Jews, Muslims face increasing French discrimination, racism – Council of Europe

Reuters/Vincent Kessler
The independent Council of Europe has warned that France is becoming more intolerant towards minority groups, including Gypsies, Muslims and Jews. The findings were made before last month’s Charlie Hebdo shootings.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council's Commissioner for Human Rights, painted a grim picture of multiculturalism in France, which just experienced the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings that left 11 people dead at the satire magazine’s headquarters in Paris.

The assailants in the attack, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, were Muslims.

READ MORE: Paris mayor to sue Fox News over Muslim ‘no-go zones’ reports

But the trend towards intolerance in France had been a growing phenomenon long before those attacks.

“In recent years, there has been a huge increase in anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and homophobic acts,” wrote Muiznieks, who based his findings on a visit he made to France in September 2014. “In the first half of 2014 alone, the number of anti-Semitic acts virtually doubled, while the number of Jews leaving France for Israel tripled compared with 2012, which is a telling indication of their feeling of insecurity.”

Just this week, Zvika Klein, a Jewish journalist, decided to take a 10-hour stroll around Paris while wearing a skull cap, as well as a hidden camera to capture the action. He told RT of the experience.

“It was frightening, it wasn’t something that I’m used to, having people spit at me or curse me on the street. Actually, it was nerve-racking, especially after [the Paris attacks]… but we wanted to see what it was like to be a Jew in Paris these days,” Klein said.

On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande paid a visit to a vandalized Jewish cemetery, where he commented that the increasing number of racist attacks against Jews and Muslims threatens to destroy the nation.

"Must we put soldiers in front of cemeteries?" the president asked in a speech in the small Alsatian town of Sarre-Union, where 250 Jewish graves were desecrated.

"How do we understand the unnamable, the unjustifiable, the unbearable?" Hollande said. "This is the expression of the evils eating away at the Republic."

But the acts of racism and intolerance are not just aimed at the Jewish population of France. Muiznieks also pointed to the rise of anti-Muslim acts, “80 percent of which are carried out against women.”

Increasingly, however, race and religion are not the only factors that trigger acts of discrimination in France, but also the sexual orientation of an individual. The human rights advocate reported that homophobic acts are now occurring once every two days in the country.

"Despite advances in legislation and measures to combat intolerance and racism - discrimination and hate speech not only persist in France but are on the rise," he wrote on his official Facebook page. “It is essential to put an end to such acts, including on the Internet, and to punish those responsible.”

Clearly, France is struggling to integrate its minorities – many of them plagued with poverty and proper education - into the mainstream French culture.

READ MORE: ‘Social and ethnic apartheid’ plagues France - Prime Minister

Last month, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls struck a chord with French citizens when he emphasized the need to address the “territorial, social and ethnic apartheid” as well as “tensions that have been going on for years,” in French society.

"We have to look at all the divisions, the tensions that have been going on for years... the neglect of the suburbs, the ghettos, the social misery," he added.