Civil society groups from 13 countries call on UN to address France’s-Read

An international alliance of 36 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing 13 countries has petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) about the systematic anti-Muslim actions of France.

Prominent NGOs, lawyers, and religious bodies called on the OHCHR to act on France’s “breadth of state abuse against Muslims” that has been raging in the country for over two decades. The coalition accuses the French government of violating “a number of basic rights that are protected in legislation that is ratified by Paris.”

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the managing director of U.K.-based CAGE Advocacy Group, Muhammad Rabbani, a signatory to the complaint, said the French government’s policies have led to the “securitization” of Muslim life and have shut down their places of worship, charities and NGOs.

“In the last few days, the French interior minister has closed down a further nine mosques. France is attempting to export its model of Islamophobia across the (European Union),” he said.

About the international community’s response, Rabbani said that although the backlash in the aftermath of French weekly Charlie Hebdo printing offensive caricatures of Prophet Muhammed, followed by calls to boycott French products, did jolt the establishment in Paris, things have remained unchanged at the policy level. He said that France’s treatment of Muslims has encouraged far-right populists in Europe.

“France is arguably the testing laboratory for European Islamophobia. It is, therefore, crucial that it is challenged robustly and in an organized fashion so it does not expand beyond the French borders,” Rabbani added.

He noted that the international coalition of NGOs is also planning to take legal actions against the French government to ensure the rights of Muslims are protected. The group will highlight Paris’ violation of international rights obligations.

Feroze Boda, the spokesperson of ​the Association of Muslim Professionals of South Africa (AMPSA), also told AA that French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies are more than just hostile. “They are aimed at eradicating Islam under the guise of France’s ideology of liberty and egalitarianism,” he added. The AMPSA is also a signatory to the complaint.

Attacking Muslim symbols

“They unapologetically discriminate against Muslims among others, tarnishing the dignity of Prophet Muhammad under the disguise of free speech, attacking the wearing of the hijab, raiding Muslims homes, masjids and organizations and banning Muslim charities,” Boda said.

Drawing parallels between Macron’s policies to apartheid in South Africa, the AMPSA spokesperson said the experiences they struggled through will enable his organization to provide insight and expertise to the other international complainants.

According to the press statement, the NGOs have forensically identified and documented evidence of structural Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims in France.

The statement said they have documents that chart the history of discrimination against Muslims since 1989 and find that France has violated several basic rights that are protected in legislations ratified by Paris.

“France exploited acts of political violence to entrench Islamophobia in policing and the judiciary. State policies designate religious practice as a sign of risk and is highly similar to failed Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) models,” said the statement.

The statement also alleged that the French government weaponized “laicite,” the French version of secularism, to justify the intrusion of the state in the religious and political practices of Muslims.

“France stands in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. France infringed on freedoms of children, specifically to target Muslim children in violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the statement added.

The document calls upon the U.N. to ensure that France upholds and enforces the group’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and its International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) along with every directive on the prohibition of discrimination and racism.

The statement further urges France to enact or rescind legislation where necessary to prohibit any such discrimination and to “take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion in this matter.”

The NGOs also sought the intervention of international bodies due to the lack of any real or effective remedy within the French legal system to tackle these types of discrimination.

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