Islamophobic incidents increased by more than 14% in the first half of this year, as anti-Semitic acts reached an all-time high following the Toulouse shootings, heard a gathering of Jewish and Muslim leaders on Tuesday.
“In 2010, 116 anti-Muslim acts and threats were reported, compared to 155 in 2011...the first half of 2012 saw 79 acts reports, representing an increasing of 14.49%,” revealed the president of the Anti-Islamophobia Observatory Abdallah Zekri, opening the conference of European Jewish and Muslim leaders in Paris.
“These figures are based on official police complaints records and so are likely to be ‘the tip of the iceberg’”, he added, attributing the worsened situation to “freedom of racist speech” comprising debates on the wearing of a full veil, Halal meat and the national identity.”
“All these debates have the pretext of free speech which has equated to a releae of an immense Islamophobia,” he alleged.
The Jewish community for its part feared an “overall resurgence” of anti-Semitic incidents following al Qaeda sympathiser Mohamed Merah’s shooting of three Jewish children and a father outside a Toulouse Jewish school in March, according to Josel Mergui, president of the Central Consistory.
“You would have thought that would have halted such acts, but on the contrary, it seems to have liberated a number of fragile individuals,” he told the AFP.
According to the Service for the Protection of the Jewish Community (SPCJ), there 310 violent or threatening anti-Semitic acts in the first half of 2012, compared with 226 during the same period of 2011, equating to an increase of more than 37%.
Faced with this racism, the leaders of both communities wanted to present a united front, but differences between the two are apparent.
“A lot of Muslims harbour hatred of Jews,” asserted Michel Serfati, president of Friends of French Jews and Muslims.
“I call on Muslim leaders to denounce” this anti-Semitism, added New York rabbi Marc Schneier. “I ask you to come to our defence others when attacks are perpetrated by members of your community.”
“Don’t mistake your enemy,” responded Zekri. “There have been fracases between youths from time to time, but that isn’t anti-Semitism.” In his opinion, “we can discuss it between ourselves, but to make a scandal about it risks further exacerbating Islamophobia.”
On Monday, French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot warned that “France will not be a passive witness” to anti-Semitism, adding that “anti-Semitism is not an opinion, but an abjection”.