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Muslim groups submit complaint to UN over France’s 'entrenched structural Islamophobia'

Tension between French Muslims and the French government have increased in recent months [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 January, 2021

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A collective of organisations has called on the UN to take action and put an end to anti-Muslim actions and policies in France.
A formal complaint has been submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) by a group of lawyers, NGOs, and religious bodies, regarding the treatment of the French Muslim community. 

In their complaint, the signatories accused France of violating “a number of basic rights that are protected in legislation that is ratified by Paris” and overseeing a system of “entrenched structural Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims.”

Feroze Boda, of the Muslims Lawyers Association, who submitted the complaint on behalf of the group, said: “These policies are not only counter-productive, but they are open to abuse, and have been abused – while also being completely out of touch with reality.” 

Among the 36 signatories were, the France-based European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, the UK’s Muslim Association of Britain, Holland’s Muslim Rights Watch, and the US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations and Islamophobia Studies Center. 

In total, organisations and groups from 13 different countries signed the complaint. 

They claim that since 1989, discrimination against French Muslims has been overseen by French governments, and pressed OHCHR to take action and ensure that France abides by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The group cited a number of examples of what they claim was French discrimination, including, the backlash against the Muslim community following the 9/11 attacks, the 2004 school hijab ban and the 2010 ban on the niqab, or face covering, in public spaces.

The complaint to the UN comes at a tense time between the French Muslim community, which numbers 5 million, and the government. 

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing effects to ratify his controversial 'Supporting Republican Principles Bill’, also known as the ‘separation bill’, which came in direct response to a number of Islamist attacks in France, including the beheading of French school teacher Samuel Paty. 

The ‘separation bill’, tightens the rules regarding when homeschooling is permitted, requires mosques to register as places of worship, and also requires them to declare any foreign funding over €10,000. 

Additionally, it creates a new offence for online hate speech, which allow the state to quickly detain individuals who reveal the personal information of public servants, with harmful intent.

However, the bill extends existing laws regarding the wearing of religious symbols, including headscarves, to prohibit not just civil servants, but also all private contractors of public services.

Read more: Macron and Sisi: How France's geopolitical ambitions eclipse human rights abuses

It also applies restrictions to virginity certificates and includes measures that seek to tackle forced marriages.

When he outlined the bill in October, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis”. Opponents of the bill accuse the president of collectively punishing Muslims for the actions of a fringe minority. 

Since the attacks, France has closed down a number of mosques and Islamic religious organisations and charities, prompting global backlash and calls to boycott French goods.

The managing director of UK-based CAGE Advocacy Group, Muhammad Rabbani, who also signed the complaint, told Anadolu: “France is arguably the testing laboratory for European Islamophobia. It is, therefore, crucial that it is challenged robustly and in an organised fashion so it does not expand beyond the French borders.”

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