For decades, France has faced persistent challenges related to anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7 has only served to underline the depth of this problem and rekindled fears within the Jewish community.
Anti-Semitic acts jumped by 1,000% in France after the October 7 attack. In the three months that followed, their number equaled that of the previous three years combined. 12.7% of the incidents took place in schools, the majority of them middle schools.
Back in 2012, following the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, where three children and a teacher were killed by Mohamed Merah, a 200% rise in anti-Semitic acts was recorded. The increase was 300% after the jihadist attack on the Hyper Kosher supermarket in 2015.
First, it’s important to write that not all Muslims are anti-Semitic, and that anti-Semitism is not an intrinsic feature of Islam. As in any community, there is a diversity of beliefs, opinions and behaviors among Muslims in France. Reducing an entire community to simplistic stereotypes is not only unfair, but also counter-productive in the fight against anti-Semitism.
However, it is undeniable that there are instances of anti-Semitism within certain bangs of the Muslim community in France. Attacks on synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish individuals are tragic realities that cannot be ignored. These heinous acts are often motivated by political tensions in the Middle East.
Since October 2000, all the experts agree that anti-Semitism has risen sharply. Since 2006, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has been publishing working documents noting an upsurge in anti-Semitic threats in all EU Member States. Those reports conclude that the threats are now plural: they no longer emanate solely from the extreme right, but also from part of the radical left and from Islam. The same reports also point out that in many European countries, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents is due more to young Muslims than to the extreme right.
We only have to read the press in certain countries and watch certain Arab channels to understand that an anti-Semitic discourse which explains that the West is under the domination of Jewish lobbies has infused the subconscious of certain Muslims.
In July 2014, a hundred youths, many already wearing Hamas colors, attacked a synagogue packed with worshippers on rue de la Roquette in Paris, shouting “Death to the Jews.”
Today, anti-Semitism is clearly being redeployed under the guise of anti-Zionism. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict offers anti-Semites a field of interpretation that lends credibility to the old systems of accusation that have targeted Jews for centuries.
Muslims and secularism
In November 2023, the IFOP institute carried out an online survey for Elmanya.TV among a sample of 1,022 people, representative of the entire population living in mainland France aged 15 or over.
The degree of religiosity among Muslims is three times higher than among followers of other religions: 66% of French Muslims say they are “believers and religious”, compared with an average of just 18% among French people of other faiths.
For 75% of Muslims surveyed, there is only one true religion, compared to an average of 20% among followers of other faiths.
76% of Muslims believe that religion is right when religion and science clash on the creation of the world, compared to an average of 19% among French people.
78% of Muslims feel that secularism as currently applied by public authorities discriminates against Islam.
The majority of Muslims support a review of the 1905 law and other measures preventing the expression of their religion in public dress.
75% of French Muslims would like to see a return to the concordat system applied before the 1905 law was passed.
While the ban on abayas enjoys near-consensus among the general population (81%), the opposite is true among French Muslims, with barely 28% supporting it.
Following the murder of Dominique Bernard, who was stabbed to death in Arras on October 13th, 16% of Muslims (compared to an average of 5% of French people) did not express total condemnation of the killer.
The links between wokism and radical Islam
Wokism was originally founded on the fight against discrimination and inequality, but religious fundamentalism has used the movement to advance its own militant agenda.
The basis of Woke thinking is “critical race theory”. This theory interprets the world through a dominant/dominated prism. According to the proponents of this idea, Muslims are placed in the “dominated” box. What’s more, woke make a dangerous amalgam between Muslims and political Ìslam, so many woke feminists don’t speak out on the issue of the veil to avoid offending Muslim women. As Hamas terrorists are Muslims, the Woke matrix places them in the “dominated” group.
Wokism tends to essentialize identities, which can lead to a hierarchization of oppressions and minimize the experiences of Jewish minorities. For example, some Woke activists downplay or ignore Jewish concerns about security and combating anti-Semitism, in the name of other justice priorities.
Combating anti-Semitism in the Muslim community
Combating anti-Semitism within the Muslim community in France requires a multidimensional approach that combines repressive measures, educational efforts and awareness-raising initiatives.
Education and awareness-raising: It is essential to invest in educational programs aimed at raising awareness among members of the Muslim community of the history of Jews in France, and of anti-Semitic prejudices and stereotypes.
Inter-religious dialogue: Encouraging dialogue and cooperation between Muslim and Jewish religious leaders can help promote mutual understanding and defuse tensions.
Community leadership: Religious leaders and authority figures within the Muslim community must take a stand against anti-Semitism and strongly condemn acts of hatred.
Strengthening social cohesion: Investing in programs to strengthen social cohesion and promote the integration of Muslim communities can help reduce feelings of alienation and marginalization that can lead to anti-Semitism.
Strict law enforcement: The authorities must take anti-Semitic acts seriously and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. Strict law enforcement sends a clear message that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in society.