France has seen an alarming rise in violent anti-Muslim acts across the country following last week’s string of terrorist attacks, carried out by three Frenchmen claiming links to foreign Islamist groups.
In a stirring speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France must combat growing anti-Semitism and protect “our Muslim compatriots”, days after terrorist attacks that left 17 people dead in Paris, including four at a kosher supermarket.
“France is not at war with religion. France is not at war with Islam or Muslims. France will protect, as it always has done, all of its citizens. Those who are believers and those who are not,” Valls told lawmakers.
“Anti-Muslim acts that are unacceptable and intolerable have taken place in recent days. Attacks on a mosque, a church, any religious building, cemetery, are an assault on our values,” the prime minister added.
Earlier on Tuesday, a prominent French Muslim group said that more than 50 violent anti-Muslim acts had taken place in the past six days, citing figures from France’s Interior Ministry.
“Twenty-one attacks (including gunshots and thrown grenades) and 33 threats (letters and insults) have been recorded since Wednesday”, Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, said in a statement. He pointed out that the figures did not include similar acts that had taken place in the French metropolitan area.
According to Zekri the escalation in anti-Muslim acts was “unprecedented” in France. In comparison, 110 acts of anti-Muslim violence were registered from January to September of 2014.
"I am outraged by the rise of Islamophobia. Only yesterday we marched calmly and serenely, side by side, in a sign of our diversity,” Zekri added in reference to massive unity marches in France over the weekend.
Acts across France
The first anti-Muslim attacks were registered just hours after brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi stormed the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7, shooting 12 people dead.
That evening four gunshots were fired at a mosque near the southwestern city of Albi. Another mosque in the central-eastern town of Aix-les-Bains was burned down that night, in what police suspect was a criminal attack.
The words “assassins” and “dirty Arabs” were spray-painted on the walls of a mosque in the coastal city of Bayonne, while a pig's carcass was left outside a Muslim prayer room in the Corsican town of Ghisonaccia.
The words "Arabi Fora", meaning "Arabs go away" in Corsican, were also scrawled on a building of the Council of the Muslim Faith in the suburbs of the city of Ajaccio.
In northern France, similar graffiti was found at the site of a future mosque in the city of Bethune, and Nazi swastikas and a pig’s head were discovered outside a mosque in the city of Lievin.
France’s Interior Ministry, which had already announced extra police protection for Jewish schools and temples, indicated on Tuesday that additional security forces would also be sent to guard Muslim places of worship.
Date created : 2015-01-13