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French Muslim leaders boycott Jewish event in Paris

© FRANCE 24 screengrab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-02-24

French President François Hollande outlined a plan to fight anti-Semitism Monday at a Jewish council event that was boycotted by Muslim leaders after the council's president said young Muslims were behind "all" the violent crime in France.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Jewish umbrella group, Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF) -- a major event on the French political calendar -- Hollande called for “faster and more effective sanctions” against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. The French president’s comments came as his government prepares to unveil a plan to fight hate crimes next month.

The CRIF annual dinner was meant to provide a platform for Hollande to highlight his government’s plan to crack down on hate crimes. But the president’s address was overshadowed by a major row, which broke out between France’s leading Jewish and Muslim organisations.

Shortly before the CRIF dinner began, France’s largest Muslim organisation, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), announced that it was boycotting the event following comments by CRIF president Roger Cukierman that young Muslims were the cause of all violent crimes in France.


In an interview with French radio station Europe 1 earlier Monday, Cukierman noted that, "All violence, and we must say this, all violent acts today are committed by young Muslims. Of course, that's a small minority of the Muslim community and the Muslims are the first victims," he added.

The CFCM also denounced Cukierman’s support for the term “Islamo-fascism”, which was used by Prime Minister Manuel Valls earlier this month.

The annual CRIF dinner has traditionally drawn senior French politicians as well as leaders of all major religions. CFCM leaders have attended the event for several years.

Addressing nearly 700 invited guests at Monday night’s dinner, Cukierman denounced the “unfounded accusations” by the CFCM and expressed a hope that “contact would be rapidly re-established” with France’s Muslim community.

The CFCM, said Cukierman, “informed us this afternoon of its decision not to attend the dinner. I learned of this decision with deep regret", he said. Cukierman added that he had called CFCM leader Dalil Boubakeur “to try to change his mind” and that he had told the CFCM leader that the accusations against him were unfounded.

Rising tensions

The boycott underscored the rise of religious tensions in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities. The 2015 annual CRIF dinner comes less than two months after a series of attacks by Islamist militants at the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher supermarket that killed 17 people and the three attackers.

Muslim advocacy groups have recorded a rise in Islamophobic acts, including vandalism on mosques following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

This has been accompanied by a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France, including the vandalisation of hundreds of graves at Jewish cemeteries in eastern and northern France in recent weeks.

Marine Le Pen ‘irreproachable’, but not invited

Cukierman’s remarks on Muslim youths were not the only controversial comments in the lead-up to the Monday night event.

In his interview with Europe 1 Cukierman noted that, while he would never vote for the far-right National Front party, “it is now a party that does not commit violence”.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen, however, has not been invited to the event despite a comment by Cukierman earlier on Monday that the current leader of the far right-party was “irreproachable”.

Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism and is reviled across France for his infamous dismissal of the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.

The new National Front, however, has spent considerable energy trying to soften the party’s anti-Semitic image.


Date created : 2015-02-23


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