A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in France: June 2017
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 23/17
“I am in fundamental disagreement with these left-wing people who do everything to dissociate fundamentalism from Islam. Islam has been radicalized for fifty years. On the Shiite side, there was Imam Khomeini and his Islamic revolution. In the Sunni world, there was Saudi Arabia, which used its immense resources to finance the spread of this fanaticism of Wahhabism. But this historical evolution took place within Islam and not outside. When the people of the Islamic State attack, they do it by saying ‘Allahu Akbar.’ So how can we then say that this has nothing to do with Islam? It must be stopped.” — Sir Salman Rushdie, author of the novel The Satanic Verses, who has been hunted to be killed by Muslim extremists for nearly 30 years.
Residents of the Paris suburb of Mée-sur-Seine complained that a mosque was blasting prayers on outdoor loudspeakers well beyond midnight each night during Ramadan. Mourad Salah, a local Muslim leader, said the city council was to blame for the noise because of its failure to provide Muslims with a larger mosque: “The ball is in the mayor’s court. Until we have a place of prayer worthy of the name, with a greater capacity, things will be difficult.”
An online petition — “Women: An Endangered Species in the Heart of Paris” — accused Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo of allowing a large swathe of the city to become a no-go zone for women. Every night, hundreds of migrants from Africa and the Middle East line the pavements to form an intimidating gauntlet for women walking from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est railway stations to their homes, the petition said. Shouts of “bitch” and “dirty whore” are common.
June 1. Saber Lahmar, a 48-year-old Algerian who has lived in Bordeaux since his release from Guantánamo Bay in 2009, was charged with “terrorist association” and placed in pre-trial detention. He is suspected of providing financial, logistical and doctrinal aid to French jihadists who were planning to travel to Iraq and Syria. Lahmar was arrested in Bosnia in 2001 after being accused of plotting to bomb the American embassy in Sarajevo. In November 2008, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered Lahmar to be released from Guantánamo because there was insufficient reason to hold him. In December 2009, Robert C. Kirsch, a lawyer at the firm of WilmerHale, which represented Lahmar in federal court, said: “We are grateful for the courage and generosity of the French people and government, and for the ongoing effort by President Obama… which will now give Mr. Lahmar a chance to rebuild his life in France.”
June 1. A group of prominent intellectuals accused French authorities of covering up the April 4 murder of a Jewish woman by her Muslim neighbor. Kobili Traoré a 27-year-old Malian Muslim, tortured 66-year-old Sarah Halimi and threw her out of her third-story apartment. The letter criticizes the Paris Prosecutor’s Office for omitting hate crime charges from a draft indictment against Traoré. They cited a recording of the incident made by another neighbor. In it, Traoré can be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and calling Halimi “dirty Jew” to her face. Some observers believe the authorities covered up Halimi’s murder to prevent it from helping Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign.
June 2. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, banned Noorassur, a local insurance broker, from hanging a sign with the words “Islamic finance” because it “poses a high risk of disturbing public order.” Estrosi said the sign was placed in close proximity to the Promenade des Anglais, the site of the July 14, 2016 jihadist attack. He said that there was a risk to both the staff and the customers and that passersby might see the sign as a provocation. Noorassur’s founder, Sonia Mariji, filed a lawsuit against the city. “Islamic finance is not incompatible with the Republic,” she said. “I am a fruit of the Republic.” Her lawyer accused Estrosi of “conveying the idea that Islamic finance is linked to Islamist terrorism.”
June 6. Farid Ikken, a 40-year-old Algerian, attacked a police officer in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the hammer attack was an “isolated act.” Ikken was later charged with “attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise.” Prosecutor François Molins said that Ikken was radicalized through Islamic State propaganda he found on the internet. Molins also confirmed that Ikken, who had recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, was a former journalist who was legally living in France as a student working on his doctoral thesis.
A policeman stands guard near Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on June 6, 2017, after Farid Ikken, a 40-year-old Algerian, attempted to murder a police officer at the site. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
June 8. In an interview with L’Obs, British Indian author Sir Salman Rushdie, the object of an Islamic death sentence for alleged blasphemy in his 1988 best-selling novel The Satanic Verses, blamed European leaders for refusing to see the reality of the origins of jihadism:
“I am in fundamental disagreement with these left-wing people who do everything to dissociate fundamentalism from Islam. Islam has been radicalized for fifty years. On the Shiite side, there was Imam Khomeini and his Islamic revolution. In the Sunni world, there was Saudi Arabia, which used its immense resources to finance the spread of this fanaticism of Wahhabism. But this historical evolution took place within Islam and not outside. When the people of the Islamic State attack, they do it by saying ‘Allahu Akbar.’ So how can we then say that this has nothing to do with Islam? It must be stopped.”
June 11. Three more men were charged with involvement in supplying the weapon that Karim Cheufri used to kill police officer Xavier Jugelé in Paris on April 20. A total of four suspects have been charged with directly or indirectly helping Cheufri, who was shot dead after killing Jugelé and wounding two other police officers on the Champs-Elysées.
June 13. President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May announced an anti-terror action plan to remove jihadist propaganda from the internet. The action plan includes exploring the possibility of legal penalties against social media companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content from their networks.
June 14. The mayor of Mandelieu-La-Napoule, Henri Leroy, called on the fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) to prohibit sales personnel from wearing Islamic headscarves. He said he had received repeated complaints from shopkeepers and local citizens who are “embarrassed by the religious attire of your employees.” He added: “I think it is useful to remind you that the municipality is attached to Republican values and to religious neutrality.” Feïza Ben Mohamed, a candidate in the local elections in the Alpes-Maritimes department accused Leroy of “Islamophobia” and of engaging in a “shameful polemic.”
June 18. Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front party, won a seat in parliament for the first time. Overall, her party won only eight seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, dashing her hopes of becoming the main opposition to President Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen blamed France’s electoral system and called for proportional representation. “It’s a scandal that our party that won 7.6 million votes in the first round of the presidential election and three million more in the second round, cannot form a group in the French parliament,” she said.
June 19. Adam Lofti Djaziri, a 31-year-old jihadist from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, was killed when he rammed his car, laden with guns and gas canisters, into a police van on the Champs-Elysées. Police said Djaziri had meant to turn his vehicle into a car bomb but it failed to explode. No one else was injured in the attack. Djaziri had mailed a letter to his family just before the attack saying he had wanted to travel to Syria but that he had been stopped from doing so “by apostates against the Islamic State.” It later emerged that although Djaziri had been on a jihadist watchlist, he had legally been allowed to purchase firearms.
June 20. A Polish truck driver was killed when he crashed into the back of another truck that had been stopped by migrants on a highway near Calais. The migrants had placed barriers consisting of tree trunks and other large objects to slow down three trucks headed for Britain in an attempt to stow away in them. Four migrants — two Afghan adults and two Eritrean minors — were charged with manslaughter, impeding traffic and endangering lives. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak asked French authorities to “take action to guarantee the security of Polish truck drivers in the Calais region.”
June 22. President Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced new anti-terrorism legislation that would give French authorities greater powers to act to protect an event or location thought to be at risk from attack, without first having to seek permission from the courts. The draft law would also allow mosques thought to be promoting extremism to be shut down for up to six months. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe argued it struck the “right balance” between respecting freedoms and reinforcing security. Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the legislation would enshrine into law draconian powers allowed under the state of emergency, which has been in place since the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris.
June 22. A special anti-terror tribunal in Paris sentenced 18 members of a jihadist network to between one and 28 years in prison for a grenade attack on a Jewish grocery store in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles in September 2012. The “Cannes-Torcy cell,” named after the towns where its members were based, was accused of having planned several other attacks before the network was dismantled in 2012. During the hearing at a special anti-terror tribunal, the cell was described as “the missing link” between the self-proclaimed al-Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah — who murdered three Jewish children and a teacher in an attack at their school in Toulouse in 2012 — and the network that attacked the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.
June 22. Residents of the Paris suburb of Mée-sur-Seine complained that a mosque was blasting prayers on outdoor loudspeakers well beyond midnight each night during Ramadan. “The loudspeaker was used for the many faithful praying on the sidewalk because the mosque is too small,” according to Le Parisien. Mourad Salah, a local Muslim leader, said the city council was to blame for the noise because of its failure to provide Muslims with a larger mosque: “The ball is in the mayor’s court. Until we have a place of prayer worthy of the name, with a greater capacity, things will be difficult.”
June 23. Five jihadists were sentenced to a combined 25 years in prison for associating with the Islamic State. The men, all in their 20s, had been recruited by Omar Diaby, a French national of Senegalese descent known for funneling fighters to Syria. Ali Abzouzi and Luck Manodritta were sentenced to six and eight years in prison, respectively. The two had spent several months in Syria in 2013 and 2014. Two others, Cedric Belly and David Assila, were given four years in prison including two-year suspended sentences for having attempted to join the others. The court also handed a three-year jail sentence to Magomed Bagaiev for helping a young woman prepare to leave for Syria. Diaby, also known as Omar Omsen, is believed to have recruited around 50 French jihadists to fight to Syria.
June 24. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb rejected calls from charities for the construction of a new migrant camp in the northern port of Calais, where hundreds migrants have once again gathered in hopes of crossing the English Channel to Britain. In October 2016, French authorities bulldozed a migrant camp known as “The Jungle,” but aid agencies say about 400-600 migrants are now sleeping rough on streets. Collomb said: “We don’t want to create a gathering point where numbers would swell back up to 7,000 over time. That would not be tolerable, for the migrants, the residents of Calais and for economic life.”
June 26. An online petition — “Women: An Endangered Species in the Heart of Paris” — accused Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo of allowing a large swathe of the city to become a no-go zone for women. Every night, hundreds of migrants from Africa and the Middle East line the pavements to form an intimidating gauntlet for women walking from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est railway stations to their homes, the petition said. Shouts of “bitch” and “dirty whore” are common. The petition was launched by a woman called Laurence who said:
“As a woman you start adopting defensive measures. You don’t go here or there. Avoid certain routes. Take your kids to school another way. I stopped going to my tobacconist and some cafes because suddenly there were only men inside. I have to ask the teenage drug dealers politely to step aside in the foyer just so I can get to my own front door…. You get used to averting your eyes from streams of urine and pools of spittle…to lowering your head… to walking alone… to feeling fear, great, great fear because you dared to speak out.”
Pierre Liscia, a conservative councilor, said that city officials were concerned that the lawlessness might derail the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympics:
“The cynical thing is that last month a vast clean-up operation was launched when the Olympic committee came to visit for an inspection ahead of the Games. They moved out 1,600 people in 24 hours. I find it contemptible that the mayor’s office acted only when there was media attention.”
Mayor Hidalgo has repeatedly denied that there are no-go zones in Paris, and in January 2015 she threatened to file a lawsuit against Fox News for “harming the honor of Paris” after it reported that such zones exist.
June 27. The trial began of Beatrice Huret, a 45-year-old former supporter of France’s anti-immigration National Front party, for helping to smuggle her Iranian migrant lover across the English Channel to Britain. Huret met 37-year-old Mokhtar while volunteering at the now-demolished “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais. In June 2016, she purchased a small boat for 1,000 euros which Mokhtar and two friends used to cross the Channel. The boat capsized en route but the trio arrived safely after being rescued by the British coastguard. Huret was subsequently arrested and charged with being part of a migrant smuggling network. Since then, the couple have kept up their relationship, with Huret regularly visiting Mokhtar in the northern English city of Sheffield, where he obtained a work permit. Huret, who has a 19-year-old son, said: “I am prepared to give up my life for him. The only thing that would bother me is that I would no longer be able to see Mokhtar if I’m in jail.”
June 27. The mayor of Lorette, Gerard Tardy, banned burkinis and other Muslim clothing at a new outdoor swim park. The regulation states:
“Monokinis, burkinis, partial veils or veils which totally conceal the face, or a combination thereof, are prohibited on the beach. Any breach of this provision will lead to the immediate expulsion (which may cover the entire swimming season) of the offenders by security or, if necessary, by the police.”
Aldo Oumouden, spokesman of a mosque in Saint Étienne, responded:
“France is multicultural and banning the veil at this facility is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims and does not even distinguish between burkini and headscarf. How is it that the veil is aggressive or dangerous for the population? It does not represent any health problem, and there is no interference with the freedom of others. Does Mayor Tardy not realize that this decision will further stigmatize Muslims? It is not only unnecessary but also devastating for community harmony.”
June 28. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that new counter-terrorism legislation proposed by the French government will fuel prejudice against Muslims. President Emmanuel Macron wants the legislation to replace temporary emergency powers in place since jihadists attacked Paris in 2015. HRW said:
“As the text stands, the law could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity. Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society.”
June 29. The mayor of Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur, Michel Rotger, banned halal menus in school canteens. “Under the principle of secularism, a single menu is proposed. No substitute meals will be provided except in case of food allergies,” he said. “I am applying the recommendation of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF),” he added. The AMF recently published a guide for “secular best practices” which criticized “denominational menus” in canteens. “We are putting in place an operation so that children eat everything and that what is offered is balanced,” Rotger said. “There is too much waste, and we will teach them to eat meat, be it poultry or pork.” Muslim groups have vowed to fight the ban in court.
June 30. A new mobile app — “No-Go Zone” — appeared in the Google App Store. The app warns people if they are in a Paris no-go zone, and provides live alerts of thefts and sexual assaults in the city. The app description reads: “Whether you are staying in an unknown location, looking for a safe place to live, on your way to a specific location then No-Go Zone allows you to reduce any risk of aggression, theft, harassment or incivility.”