
the city to allow him to perform prayers obligatory for Muslims during
his working hours.
“I can understand people are skeptic, especially that it is unexpected
for many of them,” Doorn told Al-Jazeera English satellite channel.
“This is a very big decision, which I have not taken lightly.”
“In my own close circle people have known that I have been actively
researching the Qur’an, Hadith, Sunnah and other writings for almost a
year now,” he said.
“In addition, I have had numerous conversations with Muslims about the religion.”
Driven by his party’s anti-Islam discourse, Doorn decided to dig in for the truth about the religion himself.
“I have heard so many negative stories about Islam, but I am not a
person who follows opinions of others without doing my own research,” he
said. “Therefore, I have actually started to deepen my knowledge of
Islam out of curiosity.”
The 46-year-old has continued on The Hague Council as an independent
candidate since splitting from Wilders’s party. Doorn’s decision to
embrace Islam has won mixed reactions in the Netherlands.
“According to some people I am a traitor, but according to most others I
have actually made a very good decision,” he told Al-Jazeera.
“The reactions are generally positive and I also received quite some support via twitter.
“It feels good that people who do not know me personally have understanding of my situation and support me in my choice.”
Asked if he now regretted joining the Freedom Party, he replied: “I have
learned that every experience in life has a purpose. However, with the
knowledge I have today, I would have undoubtedly made a different
For the Dutch politician, finding Islam was finally guiding him to the
true path in his life. “I have made mistakes in life as many others.
From these mistakes I have learned a lot,” Doorn said.
“And by my conversion to Islam I have the feeling that I finally found
my path. I realize that this is a new start and that I still have much
to learn as well.”