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Coalition of international NGOs call on EU to probe French ‘state-sponsored Islamophobia’

9th Apr 2021
Coalition of international NGOs call on EU to probe French  ‘state-sponsored Islamophobia’

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has been asked to try the French Government. (Credit: European Parliament)

Harun Nasrullah

In an unprecedented intervention, a coalition of 25 NGOs representing 11 countries has called on the European Commission to investigate France for its state-sponsored support to Islamophobia.

In a petition to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the coalition asked her to try the French Government at the European Court of Justice for imposing discriminatory practices. The 22-page complaint draws a sharp focus to French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Imam’s charter’.

The Charter demands loyalty to ‘republican values’ while the state simultaneously weaponises these same values to abuse its Muslim citizens. ‘France has implemented numerous laws designed to limit the freedom of belief and punish the manifestation of religion,’ said the petition submitted on March 8. Samira Sabir from Sabir’s Legal Services, who submitted the petition on behalf of the alliance, said Islamophobia has become ingrained and mainstreamed in European societies.

“Islamophobia is not only a widespread and serious phenomenon in right-wing circles, but it is also ingrained in the mainstream of European societies,” she said. The legal activist said that France provided an example of how state actors have institutionalised and legitimised Islamophobia through hate speech targeting Muslims.

Among the organisations who have signed the petition included Representative Council of France’s Black Associations, Muslim Rights Watch Netherlands, the Islamic Central Council Switzerland, and Muslim Association for Human Rights from Spain. ‘There is a widespread failure to implement EU legislation and in particular human rights related to religious integrity and the freedom to express political beliefs in France,’ the petition said.

It has also highlighted that Macron’s plan ‘against separatism’, which according to these NGOs, merely focuses on tightening ‘political, ideological, theological and financial control on Muslim communities’.

‘There is no real or effective remedy within the French legal system to stop the continuation of structural and systemic Islamophobia by the French government within the meanings established by European case law’ said these NGOs, while explaining the reason for approaching the European Commission.

They asked Von der Leyen to intervene for the sake of not allowing a precedent to be set that would harm not only Muslims but also other communities in France as well. The petition noted that the French government exploited the killing of French middle-school teacher Samuel Paty to promote a racist, discriminative and Islamophobic agenda.
Referring to France’s Interior Minister’s statement, defending the raids against people not linked to investigations into the killing of Paty to send a message, the petition said that so far police have conducted 51 violent raids on homes of Muslims. Seeking direct and urgent intervention from the European Commission, Sabir said it was the responsibility of the EU to directly act upon the complaint.

“With its enforcement powers, the European Commission must ensure the enforcement of EU law”, she said, adding that France has violated the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and regulations on the prohibition of discrimination, xenophobia, racism, and protection of minorities and children’s rights. The French government has been criticised for its moves and rhetoric against Islam and Muslims. French President, Emmanuel Macron’s claim that Islam is “in crisis,” raids on mosques and Islamic foundations and a proposed “anti-separatism” law that slap wide-ranging restrictions on the Muslim community have also come under fire.

The Bill permits authorities to interfere with mosques and their administrators as well as control the finances of associations and NGOs belonging to Muslims. The coalition had also petitioned the UN Human Rights Council on January 18, complaining against systematic Islamophobic actions in France.

List of signatories:

Asociacion Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos (Spain); CAGE (UK); CALAM (France); Collectif contre l’islamophobie aux Pays-Bas (Netherlands); Comité 21 mars (Netherlands); Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires de France (France); Documenting Oppression Against Muslims (UK); Dokustelle (Austria); Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie & Ontwikkeling (Netherlands); European Network on Religion and Belief (Belgium); Islamic Council of Victoria (Australia); Islamophobia Studies Center (USA); IZI solutions (Netherlands); James CARR University of Limerick (Ireland); Khadija Leadership Network (New Zealand); LALLAB (France); Meld Islamofobie (Netherlands); Muslim Engagement and Development (UK); Muslim Public Affairs Committee (UK); Muslim Rights Watch (Netherlands); SAFI (Spain); Stichting Centrum de Middenweg (Netherlands);The Islamic Central Council Switzerland (SwitzerlandIZRS); The Muslim Vibe (UK); The Yaqeen Institute (USA).

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