There are real fears for the implications that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris will have on a nation that many experts believe is turning to the right.
On a day when around a million people marched through Paris in defiance in the wake of three bloody days of terror that have severely wounded French society, experts are concerned that France may be turned to the Islamophobic far right.
In the hours and days immediately following the attacks, social media exploded with comments that many interpreted as being far right and expressing anti-Islamic views, many of them French.
— Mr Normal ن (@PaulWilko657) January 9, 2015
Indeed, since Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo attack, there have been 15 reported violent attacks against Muslims, according to Tell MAMA, an organization that monitors anti-Muslim violence.
But does this mean that France is turning to the right, and where does it leave French Muslims in such a tense atmosphere? Currently numbering about 8 percent of the country’s population, Muslims have very recently been expressing concern over the increasingly anti-Islamic agenda in the country.
In an extremely tense political climate where the far-right Front National are making steady gains, Muslims are saying they are “scared to go out because they wear the veil,” according to human rights activist Samia Hathroubi. The Paris attacks will be a turning point for French Muslims according to Hathroubi.
“It will be complicated now to publicly say I am a Muslim. We are more than ever victims of all the prejudice, and all the racism and all the anti-Muslim feelings that are growing among Frenchmen and Frenchwomen.”
In addition, critics are accusing Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front party, of using the attacks to promote the far right’s anti-Muslim agenda. According to French political scientist Remi Piet, Le Pen is “definitely not trying to calm things down.”
In the wake of the attacks, Le Pen stated that “radical Islamism,” which is a “deadly ideology that kills thousands of victims around the world,” was the cause of the attack. She also called for the “absolute refusal of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Pardon me for beeing a wee bit concerned about a faith where 15-20% of its adherents think suicide bombing is permissable. #Islamophobia
— Kevin Eder (@keder) January 10, 2015
Far-right online paper Riposte Laique went one step further, issuing the call to rally for “Islamists out of France.” There does appear to be an increasing amount of effort by the far-right media to entice French citizens to turn to the right. And it is not just recent atrocities that are deeply concerning for France’s political status; there are significant numbers of French nationals going to fight as jihadis in Syria and Iraq, returning radicalized, battle-hardened, and full of hate for their home country. Indeed, the French government recently drew up tough, counter-terrorism laws in an effort to combat increasing jihadism.
— Stephen Wilson (@GR8_2B_alive) January 11, 2015
Commentators say that France has never appeared more socially divided or vulnerable, and the Front National is positioned to benefit from a huge rise in far-right voters in the future. Nabil Ennasri, leader of the Muslim group Collective of Muslims of France, believes that the far right are not remotely interested in mourning and seek only to divide and achieve their aim of turning more voters to the right.
“There are groups that want to take advantage of the sentiment to advance their agenda. They don’t want to mourn like everyone else because they know that French Muslims will go to Sunday’s rally. They want to single out the Muslim community from the national community.”
With the emotion of recent events fresh in the memory, and the hurt very much raw, is France a nation that will soon be turning to the far right?