Hate crimes against Muslims in France tripled last year while anti-Semitic assaults remained at an already "high level" and attacks on Christian sites rose by a fifth, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. Cazeneuve told the Catholic daily La Croix in an interview that Islamophobic threats or assaults "tripled to some 400 for the year 2015." He said more than half occurred in the first quarter of the year after extremists attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, claiming 17 lives.
Across the year as a whole "we note a drop of 5 percent in anti-Semitic attacks, which nonetheless remained at a high level with 806 recorded," Cazeneuve said. Cazeneuve added that attacks on Christian places of worship and cemeteries rose 20 percent to 810. Overall, 2014 had seen 133 attacks on Muslims and 851 of an anti-Semitic nature based on complaints logged with police.
"I cannot accept such acts - they must be severely punished," Cazeneuve said.
The official tally for 2015 was set to be published yesterday by Dilcra, the acronym for an inter-ministerial office charged with fighting racism and anti-Semitism. The massacre by DAESH of 130 people in coordinated Paris attacks in November has also stoked fears of attacks on Muslims and Islamic sites.
After extremist attacks, hundreds of Muslims have used social media to show support for Parisians and that the terrorists and attacks are not a part of Islam with the hashtags #NotInMyName and #IAmAMuslim. French Muslims are not the only group who face threats, harassment and discrimination. Syrian refugees, who have been seeking a safe shelter mostly in Europe, but also in North America, face backlash over the attacks because of their religion.
Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, said 429 Islamophobic attacks or threats had been registered in 2015, the highest since his organization was established in 2011.
France is home to the largest Muslim population in Europe, estimated at between 4-5 million. The French Muslim community represents approximately 6 percent of the total population of the 58.5 million that live in France. However, French Muslims do not feel safe due to the lack of security measures taken by the French government compared to other French communities under threat.
Anti-immigration sentiments have not been witnessed only in France. Yesterday, the Times reported asylum seekers in the northern English town of Middlesbrough are suffering abuse because they have been housed in properties that almost all have red front doors, making them easy targets for racists.
The houses are owned by a subcontractor of G4S, the outsourcing giant which has been embroiled in a series of scandals over alleged incompetence and abuses. A spokesman for G4S said the subcontractor, Jomast, would repaint the doors. Asylum seekers living in the Middlesbrough houses described having eggs and stones thrown at their windows, dog excrement smeared on their doors and racist jibes shouted at them, the Times said in its report.
Britain has not received migrants in the same huge numbers that arrived in other European countries last year, but public concerns over immigration are running high and tensions have risen in many communities with high concentrations of migrants. "If we find any evidence of discrimination against asylum seekers it will be dealt with immediately as any such behavior will not be tolerated," Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said in a statement.
Islamophobia and xenophobia have long been on the rise in European countries. European attitudes toward minorities living in the EU show that there are considerable negative perceptions of minorities. Europe's populist right also rushed to demand an end to an influx of refugees from the Middle East in the wake of the attacks.
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