Number of racist incidents in France plummets
The number of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents in 2016 has fallen sharply against previous years.
According to French interior ministry figures, there were 58.5 percent fewer Islamophobic incidents in 2016 compared with the previous year, and 57.6 percent fewer anti-Semitic incidents.
However, crimes committed against Christian places of worship were up by 17.5 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. The 949 incidents were all vandalism, and represented 90 percent of acts of deliberate damage to all places of worship (Jewish, Muslim and Christian).
With all incidents combined, the global fall in race or religion-motivated crimes was down 44 percent.
The French Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF) reported that despite a spike in 2015 following two terrorist attacks that year, the number of Islamophobic incidents it had recorded was down 24.1 percent on 2014.
Despite these encouraging figures, the organisation insisted that the number of incidents and attacks in 2015 was too high. The CCIF cited 419 reported acts of discrimination, 39 assaults, and 25 acts of vandalism against places of worship.
Specific incidents include a mosque burned to the ground in Corsica, a veiled mother being attacked by another woman with a knife as she dropped her children off at school, an Iraqi family finding pigs feet outside their home, and a doctor who refused to treat a woman who was wearing a headscarf.
Anti-Semitic crimes also fall
The publication of the government's data follows the release of January 22 report compiled by the Israeli ministry for diaspora affairs, which reported that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France dropped, by 63.6 percent, between 2015 and 2016.
According to the ministry, much of the credit for this drop is due to the French government, which in 2015 launched an anti-racism initiative that say hundreds of posted police officers and soldiers patrolling near Jewish schools and synagogues.
The French government sees this drop as “the fruit of government initiatives”, in particular a €100 million campaign to “fight racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination linked or originating from religion”.
According to Jean-Yves Camus, a respected researcher of the French far-right and columnist at Charlie Hebdo, which was a victim of an Islamist terror attack in January 2015, the credit for a fall in religious hate crimes must indeed go to the government.
“The state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks has been extremely efficient in dissuading people from committing hate crimes,” he told FRANCE 24. “The presence of extra police and soldiers on the streets has worked.”
But the racist sentiment remains, he added: “Incidents such as daubings on mosque walls, and pigs’ heads left outside mosques, may not be directly violent, but they are still deeply unpleasant.
“The crimes may be down, but don’t underestimate the willingness of those who do harbour hatred for others to show their feelings at the ballot box, specifically by voting for the [far-right] National Front party.”
Polls show that National Front leader Marine le Pen is set to get the highest number of votes (27 percent) in the first round of April’s presidential election, although she is widely predicted to be beaten in the second round.