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Europe’s anti-racist NGOs condemn France’s far-right driven attack on Muslim civil society

25th Feb 2022

Elham Asaad Buaras

A network of European Union-wide anti-racist Non-Governmental Organisation have warned EU institutions and member states on the attacks against Muslims and the spread of far-right ideas in France.

“The country is showing marks of a growing far-right within its institutions,” the European Network against Racism (ENAR) said in a statement on February 14.

The Brussels-based watchdog denounced “the escalation of attacks against Muslims and civil society organisations who work against racism and anti-Muslim hatred in France.”

They added that Europe should be concerned by the French government’s “increasingly divisive discourse and strategies” that are based on far-right ideology and target Muslims and civil society organisations.

“Under the guise of national security, civil society organisations have been dissolved, mosques have been raided, and schools and Muslim-owned businesses closed,” contrary to the principles of the rule of law, ENAR said.

They cited a recent report from the French Observatory of Associative Freedom (Observatoire des Libertés Associatives) that documented 20 abusive sanctions against NGOs without legal or factual bases over five years (2016 and 2021)

“As a result, the freedom of association and fundamental rights of racialised people in France, and Muslims in particular, are severely endangered. With political discourse in the media, and directly by government agencies, targeting Muslims and civil society organisations who work against racism and anti-Muslim hatred in the country at an all-time high, far-right ideology in France is not only rising; it’s already here and Europe should be concerned”, said the group.

ENAR stressed these actions have a “chilling effect” on Muslim communities and civil society because they are “considered guilty until proven innocent.”

The statement underlined that French mainstream media has also joined the trend of attacking NGOs and “demonising Muslims.”

The organisation also warned that French politicians actively seek ties with openly far-right political organisations across Europe.

Ghyslain Vedeux, ENAR’s vice-chair, and president of the Representative Council of France’s Black Associations said that “Considering these unprecedented worrying developments, the movement for racial justice has concerns about their impact at the EU level given the French European Union Council Presidency and the upcoming adoption of Council conclusions on combating racism and anti-Semitism.

The discourse and action of the French government are contrary to the recent positive commitments the EU has undertaken in its Anti-Racism Action Plan, which stresses the need for all Member States to bring structural racism to an end all over Europe.

We would have hoped that countries such as France, who had been key in setting up the European project, would not seek to undermine the progress in tackling racism in Europe and contribute to the erosion of key EU principles.”

ENAR also noted that in seeking to carry its position against Muslims at the EU level, France forged ties with far-right-led Member states.

The network noted France’s active participation in the “Vienna Forum on Countering Segregation and Extremism in the Context of Integration” last October, “which was built on the essentialisation of active Muslim communities and aimed at increasing the surveillance and repression of Muslims in Europe.

“In parallel, French politicians are closing their ties with the nationalist government of Viktor Orbán. The latest example is the Macron-Orbán convergence on the issues of border control.”

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