Islamophobic hate crimes in France tripled in 2015, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday.
Speaking to Catholic daily La Croix, Cazeneuve said after attack on the controversial magazine Charlie Hebdo, which claimed 17 lives on January 7 2015 , Islamophobic assaults and threats increased to some 400 in 2015, compared to 2014 which saw 133 reported hate crimes against Muslims.
“I cannot accept such attacks- they must be severely punished,” Cazeneuve said.
He also stated that anti-Semitic attacks dropped slightly, yet still remained high, while anti-Christian attacks also remained high.
Figures show, more than half of the Islamophobic attacks occurred in the first half of the year while 50 were reported during the same week of the Charlie Hedbo attack.
After the country saw a sharp increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in a very short time, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged that “Muslims have been the first victims of terrorism."
An organization based in UK, TellMAMA says the Islamophobic hate crimes included vandalism and arson attacks against Islamic buildings and shops belonging to Muslims. Also, a pet belonging to a Muslim was targeted by gunfire, Muslims were exposed to hate speech and discrimination in France, TellMAMA reported.
The organization said, the hate crimes against Muslims did not only target adults. A 9-year old from Essone, France was harassed for wearing a sweater in “military colors” in January 2015 and two young girls were attacked with paintball guns.
However, Abdallah Zekri, president of France’s Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF), said the organization had recorded 905 anti-Muslim acts in 2015 compared to 704 in 2014.
He explained the difference in statistics by saying the French Interior Ministry counted only officially recorded complaints.
Zekri said these were the highest number of attacks recorded since the CCIF was established in 2011.
“Islamophobia must be fought and condemned, not only by Muslims, but also by the national community as a whole,” he added.
“It is no longer possible to hear and accept that politicians can say that Islam is incompatible with the values of the Republic.”
Meanwhile, Muslims across Europe are faced with rise of Islamophobic and anti-refugee sentiment after conflicts in the Middle East and Africa forced millions of people to flee their countries and make their way to Europe.
Tensions have risen in European countries which received huge numbers of refugees, after populist right politicians expressed their wish to stop influx of refugees and said Islam was not compatible with European way of living and culture, fueling the rise of anti-refugee and anti-Muslim hate crimes, groups and individuals.