Anti-Muslim hatred is being disguised as secularism in France, a French opposition leader said in criticism of the Emmanuel Macron-led government, which recently came under fire for policies against French Muslims.
"There is hatred toward Muslims under the guise of secularism in this country. Secularism does not mean to hate a religion," Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the France Unbowed movement and an MP from a Mediterranean region with a large Muslim population, told the BFM-TV channel earlier this week.
Melenchon said Muslims should be respected and the constant suspicion toward them should end.
He said he would continue repeating these statements even though some people would not like it.
He also stressed that he stands against hatred toward Muslims.
Noting that he has received the signatures of 150,000 citizens in support of his candidacy in the 2022 presidential election, Melenchon said the method of fighting against terrorism should change.
His remarks come after recent anti-Islam statements by Macron and other politicians.
Islamophobia has been surging in the country, while the arbitrary detention of minors in southeastern France's Albertville commune, caused an uproar. Three Turkish children and a child from North Africa, who are all 10 years old, were taken to a police station following a dispute over the brutal killing of French teacher Samuel Paty and cartoons that insult Muslims.
The children were interrogated for 11 hours at the police station.
A father of one of the children said that the French police raided his house in the early morning.
Last Wednesday, a member of the Jewish French Union for Peace (UJFP) said that the recent detention in France of the children on alleged terrorism charges was a sign of impending barbarism.
Georges Gumpel said in a blog post that the move showed that children are not valued in France and he had not considered writing about his painful childhood until now but the incident triggered his response, according to an Anadolu Agency (AA) report.
Gumpel said he was born to a Jewish family in 1937 and his father was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 when he was only five years old. Referring to the detention of the children, he said that initially, he did not believe it, as France was a country with human rights, yet the outrageous incident made him question the means used to cover up crimes committed against children.
He further noted that the detention of the children in Albertville in southeastern France on the pretext of "terrorist propaganda” and a previous incident where police forced students at a school in Mantes-la-Jolie district near Paris to kneel for hours were signs of impending barbarity.
Last month, Macron described Islam as "a religion in crisis" and announced plans for tougher laws to tackle Islamic "separatism" in France.
Tensions escalated after middle school teacher Samuel Paty was murdered and beheaded on Oct. 16 in a Paris suburb in retaliation for showing his students blasphemous cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression.
Insulting cartoons by the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo were also projected on buildings in some French cities.
Macron defended the cartoons, saying France would "not give up our cartoons," sparking outrage across the Muslim world.
His remarks sparked huge controversy and a boycott of French goods, such as dairy products and cosmetics, by multiple Muslim countries including Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Demonstrations have also taken place with posters of Macron set alight in some instances. Turkey has been one of the countries with the harshest reaction to Macron's rhetoric.