Human rights organisations from around the world call upon the United Nations to investigate France’s treatment of its Muslim citizens.
In an unprecedented move, a coalition of civil society organisations from around the world, is petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate France for “systematically entrenching Islamophobia and discrmination against Muslims.”
The move comes against the backdrop of a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim community by the French state following several extremist attacks by lone individuals.
The complaint, signed by 36 organisations from 13 countries, takes aim at what it says is a campaign by authorities to carry out “illegitimate and violent raids” on Muslims’ homes and NGOs in a bid to “send a message.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Central Council Switzerland and the Muslim Association of Britain are just some of bodies that have put their name to the petition seeking the UN to formally investigate France.
The killing of high school teacher Samuel Paty for showing Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed — which Muslims view as offensive — provided the French President Emmanuel Macron with an opporunity to crack down on Muslim individuals and organisations it saw as extremist, says the petition.
One such organisation was BarakaCity, the country’s largest Muslim charity, which is being forcibly closed without any judicial oversight. The home of the founder, Idriss Sihamedi, was raided by security forces in what he called an act of intimidation when he spoke to TRT World following the raid.
The petition to the UNHRC also condemned the post Samuel Paty crackdown by French authorities for exploiting the murder for “racist and Islamophobic purposes.”
In a long list of grievances, the petition underlines that security forces have often broken into the homes of mosque leaders intimidating their children. In one case, police were accused of raiding a mosque in a bid to count which children were learning Arabic and whether they wore the headscarf or not.
“The French government deliberately and systematically undermines and violates fundamental civil liberties and human rights, targeting and violating the rights of even the children,” said the petition.
The signatories also took aim at the Macron government's wider anti-extremist agenda which it says “is solely focused on consolidating the government’s political, ideological, theological and financial control of Muslims.”
Feroze Boda, of the Muslims Lawyers Association, who submitted the complaint on behalf of the petitioners, said that the complaint is a call for “accountability and positive change” aimed at the “dismantling of pervasive hateful policies against Muslims in France.”
The managing director of CAGE, a British based human rights organisation, Muhammad Rabbani, himself a signatory to the petition, said “France has seen shocking levels of state-sanctioned Islamophobia in recent months. This has precipitated the closure of mosques, Muslim schools, Muslim-led charities and civil society organisations.”
In a statement Rabbani added “France cannot be allowed to infringe upon its international rights obligations so openly, and yet present itself as the land of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’.”
The step to take the matter to the UN underlines the fact that “there is no real or effective remedy within the French legal system to stop the French government,” said the petitioners.
France had initially attempted to get a seat at the UNHRC, a bid which proved controversial because of what some cited as the country’s “long history of human rights violations at home.”
While the bid failed, concerns over the country’s human rights record at home have also been vocalised by other international human rights organisations.
France’s crackdown on Muslim-led organisations, which also included the country’s only Islamophobia reporting group, has been condemned by Amnesty International which warned that it “threatens freedom of association.”
Macron’s government has had to fight off accusations that a recently introduced “Anti-Separatism Bill” was in fact a thinly veiled attempt at appealing to the far-right and could be used as a cover to crackdown on the wider Muslim community.