The number of incidents of church vandalism represents an increase of 12.5 percent compared to the first five months of 2017, when there were 112 attacks, registered in 53 of France’s 101 departments.
Faced with the growing animosity towards Christians, President Emmanuel Macron announced in June plans to reorganise Islam in France, but Bruno Retaillea, Chairman of the Republicans in the Senate, opposes the creation of a French Islam. “I am opposed to the institutionalisation of an Islam of France. If the state interferes with religion, then it is an infringement of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state,” he said.
In an interview with the magazine L’Obs, Marwan Muhammad, one of the leading Muslim activists in France, has also vowed to oppose such a plan. “Macron can do his own thing, we do ours. He can name a great imam, he can even to pray behind him if he wants to. That does not mean that he will receive the approval of the people.”
The chief chaplain of the Muslim faith in the French armed forces, Abdelkader Arbi, in an interview with the daily Le Monde, supported the establishment of a military seminary to train the next generation of Muslim chaplains in the wake of Macron’s announcement. The course of study would be full-time for a period of three years.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe meanwhile revealed the government’s efforts towards “better integration” by doubling the number of French lessons — to 400 hours, up from 200 hours — it offers to migrants. France will also double the time, from 12 hours to 24, of “civic training” courses given to migrants.
Philippe called the measures an investment in France’s “national and social cohesion” but declined to say how much the plan would cost the taxpayers.
But the creation of a state-supported Muslim religious organisation may come too late. Last month, the Mayor of Toulon, Humbert Falco, urged the government to deploy police reinforcements in the city’s no-go zones, just an hour away from Marseille.
“I do not want to make political controversy over this subject, which is extremely serious, but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb did not visit Toulon during his recent trip, but we have the same problems as Marseille and Nice,” he said. “Toulon must be helped.” Armed rival gangs are battling for control over drug trafficking in the city.
But not only gangs are contributing to increased violence. At the checkout lane of a supermarket in La Seyne-sur-Mer, 24-year-old Muslim woman shouted “Allahu Akbar” [Allah is the greatest], stabbing two people. Police said the woman, dressed in black and wearing dark glasses, had “proven psychiatric disorders” but was “not radicalised”.
She was arrested an ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam. “Several witnesses report that she said it was Allah who asked her to commit this act because they were all unbelievers,” said Toulon Prosecutor Bernard Marchal.