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academic from the faculty of political science at the University of Provence, Aix-Marseille I -- said Islamophobia has been replaced by paranoia.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.
Apr 3, 2013
The French president, Francois Hollande, says he wants a new law that could extend restrictions on the wearing of prominent religious symbols in state jobs into the private sector. His new tack comes after a top French court ruled in March that a day care operator that gets some state funding unfairly fired a woman in a headscarf, sparking a political backlash.
Ms Kaddour was one of thousands of people who attended the Annual Meeting of Muslims of France in Le Bourget, north of Paris, at the weekend. The four-day convention, which last year drew about 160,000 faithful, is billed as the largest annual gathering of its kind in Europe and is now in its 30th year.
French law bars state employees from wearing prominent religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps or large Christian crosses in public schools, welfare offices or other government facilities. Two years ago, France banned Muslim veils that cover faces, such as the niqab, which has a slit for the eyes, or the mesh-screen burqa, from being worn anywhere in public.
Meeting leaders say France has made progress in accepting Muslims and noted that, unlike 30 years ago, women wearing headscarves today rarely draw suspicion, scowls or curiosity. Still, many Muslims - and even some Roman Catholics and Jews - fear France's insistence on secular values first enshrined in the French Revolution more than two centuries ago is unfairly crimping their ability to express their religious beliefs freely.
They also worry that Mr Hollande's socialist government, like the conservative one before it, wants to score political points.
"Islam has become a political instrument," said Ms Kaddour, 26, a community activist from the English Channel port city of Le Havre and one of 10 children of Algerian-born parents who moved to France for plentiful jobs during its economic boom times decades ago. "Islam is always brandished whenever there is internal political discord."
Most mainstream politicians insist Islam is not being targeted. But a backlash erupted after the Court of Cassation ruled in March that Baby Loup, a private-sector day care operator that gets some state funding, unfairly fired a woman who wore a headscarf to work. The far-right railed at the decision, and even the interior minister, Manuel Valls, expressed regret over it.
Wading into the debate in a prime-time TV interview last week, Mr Hollande suggested new limits were needed on Muslim headscarves, saying that "when there is contact with children, in what we call public service of early childhood ... there should be a certain similarity to what exists in [public] school."
"I think the law should get involved," he added.
Many Muslims fear an encroaching Islamophobia, while proponents of such measures insist they counter extremism and act as a rampart to protect France's identity against inequality. Polls show that most French people support at least some restrictions on religious symbols.
France, with an estimated 5 million to 6 million Muslims whose families mostly have origins in former French colonies in north Africa, is at the forefront of addressing the challenges that many European countries are facing about how to integrate their sizeable ethnic and religious minorities on a continent where white Christians have dominated the political landscape for centuries.
Bristling against stereotypes in many corners of the West that Muslims are closet radicals or even terrorists, leaders of the convention in Le Bourget preached peace and justice.
Ms Kaddour said many Muslims regret that their faith is in the political crosscurrents again in France. But she said she was not discouraged enough yet to want to leave.
"Many others feel that way too: we are French and we have our place to claim and our future to establish in France," she said. "I'm not a foreigner. I'm French. I want to live in France, I love this country. Even if it has trouble liking us, we are going to do what's necessary to live serenely in France."
Ms Kaddour says she plans to go back to school to get a higher degree, but has all but given up hopes for a state job. And in France, that matters: the European Union says more than half of France's gross domestic product comes from government spending.
"A state job, unfortunately ..." she said, her voice trailing off. "When I go into job interviews, I wear my headscarf. No results." She admits that she does not always know why - it could just be her skill set is not sufficient - but suspects her religion plays a role, too.
Ms Kaddour says her future career seems increasingly limited to independent, private practice work. She currently works for a small community group devoted to improving understanding of Islam, called Le Havre de Savoir, or The Haven of Knowledge.
At a time of double-digit unemployment rates in France, a nation of 65 million, such restrictions to job access hit headscarf-wearing women especially hard: Muslim men in France do not usually wear visible religious garb.
Ahmed Jaballah, the head of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, a major Muslim group that helped organise the weekend conference, said the "rather morose ambiance" over France's sluggish economic growth recently has not helped Muslims' aspirations, suggesting that a search for scapegoats is politically appealing.
He said he was concerned about the government's plans.
"Unfortunately, Muslims have the impression today that secularism is being shaped based on Muslim practices, and that's worrisome," he said. "Everybody always talks about secularism, how it's not just about Muslims. But in fact, Muslims are targeted. Nobody is fooled."
"Muslims wonder: can we trust secularism?" he said. "Remember the French slogan: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Today, we want this fraternity to be real."
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/europe/extended-french-headscarf-ban-worries-muslims#ixzz2PP02WYba
The Holy Quran with a
Translation of It's meanings
into English and French
سورة آل عمران