Europe’s anti-Muslim prejudice runs deep, yet the leaders of the continent are unable to address it with strong measures.
When a letter condemning anti-Semitism was published in 2018 it was criticised for creating a hierarchy of oppression in which anti-Muslim violence was relegated as a less potent form of racism.
A Jewish Rabbi at the time said that he was “reticent” about the letter fearing that it “was [presented as] a sort of competition. Who was the most at risk?”
The scourge of anti-Semitism in France has a long and dark chapter in the country’s recent history. During World War Two, the French government collaborated with the Nazis resulting in more than 90,000 Jews dying in concentration camps or 25 percent of French Jews.
Since then French society has attempted to come to terms both with its past and the need to tackle anti-Semitism so that the dehumanisation of one particular religious community does not result in the systematic murder of it.
Fast forward to France today, the country is struggling to come to terms with anti-Muslim sentiment that is driven by negative depictions of everyday Muslims.
In France today it would be difficult, if not impossible, to criticise Jewish people for practising their faith and wearing kippahs, and to oppose orthodox Jewish men wearing long robes and long beards. The same, however, can not be said for Muslims in France.
For Muslims, their faith is often under Big Brother’s oversight.
French politicians regularly consider it as part of their public service to comment on what Muslim women can and cannot wear. They question whether private businesses should be able to sell hijabs or not; Muslim women with hijab can sing on TV; take their children to school trips; be in the student union; debate on TV; swim at the beach; even apply for a job.
Being a Muslim in France, but in particular, a Muslim woman, can be exhausting. With your every waking moment open to scrutiny.
Earlier this month when French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech telling almost six million French Muslim citizens that Islam is in “crisis” it was roundly criticised.
Following the brutal murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty last week the French political establishment spearheaded by Macron has used the moment to deepen cleavages in french society in particular with its Muslim minority.
Offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed have been defended by Macron as an expression of the freedom of speech.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that defaming the Prophet Muhammad “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”
Offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad have become emblematic in France of something altogether darker.
Depicting caricatures inciting hatred of Jewish people in France would almost certainly land one in court. The same, however, is not the case for the country’s Muslim community.
In 2019 there was a 54 percent increase in anti-Muslim attacks in France which compounded with the intense securitisation and dehumanisation must make many Muslims wonder whether France has fully learned the lessons of the past.