France Announces Stronger Fight Against Racism and Anti-Semitism

Serious government money and reasonably comprehensive approach:

Deadly attacks on Jews by Muslim extremists in January and a sharp spike in anti-Muslim acts since then have prompted the French government to elevate the fight against racism into “a great national cause,” leading government officials said on Friday.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a detailed plan that dedicates 100 million euros, or $108 million, over the next three years to programs and policies that combat “racism and anti-Semitism,” including a nationwide awareness campaign, harsher punishments for racist acts and increased monitoring of online hate speech. “Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims, of foreigners and homophobia are increasing in an intolerable manner in our country,” Mr. Valls said after visiting a high school in Créteil, a suburb of Paris that has large Jewish and Muslim populations.

“French Jews should no longer be afraid of being Jewish, and French Muslims should no longer be ashamed of being Muslims,” he said.

…Jewish organizations welcomed the effort, as did Muslim groups, whose leaders said they had been consulted on a recent official report on racist acts against Jews, Muslims and other populations.

The report, published last week by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, a government watchdog, found that from 2013 to 2014, the number of anti-Semitic acts had risen to 851 from 423, and that there were more aggressive acts targeting Muslims in January of this year than there were during all of 2014.

Many of the recent attacks have been violent. Places of worship have been damaged and vandalized. Muslim women who wear a hijab, or head scarf, have been physically attacked, including a veiled pregnant woman who was recently beaten in Toulouse.

…While the title of the government’s plan did not include the term “Islamophobia,” which is how French Muslims describe acts against them, Muslim leaders said they were gratified that the government did speak specifically about the need to fight anti-Muslim sentiments and actions in France.

“The president of the republic, François Hollande, has used the word ‘Islamophobia,’ he has recognized Islamophobia,” said Abdallah Zekri, the director of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia at the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

However, Mr. Zekri said he noticed that Mr. Valls had avoided using the word in the past. “Many people do not want to hear the word ‘Islamophobia’; they want to hear the word ‘anti-Muslim,’ ” he said.

Mr. Valls’s presentation of the plan did not mention racism targeting people who are black or Roma, but all racist behavior would be covered by the new measures.

The Canadian government largely ended broad anti-racism messaging and programming around 2008 (Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism or CAPAR) in favour of a narrower focus on antisemitism. CAPAR itself was a hodge-podge of initiatives, with minimal funding, and apart from Statistics Canada police reported hate crimes reporting, its end was no great loss.

But the lack of broader anti-racism and discrimination messaging, and the linkages between antisemitism and other forms of prejudice is an opportunity missed.

While the French have gotten so many things wrong in the citizenship, integration and multiculturalism policies and programs, this one they appear to have right.

France Announces Stronger Fight Against Racism and Anti-Semitism –

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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