A Month of Multiculturalism in France: June 2018

July 26, 2018

11 min read

“Cultural anti-Judaism from the Maghreb has been imported in the luggage of some immigrants…. It has often been aggravated by… the image of the man and the father, at the bottom of the social ladder… From there, a focus of resentment on ‘France’ and ‘the Jews,’ whose success, real or imagined, appeared to some as an additional ‘injustice’ and an affront to the ancient hierarchies.” — Georges Bensoussan, Causeur.

The Christianophobia Observatory, a Paris-based Roman Catholic non-profit organization that tracks attacks against Christians, reported 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France during the first five months of 2018.

“I am opposed to the institutionalization of an Islam of France. If the state interferes with religion, then it is an infringement of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state.” — Bruno Retaillea, Chairman of the Republicans in the Senate, opposing the creation of a French Islam.

June 1. In an interview with the magazine L’Obs, Marwan Muhammad, one of the leading Muslim activists in France, vowed to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reorganize Islam in France: “Macron can do his own thing, we do ours. He can name a great imam, he can even to pray behind him if he wants to. That does not mean that he will receive the approval of the people.”

June 2. In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, the chief chaplain of the Muslim faith in the French armed forces, Abdelkader Arbi, called for the establishment of a military seminary to train the next generation of Muslim chaplains. The course of study would be at the undergraduate level and would be full-time for a period of three years.

June 3. The managers of a Carrefour hypermarket in Chambourcy complied with Muslim demands to remove Israeli dates from the store’s “Ramadan department.” Customers complained that the presence of Israeli products at the store was “an affront to Muslim customers.”

June 4. Police in Paris evacuated around 1,000 migrants from two makeshift camps in the city, five days after another 1,000 were taken to temporary lodgings. The operation began at dawn at a camp along the Canal St Martin northeast of the city center where an estimated 550 mainly Afghan migrants were staying. Another 450 people were evacuated from a camp to the north at Porte de la Chapelle. The St Martin Canal is near the site of a sprawling former camp by the Stalingrad Metro stop, which was cleared, only to spring up again several times last year.

June 5. Two Chechens were arrested on suspicion of having travelled to Syria. Investigators from the Directorate General for Internal Security (DGSI) made the arrests in the departments of Moselle and Puy-de-Dome as part of an investigation into a suspected jihadi plot. In May, a 20-year-old Chechen-born French Russian man named Khamzat Azimov killed one person and injured four others in a knife attack in the Opéra Garnier district of Paris.

June 5. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a plan to double the number of French lessons — to 400 hours, up from 200 hours — it offers to migrants who are living in the country legally. The extra French lessons are part of immigration reforms intended to balance swifter deportation of rejected asylum seekers with better support for those allowed to stay. France will also double the time, from 12 hours to 24, of “civic training” courses given to refugees. The courses are designed to explain French values as well as practicalities, such as how to obtain work, healthcare and housing. Immigrant parents will also be offered free childcare during their French lessons, while those turning 18 will have access to a new 500-euro “culture pass” for young people to spend on museum trips and other cultural activities. Philippe said the measures, which will also include better help for immigrants in finding jobs, were an investment in France’s “national and social cohesion.” He did not say how much the plan would cost.

June 6. The Mayor of Toulon, Humbert Falco, called on the French government to deploy police reinforcements to help regain control over the city’s no-go zones, situated an hour east of Marseille. “I do not want to make political controversy over this subject, which is extremely serious, but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb did not visit Toulon during his recent trip, but we have the same problems as Marseille and Nice,” he said. “Toulon must be helped.” Gunfights have been on the increase in Toulon this year as rival gangs vie for control over drug trafficking in the city.

June 6. A 42-year-old man in Mantes-la-Jolie, a suburb of Paris, was charged with manslaughter after shaking his five-month-old daughter to death. The man, confessing to the crime, said: “I was observing Ramadan and without eating, my nerves were on edge.”

June 6. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet confirmed that approximately 450 radicalized individuals will be released from prison in 2019. This includes 40 persons convicted of Islamic terrorism offenses. The others are common criminals who were radicalized in prison. The average age of those to be released is 24 years. Paris Prosecutor François Molins called for better communication between intelligence services to prevent recidivism: “There is a major risk of having people out of prison at the end of their sentence who have not at all repented of their crimes, and who may even be more hardened by their time in prison.”

June 7. TF1, a private national French television channel, reported that a 33-year-old Iraqi man who arrived in France in 2016 — and was granted refugee status in June 2017, as well as a 10-year residency permit — was arrested at his home in Lisieux, on charges of possibly being a senior member of the Islamic State. He is suspected of having participated in the June 2014 massacre at a military base north of Baghdad in which 1,700 Shiite soldiers were kidnapped and executed. He is also the subject of legal proceedings in Iraq, where authorities believe he may have administered the Samarra region north of Baghdad on behalf of the Islamic State. French authorities have rescinded his refugee status and residency card.

June 7. Thirty victims or families of victims filed a lawsuit against the French state for failing to protect them during the November 13, 2015 jihadi attack on the Bataclan Theater, where 89 people were killed. The plaintiffs accused soldiers who were present at the theater of failing to intervene. “Two-and-a-half years after the attacks, the families of the victims still do not understand why, on order, eight members of Operation Sentinel [a French military operation with 10,000 soldiers and 4,700 police and gendarmes deployed across France to protect against jihadi attacks], present in front of the Bataclan theater, were prevented from intervening,” said Samia Maktouf, one of the lawyers. “We want a precise answer.” The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the lawsuit “aims clearly to establish all the responsibilities and to know exactly what Sentinel’s missions are, if not to intervene when civilians are attacked with the weapons of war.”

June 8. In an interview with the journal Causeur, French historian Georges Bensoussan explained the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism in France: “Cultural anti-Judaism from the Maghreb has been imported in the luggage of some immigrants. It has often been aggravated by the shock of acculturation and the destructuring of traditional society, when the image of the man and the father, at the bottom of the social ladder, has experienced a real downgrade accelerated by unemployment. It has been further aggravated by the shock of modernity, illustrated by the emancipation of girls (and the academic success of some of them). From there, a focus of resentment on ‘France’ and ‘the Jews,’ whose success, real or imagined, appeared to some as an additional ‘injustice’ and an affront to the ancient hierarchies.”

June 9. Two men aged 21 and 22, previously unknown to French intelligence services, were arrested near Fontainebleau, a town southeast of Paris, for allegedly of plotting a jihadi attack, potentially against homosexuals, on behalf of the Islamic State. Police discovered knives, firearms and Islamic State propaganda at their homes. The men, described as “very determined friends,” were subsequently indicted by an anti-terrorism judge for “terrorist criminal conspiracy” and imprisoned. Neighbors said they were “very reserved” people: “We said hello, they did not answer, they barely opened their door.”

June 10. Two young people reportedly entered the Our Lady of Providence Roman Catholic church in Digoin shortly before the lunchtime Mass and began yelling “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is the greatest”].

June 11. The newspaper Le Figaro reported that a Muslim rapper called Médine — named after Medina, the city from which Mohammed, the founder of Islam, launched his conquest of Arabia — would perform at the Bataclan theater, where jihadis in November 2015 killed 89 people. Médine’s lyrics are known for their hatred towards non-Muslims. Conservative politicians expressed indignation. Marine Le Pen tweeted: “No Frenchman can accept that this guy goes to dump his filth on the very place of the carnage of Bataclan. Complacency or, worse, incitement to Islamist fundamentalism, that’s enough!” Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the Republicans, called the announcement a “sacrilege for the victims, dishonor for France.” Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, citing the “scrupulous respect” for free speech, said that the concert would be allowed to proceed.

June 12. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and Interior Minister Gérard Collomb participated during Ramadan in a break-the-fast Iftar dinner organized by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). The two men called on Muslim leaders to fight fundamentalist Islam. “Everyone feels,” Philippe said, “that we are living a crucial moment for our country, for the quality of our life in common.”

June 13. Police said that a car with four occupants deliberately crashed into a police van in Paris. Police pursued the car, which then crashed into the van a second time. The occupants escaped on foot. Police said they found a Koran and a variety Arabic documents in the car’s back seat.

June 14. The City of Paris unveiled bulletproof glass walls and metal fences designed to protect the Eiffel Tower from jihadi attacks. The new walls are part of security measures that have cost nearly €35 million ($41 million) and are due to be finished by mid-July. Glass walls measuring 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inches) thick will run along two sides of the tower. The walls, which are also resistant to vehicle-ramming attacks, are “rock-solid for absolute security,” said Bernard Gaudillere, head of SETE, the company that operates the Eiffel Tower. The other two sides will be fenced off with 3-meter (10-foot) metal barriers.

The City of Paris recently unveiled bulletproof glass walls and metal fences designed to protect the Eiffel Tower from jihadi attacks. Pictured: Soldiers patrol at the base of the Eiffel Tower. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

June 14. A 38-year-old convert to Islam was arrested in Chateauroux on suspicion of plotting to bomb a libertine club after police discovered a make-shift device at his home. The man was subsequently indicted for “terrorist criminal conspiracy” and “individual preparation for the commission of an act of terrorism.”

June 15. Thousands of Muslims prayed in the streets of Nice to mark the end of Ramadan. Mayor Christian Estrosi posted a photo on Twitter of the open-air prayers, which are illegal, and wrote: “I condemn with the utmost firmness the street prayers which have been held at the Ariane since 6am this morning. The laws of the Republic must be respected everywhere.” In another tweet he wrote: “These prayers, gathering 1000 people, are organized with the help of loudspeakers and can be heard throughout the city. Even if #AidElFitr is an important moment for Muslims, nothing can justify street prayers and thus disturb public order.”

June 15. The French government froze the assets of Swiss imam Hani Ramadan as part of the fight against the financing of terrorism. Ramadan was expelled from France in April 2017. The French Interior Ministry said that Ramadan had “in the past adopted behavior and made remarks posing a serious threat to public order on French soil.” Ramadan is the older brother of Tariq Ramadan, a Geneva-born Islamic scholar, currently being held in custody in France for allegedly raping several women.

June 17. A 24-year-old Muslim woman shouting, “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is the greatest”], stabbed two people at the checkout lane of a supermarket in La Seyne-sur-Mer. Police said the woman, who was dressed in black and was wearing dark glasses, had “proven psychiatric disorders” but was not known to have been radicalized. She was arrested an ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam. “Several witnesses report that she said it was Allah who asked her to commit this act because they were all unbelievers,” said Toulon Prosecutor Bernard Marchal.

June 17. A 29-year-old man in Nice was observed taking pictures of the city hall and nearby police vehicles. He was also broadcasting verses from the Koran from his cellphone. When police confronted him, he grabbed a knife, spat on them and shouted: “You are all unbelievers, I am going to kill you.”

June 18. The mayor of Montfermeil, Xavier Lemoine, commemorated the memory of Arnaud Beltrame, a police officer who was killed after he offered himself up to a Muslim gunman in exchange for a female hostage. The gunman, a 26-year-old Moroccan citizen named Redouane Lakdim, had taken hostages at a supermarket in Trèbes on March 23 and demanded the release from prison of Salah Abdeslam, one of the participants in the Paris attacks in November 2015. Five people, including Beltrame, died in the Trèbes attack. A marble plaque in his honor read: “Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, officer of the Gendarmerie, 1973-2018, dead hero, victim of Islamist terrorism.”

Muslim groups and far-left politicians expressed outrage that the plaque made reference to Islam. Angélique Planet-Ledieu of the Left Front said: “We are proud that a place pays tribute to the humanism and sacrifice of Arnaud Beltrame, but by adding the notion of Islamist terrorism, the mayor continues his provocations and inscribes in marble his vision of a religious war.”

June 19. Almost half of the 630 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea who arrived in Spain’s port of Valencia on June 17 said they wanted to seek asylum in France, according to the Spanish government. The majority of the 630 migrants are from Africa, including 450 men and 80 women, of whom at least seven are pregnant. There were also 89 adolescents and 11 children under the age of 13, according to Valencian authorities.

June 20. A 30-year-old man armed with a knife and shouting “Allahu Akbar” attacked passersby in Tours. Police said the man suffered from a “psychological weakness” and that his actions were not related to terrorism.

June 21. President Emmanuel Macron said that anti-immigration populism was spreading across Europe like a disease: “You can see them rise a bit like leprosy all across Europe, in countries where we thought that would be impossible to see them again, in neighboring countries.” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio replied: “The real leprosy is the hypocrisy of someone who pushes back immigrants at Ventimiglia [Italian-French border town] and then wants to preach to us about our sacrosanct right to ask for an equal distribution of migrants.”

June 23. Ten people with links to the radical far-right were arrested by anti-terrorist police in over an alleged plot to attack Muslims. The arrests were made in operations across France, including Corsica. The suspects had an “ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith,” police said. Another source said the gang was looking to attack “targets linked to radical Islam.”

June 24. President Emmanuel Macron said that he supported financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants. “We cannot have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants. I am in favor of sanctions being imposed in the event of non- cooperation.”

June 26. Police raided a Paris university, Paris-8, in Saint-Denis, to remove around 150 migrants who had been living in the building since January. Initially, the migrants — mostly males from West Africa as well as from Sudan and Eritrea, but also Sudanese and Eritreans — had slept outside until activists arranged for them to be sheltered in the university. Several classrooms had been converted into dormitories. The decision to evacuate the building was made after it was discovered that some of the migrants had scabies. The president of the university, Annick Allaigre, said that 133 of those expelled from the building would likely be granted a residence permit.

June 27. The Christianophobia Observatory, a Paris-based Roman Catholic non-profit organization that tracks attacks against Christians, reported 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France during the first five months of 2018. The number represents an increase of 12.5% ​​compared to the first five months of 2017, when there were 112 attacks, occurring in 53 of France’s 101 departments.

June 28. The chairman of the Republicans in the Senate, Bruno Retaillea, said that he opposed the creation of a French Islam: “I am opposed to the institutionalization of an Islam of France. If the state interferes with religion, then it is an infringement of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state. If we try to organize an Islam of France as best we can, we will not succeed, because nine out of ten Muslims belong to Sunni Islam which does not recognize a hierarchy. So what may happen is that there will be a beginning of institutionalization, the state will put the hand where, precisely, it does not have to put it, and will make things worse than they are now.”

June 29. Public prosecutors in Toulouse opened an investigation into a senior Muslim cleric who, in a sermon, recited anti-Semitic religious passages and predicted Israel’s destruction. Mohamed Tatai, the Algerian-born imam of the newly inaugurated Grand Mosque of Toulouse and the leader of Circle for Civil Dialogue, an interfaith dialogue group, will be investigated for “possible incitement to hatred.”

June 30. The regional assembly of Corsica unanimously voted to accept more migrants in the aftermath of a European Union agreement to encourage countries to set up reception centers for migrants arriving by sea. All parties represented in the Corsican assembly backed a motion proposed by Bonifacio Mayor Jean-Charles Orsucci, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, and called for the establishment of a committee of local and national representatives to organize the “efficient reception of migrants.”

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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