The Muslim population of France was approximately 6.5 million in 2016, or around 10% of the overall population of 66 million. In real terms, France has the largest Muslim population in the European Union, just above Germany.
Although French law prohibits the collection of official statistics about the race or religion of its citizens, Gatestone Institute’s estimate of France’s Muslim population is based on several studies that attempted to calculate the number of people in France whose origins are from Muslim-majority countries.
What follows is a chronological review of some of the main stories about the rise of Islam in France during 2016:
January 1. The Interior Ministry announced the most anticipated statistic of the year: a total of 804 cars and trucks were torched across France on New Year’s Eve, a 14.5% decrease from the 940 vehicles burned during the annual ritual on the same holiday in 2015. Car burnings, commonplace in France, are often attributed to rival Muslim gangs that compete with each other for the media spotlight over which can cause the most destruction. An estimated 40,000 cars are burned in France every year.
January 3. Raouf El Ayeb, a 31-year-old French citizen of Tunisian origin, was charged with attempted homicide after he tried to run down four troops who were guarding a mosque in Valence. Although police found «jihadist propaganda images» on Ayeb’s computer, they attributed the attack to «depressive syndrome» rather than terrorism because he was not heard shouting «Allahu Akbar» (Allah is the greatest) during the attack.
January 7. Sallah Ali, a Moroccan born French citizen, stormed a police station in the 18th district of Paris while shouting «Allahu Akbar.» He was carrying a butcher knife, and Islamic State flag and was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt. Police opened fire and shot him dead. The belt was found to contain fake explosives. Investigators were unsure whether the attack was an act of terrorism or the work of a man who was «unbalanced.»
January 11. A 16-year-old Turkish Kurd brandishing a machete attacked a Jewish teacher outside a school in Marseille. The perpetrator said he had acted «in the name of Allah and the Islamic State.»
January 12. Some 80,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2015, but only one-third of the applications were approved, according to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless people (Ofpra).
January 13. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve banned three Islamic cultural organizations that ran the Lagny-sur-Marne mosque, which was closed down as part of a security crackdown. He accused the leaders of the groups of inciting hatred and calling for jihad over a period of several years.
January 15. An Ifop poll for Le Monde found that half (51%) of French Jews feel they are under threat because they are Jewish; 63% said they have been insulted; and 43% said they have been attacked. Some 70% of those who said they want to leave France said they been exposed to anti-Semitic acts.
January 27. The Ministry of Culture assigned an «18 and over» rating to «Salafistes,» a documentary which features interviews with North African jihadists. The filmmakers said the government wanted to «kill the film» by banning it from being aired on public TV, and making cinemas reluctant to show it. Filmmakers François Margolin and Lemime Ould Salem insisted that the film should be given as wide an audience as possible. «What has upset the French authorities is not the violence, but the subject itself,» Margolin said. «They want to prevent French citizens from knowing the truth.»
January 28. The Council of State (Conseil d’État), France’s highest administrative court, rejecteda request by the country’s Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l’Homme, LDH) to lift the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 terror attacks. «The imminent danger justifying the state of emergency has not disappeared, given the ongoing terrorist threat and the risk of attacks,» according to a statement issued by the court. LDH had argued that the extraordinary powers given to security services posed a threat to democracy.
February 2. Six converts to Islam were arrested in Lyon on suspicion of seeking to purchase weapons in order to attack swinger clubs in France. They were allegedly planning to travel to Syria after the attacks, and had already purchased bus tickets to Turkey.
February 7. An increased police presence in northern port of Calais spread France’s migrant crisis to other parts of the country. Migrant camps sprouted up in the nearby ports of Dunkirk, Le Havre, Dieppe and Belgium’s Zeebrugge, as migrants sought new ways to cross the English Channel to Britain.
February 9. The Islamic State identified France’s National Front party as a «prime target» in the latest issue of its French-language Dar al Islam online magazine. It also identified supporters of the National Front as targets. The publication published a photo of a National Front rally with a caption which reads: «The question is no longer whether France will be hit again by attacks like those of November. The only relevant question is the next target and the date.»
February 10. The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, approved a proposal to amend the constitution to strip people convicted of terrorist offenses of their French nationality. For the measures to be fully adopted, they require the support of the Senate, as well as a three-fifths majority of Congress, the body formed when both houses meet at the Palace of Versailles to vote on revisions to the constitution.
February 15. The Council of State upheld legal provisions that allow the government to block any website that «apologizes for terrorism.» Several digital rights associations had challenged the legality of two decrees related to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2014.
February 29. Demolition teams began dismantling the southern part of the «The Jungle,» a squalid migrant camp in the northern port town of Calais. The government tried to relocate the migrants to official accommodations inside converted shipping containers in the northern part of the camp. But most refused the offer, fearing they would be forced to claim asylum in France. «Going to Britain is what people here want,» Afghan migrant Hayat Sirat said. «So destroying part of the jungle is not the solution.»
|French riot police attempt to control a crowd of migrants in «The Jungle» squatter camp near Calais, on February 29, 2016, as demolition teams begin dismantling the southern part of the camp. After being pelted with stones and other objects, police responded with tear gas and water cannon. (Image source: RT video screenshot)|
March 3. French MPs rejected a proposal to force manufacturers of mobile phones, tablets and computers to hand over data to the security services. The amendments, inspired by Apple’s refusal to give data to American authorities, were tabled in a debate on an anti-terrorism bill.
March 6. Police embarked on a manhunt for three French girls suspected of leaving for Syria. French intelligence services said an increasing number of girls are departing for Syria. They reported that among the 81 French minors who have left for Syria, a majority (51) are female. They are believed to be looking for jihadi husbands.
March 7. Migrants evicted from «The Jungle» at Calais moved to a new camp in Grande-Synthe near the northern port of Dunkirk, just up the coast. Critics said the new camp risks becoming a «new Sangatte,» referring to Calais’s the Red Cross center that was closed in 2002.
March 9. A confidential police report revealed that 17 Muslim police officers assigned to the Paris police department were investigated between 2012 and 2015 for Islamic radicalization. The officers, among other lapses, listened to religious music while on patrol, refused to protect Jewish synagogues and incited to commit terrorist attacks on social media.
March 11. Four girls, including three aged 14 and 15, were arrested in Paris and Lyon after threatening on the Internet to commit jihadist attacks «similar to those on November 13.»
March 22. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, reacting to the jihadist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, said: «We are at war.»
March 24. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said police had foiled a terrorist attack that was in an «advanced stage» of planning. Reda Kriket, a 34-year-old French national, was arrested in Boulogne-Billancourt after police found ten kilos of explosives in his home.
March 30. President François Hollande dropped a plan to push for a constitutional amendment that would revoke the citizenship of convicted jihadists. He first raised the idea after the November 2015 Paris attacks, but the proposed reforms failed to find support in the opposition-dominated Senate.
March 30. The Minister of Families, Children and Women’s Rights, Laurence Rossignol, accusedMuslim activists and Salafists of promoting Islamic fashion in Europe in order to impose political Islam. She said:
«What is at stake is social control over the bodies of women. When European brands invest in the lucrative Islamic fashion market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting a situation where Muslim women are forced to wear garments that imprison the female body from head to toe.»
March 30. French fashion mogul Pierre Bergé criticized European designers who create Islamic clothing and headscarves:
«I am not an Islamophobe. Women have the right to wear headscarves, but I do not understand why we are embracing this religion [Islam] and those manners that are incompatible with the freedoms that are ours in the West.»
April 3. French feminist Elisabeth Badinter called for a boycott of brands that are profiting from Islamic clothing. She warned that cultural relativism was preventing the French from seeing the alarming rise of Islamism in France. She added that tolerance «has turned against those it was meant to help» with the result that «the veil has spread among the daughters of our neighborhoods» due to «mounting Islamic pressure.» According to Badinter, many French citizens are afraid to speak out about the Islamization of France because of fears of being accused of «Islamophobia.»
April 12. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said it was the job of the French government «to demonstrate that Islam, the second largest religion in France, is fundamentally compatible with the Republic, with democracy, our values, equality between men and women.» He added:
«Some people do not want to believe it, a majority of our fellow citizens are in doubt, but I am convinced that it is possible. That is why we must protect our compatriots of Muslim faith and culture from stigmatization, anti-Muslim acts.»
April 14. Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a ban on Muslim headscarves in universities. France already bans the Muslim face veil in public places. Valls said the headscarf was being used by some to challenge France’s secular society. «The veil does not represent a fashion fad, no, it is not a color one wears, no, it is enslavement of women,» he said, warning of the «ideological message that can spread behind religious symbols.»
April 22. More than 150 migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen occupied a high school in the 19th district of Paris. They deployed a banner which read: «A roof and papers for all refugees.»
April 25. French security officials rejected an Israeli company’s offer of terrorist-tracking software that could have helped them identify the jihadist cell that carried out the attacks on November 13, 2015. The offer of data-mining technology that would have allowed French authorities to «connect all the dots» concerning Islamic extremists was made to the DGSI, France’s main intelligence agency. «French authorities liked it, but the official came back and said there was a higher-level instruction not to buy Israeli technology,» a well-placed Israeli counter-terrorism analyst revealed. «The discussion just stopped.»
April 29. Ifop poll for Le Figaro found that French attitudes toward Islam are hardening. Nearly half (47%) of French people said the Muslim community poses a «threat» to national identity. Almost two-thirds said Islam has become too «influential and visible.» Only 13% of French people «favor» the construction of mosques in the country, and 63% are opposed to the veil. Ifop Director Jérôme Fourquet explained:
«The deterioration of Islam’s image in France wasn’t triggered by the attacks, even if those events contributed to it. What we’re seeing is more of a growing resistance within French society to Islam. It was already the case among voters for the National Front and part of the right, but it has now expanded to the Socialist Party.»
April 30. Canal+ broadcast a documentary about an Islamic State cell in Châteauroux, a city in central France. An undercover journalist with a hidden camera infiltrated the group, known as the «Soldiers of Allah,» for a period of six months. The leader of the group, a 20-year-old Franco-Turk, Emir Abu Osama, was filmed talking about attacking passenger planes with missiles. He also threatened attacks on media outlets, nightclubs and military bases. «I want to die a martyr, that is my dream,» he said.
May 2. Police evacuated more than a thousand people from a makeshift migrant camp near the Stalingrad metro station in Paris. It was the third time the camp was cleared in as many months.
May 9. Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled a €40 million ($42 million) plan to build 13 deradicalization centers, one in each of France’s metropolitan regions, aimed at deradicalizing would-be jihadists. Each center would host a maximum of 25 individuals ages 18 to 30. The government hopes that 3,600 radicalized individuals will enter these deradicalization centers during the next two years. Some 9,300 people in France are believed to have been radicalized.
May 10. Patrick Calvar, the head of France’s DGSI intelligence agency, warned that the Islamic State was planning a wave of attacks in France. «France is clearly the most threatened country,» he said. «The question about the threat is not if but when and where.» Calvar told the parliament’s defense committee about «a new form of attack … characterized by placing explosive devices in places where there are large crowds and repeating this type of action to create a climate of maximum panic.»
May 14. In an interview with Taki’s Magazine, Jesse Hughes, the leader of the American band Eagles of Death Metal, discussed the November 2015 jihadist attack on the Bataclan Theater in Paris in which 89 of his fans were killed. Hughes claimed he saw «Muslims celebrating in the street during the attack.» He also suggested the jihadists colluded with security personnel at the venue. Hughes called for greater scrutiny of Muslims in the West.
May 20. Two French music festivals, Cabaret Vert and Rock en Seine, cancelled concerts by Eagles of Death Metal because of remarks by the band’s leader, Jesse Hughes, about the Bataclan attacks. The concert organizers said they were «in total disagreement» with commentsHughes made during a May 14 interview with Taki’s Magazine. Among other offending statements, Hughes called for greater scrutiny of Muslims in the West.
May 21. French intelligence officials discovered «jihadist collusion» among Muslim employees at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport. The Times of London wrote:
«More than 60 passes were withdrawn for ‘inappropriate behavior,’ such as a refusal to trim a beard or to shake hands with female colleagues. Some employees had their passes withdrawn for praying in Salafist mosques, others because a copy of the Koran was found in their lockers. Some were said to have expressed support for the jihadists who killed 130 people in Paris six months ago.»
May 31. Record numbers of French Jews are leaving Paris and are moving to other parts of the country to escape a rising anti-Semitism perpetrated by Muslim immigrants, according to Agence France-Presse. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, estimated at around 500,000 people. Half of them live in the Paris area, but their numbers are steadily declining. A growing number of French Jews have become «internal refugees» and have moved to other parts of France to escape the insecurity in Paris. Others have fled France altogether. A record 8,000 French Jews moved to Israel in 2015 alone.
May 31. Migrants evicted from Calais moved to Paris and established a massive squatter camp at the Jardins d’Eole, a public park near the Gare du Nord station, from where high-speed Eurostar trains travel to and arrive from London. The area, so dangerous that the government has classified it as a no-go zone (Zone de sécurité prioritaires, ZSP), has become a magnet for human traffickers who charge migrants thousands of euros for fake travel documents, for passage to London.
June 3. A new counter-terrorism law expanded eavesdropping powers, such as bugging private residences, installing hidden cameras and using IMSI-catchers to track cellphone conversations. The law also established genuine life sentences for perpetrators of terrorist crimes and toughened the conditions for sentence reductions.
June 8. The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, rejected an appeal by five men stripped of their French nationality after they were convicted of terrorism. «Due to the nature and seriousness of the terrorist acts committed, the punishment of the stripping of nationality was not disproportionate,» the ruling said. The five dual-national citizens involved were sentenced in France in 2007 for their role in a series of bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2003 that left 45 dead. Four of the men hold dual Moroccan nationality and the fifth, dual Turkish nationality. The ruling means they can now be deported to their country of origin.
June 8. Two men assaulted a female bartender in downtown Nice for serving alcohol on the first day of Ramadan. The men said: «You should be ashamed to serve alcohol during the Ramadan period. If I were Allah, I would have you hanged.» A Tunisian baker was assaulted in the same part of town for selling ham sandwiches.
June 14. Larossi Abballa, a 25-year-old French citizen of Moroccan origin, stabbed to death a police commander and his wife at their home in Magnanville, a suburb of Paris. Abballa, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, posted live images of the attack on Facebook.
June 14. A 32-year-old jihadist stabbed a 19-year-old woman at a bus stop in Rennes. He told police he wanted to «make a sacrifice» during Ramadan. Police said the man was «unbalanced.»
June 15. Maude Vallet, an 18-year-old student from Toulouse who was returning home from a trip to the beach, was assaulted on a bus in Le Mourillon, Toulon, by five Muslim girls who hurled insults at her because she was wearing shorts.
June 16. A 22-year-old jihadist was arrested at the central train station in Carcassonne. The convert to Islam confessed to police that has was planning to attack American tourists. Police said the man had psychological problems.
June 22. Police investigated new threats against Charlie Hebdo, 17 months after eight members of its staff were killed by jihadists. Some 20 «very threatening» messages, including death threats, were posted on the paper’s Facebook page.
June 28. A police spokesman said that 100 officers out of the 300 currently on duty to protect France’s beaches would be armed during the summer to respond to potential jihadist attacks.
June 28. The Roman Catholic Cardinal of Lyon ordered the removal of seven stone statues of monks killed in Algeria during the 1990s. The Algerian consul in Lyon complained that he had not been informed that the statues would be placed in a public square near the Church of St. Louis, which happens to be in the vicinity of a Salafist mosque. Cardinal Barbarin removed the statues so as «not to annoy anyone.» He added: «Can you imagine if an unbalanced person [jihadist] would decapitate these statues?»
June 30. Two French teenagers were handed suspended prison sentences for going to Syria in 2014 to join a brigade led by Mourad Farès, one of France’s main internet jihadi recruiters. The pair, aged 15 and 16, were both given six-month suspended sentences, a sign, according to one of their lawyers, that the court did not wish to «stigmatize them as terrorists.»
July 1. Richard Sautour, director of Restos du Coeur, a charity, was attacked with a knife and an axe at a soup kitchen in Montreuil by a couple shouting «Allahu Akbar.»
July 6. Seven men from Strasbourg who went to Syria between December 2013 and April 2014 were sentenced to terms in prison ranging from six to nine years. The heaviest sentence was handed to Karim Mohamed-Aggad, the brother of the Bataclan suicide bomber Foued Mohamed-Aggad, sentenced to nine years in jail. The defendants claimed they had traveled to Syria to do humanitarian aid work and were forced to join the Islamic State.
July 6. A Senate fact-finding report revealed that the salaries of 301 imams in France are being paid by foreign governments under conventions signed by three countries: Algeria, Morocco and Turkey.
July 6. A French parliamentary commission of inquiry into the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks published a report which recommended that the country’s intelligence services be streamlined. France currently has six different intelligence units answering to the interior, defense and economy ministries.
July 7. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris launched its own intelligence agency, with 30 agents, to collect «more sophisticated information» to protect against jihadist attacks. The airport is the second-largest in Europe.
July 12. A court in Nîmes ruled that France’s intelligence agencies were partly responsible for the death of Corporal Abel Chennouf, a soldier murdered by Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah in 2012. Judges ruled that the French state’s failure to keep tabs on the jihadist was tantamount to refusing to assist a person in danger, a crime in French law. The court ordered the state to pay compensation to his widow, his son, who was born just after his death, and his parents-in-law. Victims of the November attacks in Paris said they would launch a similar lawsuit.
July 14. Mohamed Lahouajej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian, rammed a 19-ton cargo truck into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and wounding more than 400.
July 17. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: «Terrorism will be a part of our daily lives for a long time. Let’s be clear: Times have changed.»
July 18. An Ifop poll for Le Figaro found that 99% of French people consider the terrorist threat in France to be high or very high, but only one-third (33%, -16 points compared to January 2016) trust President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls to fight terrorism.
July 19. Mohamed Boufarkouch, a 37-year-old Moroccan, stabbed a 45-year-old mother and her three daughters, aged 8, 10 and 13, at an Alpine resort in Garde-Colombe. The attacker reportedly complained that the victims were scantily dressed. Mayor Edmond Francou said the attacker may have been «psychologically ill,» but a psychiatrist who examined the man did not detect «any particular psychiatric pathology.»
July 19. A 23-year-old Parisian taxi driver was arrested after police raided his home and found explosives, as well as an Islamic State flag, three passports and two driver’s licenses.
July 21. The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, approved a counter-terrorism law that expands police powers of search, seizure and detention. Maximum sentences for terrorism offenses were also increased to 30 years, up from 10 years
July 25. Piranha Edition, a Paris-based publishing company, reversed its decision to publish a French version of the German bestseller «Der Islamische Faschismus» (Islamic Fascism). German-Egyptian author Hamed Abdel-Samad said the book was due to be published in September, but the publisher backed out after the jihadist attack in Nice.
July 26. Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Nabir Petitjean, both aged 19, slit the throat of Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest, at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy. One of the attackers was known to police and had been required to wear an electronic bracelet to monitor his movements. The other attacker was a full-time baggage handler at a local airport.
July 28. The Islamic State news agency AMAQ released a video showing Abdel-Malik Nabir Petitjean, one of the men who slit the throat of a priest in Normandy. Addressing President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Petitjean said:
«The times have changed. You will suffer what our brothers and sisters are suffering. We are going to destroy your country. Brothers go out with a knife, whatever is needed, attack them, kill them en masse.»
July 28. A friend of Jacques Hamel, the priest who had his throat slit by jihadists in Normandy, revealed that Hamel had donated land adjacent to his church to local Muslims to build a mosque, and they had been given use of the parish hall and other facilities during Ramadan.
July 28. Authorities in Nice banned a citizens’ march planned for July 31 to commemorate the victims of the jihadist attack in Nice. Police said the threat of another attack was too great.
July 28. More than a dozen Muslim youths firebombed a city bus Saint-Denis. They placed trash cans in the street to force the bus to stop. Before throwing incendiary devices inside the vehicle, they ordered the driver and passengers to get off. The bus was completely destroyed by the flames.
July 29. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he was open to a temporary ban on foreign funding of mosques in France. Observers said that a 1905 law on the separation of church and state prohibits the French government from directly financing mosques, many of which therefore rely on foreign funding.
July 29. An Ifop poll for Atlantico found that 77% of French people are concerned about terrorism; 58% view terrorism as their main concern.
August 1. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that «about twenty» radical mosques and prayer rooms were closed during the first seven months of 2016. «There will be others,» he said. Some 120 of the 2,500 mosques and prayer rooms in France are believed to be preaching Salafism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam.
August 1. Anouar Kbibech, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, CFCM), a Muslim umbrella group, said he would work with the government to harmonize the theological formation of imams in France in order to «dismantle the jihadist argument.»
August 3. France introduced sea patrols for passenger ferries to and from Britain to protect against jihadist attacks.
August 4. At least five of the jihadists who carried out the attacks in Paris and Brussels financedthemselves with social welfare payments: they received more than €50,000 ($53,000). The main surviving Paris suspect, Salah Abdeslam, collected unemployment benefits amounting to €19,000 ($20,000) until three weeks before the November attacks.
August 5. Lille Mayor Martine Aubry cancelled the Lille Flea Market, one of the biggest in Europe, amid fears that jihadists might be targeting it. «Safety cannot be guaranteed,» she said. The annual market attracts some two million visitors during the first weekend of September.
August 8. Chartres Criminal Court became the first in France to apply a new law which makes it a crime to consult websites that promote terrorism. Yannick Loichot, a 31-year-old convert to Islam, was sentenced to two years in prison for frequenting jihadist websites and watching videos of beheadings. He is also accused of plotting to attack the Montparnasse Tower, a skyscraper in Paris.
August 8. A «very radicalized» 16-year-old girl from the Paris suburb of Melun was arrested on suspicion of planning a jihadist attack. She allegedly also helped two jihadists plan the murder of a priest in Normandy in July. The girl was charged with «criminal conspiracy with terrorists» and «incitement to commit terrorist acts using online communication.»
August 11. A French counter-terrorism officer warned that Islamic State jihadists were hiding in Calais in «The Jungle.» He said:
«What is happening in The Jungle is truly mind boggling. Our officers are rarely able to penetrate the heart of the camp. It is impossible to know if a jihadist from Belgium, for example, is hiding in the camp. This camp is a blind spot for national security.»
August 11. Cannes Mayor David Lisnard banned the wearing of burkinis on city beaches. He approved the ban out of «respect for good customs and secularism.»
August 14. Muslims went on a rampage in the Corsican town of Sisco after a tourist took a photograph of several burkini-clad women swimming in a creek. More than 400 people eventually joined the brawl, in which local Corsicans clashed with migrants from North Africa. The following day, more than 500 Corsicans marched through the town shouting «To arms! This is our home!»
August 21. More than 2,000 people of Chinese origin marched through the streets of Aubervilliers, Seine-Saint-Denis, to demand more police protection amid spiraling violence by Muslim gangs. On August 12, Zhang Chaolin, a 49-year-old fashion designer, died of his injuries after he was assaulted by three North Africans on August 7. Violent robberies targeting the Chinese community in Aubervilliers have tripled in one year, according to police.
August 23. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that French police had arrested as many people for terror links in the first half of 2016 as for all of 2015.
August 25. Israeli fans attending a Europa League football match between St. Etienne and Beitar Jerusalem were prohibited from entering the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne with Israeli flags. Once inside the stadium, however, the Israeli fans were greeted with pro-Palestinian activists carrying Palestinian flags.
August 25. An Ifop poll published by Le Figaro found that 64% of people in France are opposed to the burkini on beaches; only 6% support it. Ifop director Jérôme Fourquet said:
«The results are similar to those we measured in April about the veil and headscarf on public streets (63% opposed). Beaches are equated with streets, where the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols are also rejected by two-thirds of the French.»
August 26. The Council of State ruled that municipal authorities in Villeneuve-Loubet, a seaside town on the French Riviera, did not have the right to ban burkinis. The court found that the ban — issued after the jihadist attack in Nice on July 14 — was «a serious and manifestly illegal attack on fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of movement and the freedom of conscience.» The judges ruled that local authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a «demonstrated risk» to public order. There was, they said, no evidence of such a risk.
August 26. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve deported two «radicalized» Moroccans because of the threat they posed to public order. The men were accused of planning jihadist attacks in Metz, where they targeted gay restaurants and nightclubs. The deportations raised the number of such expulsions in 2016 to 15.
August 28. Youness Boussaid and Fatah Bouzid were sentenced to 18 months in prison for assaulting a couple in the northern town of Cambrai because they were eating a ham pizza. The two men, both 27 years old, told their victims they were «going to hell» for consuming ham, before beating them unconscious.
August 28. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for the creation of an «Islam of France in accordance with the values of the Republic.» In an interview with La Croix, he said:
«France needs, more than ever, a peaceful relationship with Muslims. This presupposes that the Republic is determined to take all its children under its arms. This also implies that all Muslims, together with all Frenchmen, engage in a total defense of the Republic against terrorism, in the face of Salafism, for the Republic is indeed their first allegiance. France is indeed a secular Republic and adherence to republican values must transcend all the others.»
August 30. A 31-year-old Algerian entered a police station in downtown Toulouse and stabbed an officer. The attacker shouted: «I am sick of France. I am tired of this country.»
August 30. The mayor of a seaside town Cogolin, Marc-Etienne Lansade, said he would maintain a ban on burkinis:
«If you don’t want to live the way we do, don’t come. You have to behave in the way that people behave in the country that accepted you, and that is it. If you are accepted in Rome, do like Romans do. Go to Saudi Arabia and be naked and see what will happen to you.»
September 1. A court in Nice suspended the city’s ban on burkinis. The court said the full-length swimsuit worn by some Muslim women did not pose a risk to public order and that the ban constituted and «abuse of power.» The case was brought by the Collective Against Islamophobia (Comité contre l’islamophobie, CCIF), which argued that the ban is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
September 2. Paris Prosecutor François Molins announced plans to toughen sentences for terrorism offenses. He said that «at some point» a large number of the 700 French jihadists currently fighting in the Middle East would be returning to France. According to Molins, a total of 982 individuals are or have been the subject of judicial investigations relating to Islamic terrorism: 280 have been indicted, of whom 167 are in detention, and 577 are subject to a search warrant or an arrest warrant.
September 3. Ghislain Gilberti, a French novelist, was assaulted and seriously injured by a group of Salafists in downtown Belfort. Gilberti received death threats after the publication of his latest novel, which describes the links between a jihadist network and drug dealing. He is now under 24-hour police protection.
September 4. More than 10,000 members of the Chinese community marched through the streets of downtown Paris to protest spiraling crime by Muslims targeting Chinese in Aubervilliers. They accused police of «closing their eyes to this growing delinquency» because «Asians are the main target of these aggressors.» They called for additional police forces, surveillance cameras and the recognition of «anti-Asian racism.»
September 5. Hundreds of French truck drivers, businessmen and farmers blocked off the main route in and out of Calais, in an attempt to pressure the French government to close «The Jungle.» The blockage brought to a standstill the route used by trucks from all over Europe to reach Calais and Britain.
September 6. Two families out for a bicycle ride in Toulon were assaulted by a mob of ten Muslims who were angry that the women were wearing shorts. The assault, in which two people were hospitalized, raised the specter of Muslim vigilante groups enforcing Islamic Sharia law in France.
September 8. President François Hollande delivered a highly anticipated speech on the theme of «Democracy in the Face of Terrorism.» He called for the creation of an «Islam of France» that would be compatible with French laws on the separation of church and state:
«Is Islam able to admit the separation of law and faith, the foundation of secularism? My answer is yes. The vast majority of our Muslim compatriots bring us proof every day by practicing their religion without disturbing the public order.»
Hollande also called on French taxpayers to begin funding the construction of mosques in order to stop such funding from foreign sources.
September 9. Paris Prosecutor François Molins revealed that three French women, who were arrested after a car loaded with gas canisters was found near Notre Dame Cathedral, were planning, under the direction of Islamic State, to attack Paris’s Gare de Lyon, one of the busiest train stations in Europe. Molins said:
«The transition to action by these young women, who were directed by individuals within the ranks of Islamic State in Syria, shows that this organization wants to create female fighters.»
September 9. European security officials estimated that 30 to 40 suspected Islamic State terrorists who helped support the November 13 Paris terror attacks are still at large.
September 10. An automobile containing two gas canisters was found parked near the Bar Yohaye synagogue in Marseille. The vehicle was spotted at around 11AM, a time when Jewish worshipers were attending Shabbat services. The incident came days after police found a car loaded with gas canisters near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
September 11. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy said that France should create special courts and detention facilities to boost security:
«Every Frenchman suspected of being linked to terrorism, because he regularly consults a jihadist website, or his behavior shows signs of radicalization or because is in close contact with radicalized people, must by preventively placed in a detention center.»
September 11. Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned there would be new jihadist attacks in France. «There will be new attacks, there will be innocent victims,» he said. Valls revealed that the police and intelligence services were monitoring some 15,000 people suspected of being radicalized.
September 12. A document leaked to Le Figaro revealed the government’s plan, dated September 1, to relocate 12,000 migrants from Calais to other parts of France. The migrants would be relocated to around 60 so-called Reception and Orientation Centers (centres d’accueil et d’orientation, CAO), each with a capacity of between 100 and 300 migrants.
September 13. The President of the Alpes-Maritimes region, Eric Ciotti, criticized the government’s «irresponsible» plan to relocate migrants in Calais to other parts of France. He said the plan would «proliferate a multitude of small Calais, genuine areas of lawlessness that exacerbate lasting tensions throughout the country.»
September 13. The government unveiled its first deradicalization center, known as the Center for Prevention, Integration and Citizenship (Centre de prévention, d’insertion et de citoyenneté, CPIC). It will be housed in the Château de Pontourny, an isolated 18th-century manor in central France. The center is part of a €40 million ($42 million) plan to build 13 deradicalization centers, one in each of France’s metropolitan regions, aimed at deradicalizing would-be jihadists.
September 13. Three police officers were wounded during an altercation with human smugglers at the Grande-Synthe migrant camp near Dunkirk. The UNSA police union issued a statement which said it deplored the «sense of impunity» at the camp. It blamed a lax judicial system for contributing to a surge in violence at Linière. «We want the troublemakers to be brought to justice,» it said.
September 14. Galeries Lafayette, an upscale department store, reported a 15% drop in foreign shoppers at its flagship Paris store in the first half of 2016. The decline was attributed to a decline in foreign tourists since the November terror attacks.
September 14. The President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, expressed anger at the government’s «diktat» to relocate 1,800 migrants from Calais to his region. He said:
«This is madness and it is not a matter of solidarity. The problem of Calais is not solved by multiplying Calais throughout France. We expect the government to solve the problem of Calais, not move it to other parts of the country.»
September 16. Police in Paris evacuated a makeshift migrant camp where some 1,500 migrants were living in unsanitary conditions. The operation was the latest of more than 20 such evacuations over the past year to dismantle camps in capital.
September 16. Three 17-year-old Algerians were arrested for gang-raping an 18-year-old French woman at the Champ-de-Mars near the Eiffel Tower.
September 17. A 15-year-old French boy was arrested in Paris and remanded in custody on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. He was the third French 15-year-old in just five days to have been remanded in custody and placed under formal investigation for terrorism.
September 19. Zeynab Alshelh, a 23-year-old medical student from Sydney, Australia, said she was chased off a beach in Villeneuve-Loubet for wearing a burkini, even though a ban on the controversial full-bodied swimsuit had been overturned. She later admitted that she wore the burkini as a stunt aimed at provoking beachgoers into a «racist» reaction.
September 20. Construction work began on a wall to prevent migrants at the camp from stowing away on cars, trucks, ferries and trains bound for Britain. Dubbed «The Great Wall of Calais,» the concrete barrier — one kilometer (half a mile) long and four meters (13 feet) high on both sides of the two-lane highway approaching the harbor — will pass within a few hundred meters of «The Jungle.»
September 21. A whistleblower reported that volunteer aid workers at «The Jungle» were forging sexual relationships with migrants, including children. «I have heard of volunteers having sex with multiple partners in one day, only to carry on in the same vein the following day,» he wrote. «And I know also, that I’m only hearing a small part of a wider scale of abuse.» He added that the majority of cases in question involved female volunteers and male migrants. «Female volunteers having sex enforces the view (that many have) that volunteers are here for sex,» he wrote.
September 22. Two Belgian policemen were arrested after being found in a French border town with a vanload of migrants. The police van carrying 13 migrants and the two policemen was stopped by French police in Nieppe, a town on the Belgian border, after crossing from Belgium. The Belgian policemen, from Ypres, said they had picked up the migrants after finding them walking along a road in Belgium. One of the officers, Georges Aeck, said: «We didn’t want to leave them on the side of the road to walk to the border. So we took them in the direction they wanted to go.»
September 26. President François Hollande vowed «definitively, entirely and rapidly» to dismantle «The Jungle,» a migrant camp Calais, by the end of 2016. He made the announcement during a to Calais — but not to the camp itself — amid growing unease over France’s escalating migrant crisis, which has become a central issue in the country’s presidential campaign.
September 28. A Parisian decorator filed a complaint against a Saudi Arabian princess who allegedly ordered her body guards to kill him, according to Le Point. The man said he was hired to redecorate her residence in the prestigious 16th district of Paris. Upon arrival, the man took pictures of a room he was assigned to decorate, a standard procedure to ensure that furniture is returned to its original position. The princess, however, went into a rage and accused the decorator of planning to sell the pictures to the media.
The decorator said that two of the princess’s armed bodyguards grabbed him, tied his hands together, hit him in the head and made him kneel and kiss the woman’s feet. Referring to the decorator, the princess then ordered her guards to «kill the dog, he does not deserve to live.»
The Paris public prosecutor’s office refused to say whether it would pursue the case, which drew public attention to special treatment which French authorities bestow upon wealthy Arab families.
October 5. Muslim employees at Air France had repeatedly attempted to sabotage aircraft, according to Le Canard Enchaîné. «Concerning Air France, we have seen several anomalies before the departure of commercial flights,» an intelligence official said.
October 8. Four police officers were seriously injured while conducting a surveillance operation in the Grande-Borne housing area, a no-go zone in Viry-Châtillon, a southern suburb of Paris. The police were monitoring youths who were attacking motorists at a traffic light when they were attacked by more than a dozen «hooded youths» who launched Molotov cocktails at them and then set fire to their vehicles.
October 9. Some 15,000 Islamic radicals, including some 2,000 children, are on a watch list of Islamic radicals maintained by the French government. Around 4,000 individuals on the list constitute the «top of the spectrum» in terms of danger and are being tracked on a daily basis.
October 11. President François Hollande acknowledged that «France has a problem with Islam.» He added: «It is not that Islam poses a problem in the sense that it is a dangerous religion, but in as far as it wants to affirm itself as a religion of the Republic.» Hollande also said there are too many immigrants arriving in the country who «should not be here.»
October 12. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve jointly presented a draft decree calling for the creation of a National Guard to protect against jihadist attacks. The guard will consist of some 85,000 reservists (40,000 from the armed forces and gendarmerie and 5,000 from the police) by 2018.
October 16. A 32-year-old supporter of the Islamic State identified only as Rocco M. was arrested after he threatened to «blow everything up» at the Nice Côte d’Azur airport. «His behavior suggested radical religious thoughts, expressed in a strong enough way to be worrisome,» said Nice Prosecutor Jean-Michel Priest.
October 17. A 50-year-old teacher at the Paul Langevin primary school in Argenteuil was hospitalized after he was assaulted by two Muslims who were angry that he disciplined an unruly Muslim pupil. The attackers said: «You do not talk like that, racist!» The teacher replied, «But I am their teacher (maître).» The attackers responded: «There is only one master (maître), it is Allah.»
October 18. Around 500 police officers gathered on the Champs-Elysees to protest increasing violence against law enforcement personnel, after four officers were injured when a group of Muslim youths attacked them on October 8 in Viry-Châtillon.
October 25. Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas announced that «terrorist detainees» in French prisons would no longer be isolated from the rest of the prison population because the practice increased rather than decreased Islamic radicalism. He also said that special anti-radicalization units at prisons in Fresnes, Fleury-Mérogis, Osny and Lille-Annoeullin would be closed down because they were ineffective. Urvoas said French prisons have become «saturated» due to a «surge in terrorist detainees.» Half a dozen Islamic terrorists are being incarcerated each week.
October 30. The Paris region lost a billion euros a month in income from tourism in the first eight months of the year due to fears about terrorism, according to regional council leader Valérie Pécresse. A million fewer tourists visited Paris and its surrounding region every month between January and August 2016.
November 2. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ordered the closure of four extremist mosques: the Al-Islah mosque in Villiers-sur-Marne; the Ecquevilly prayer room in Yvelines; the Ar Rawda mosque in Seine-Saint-Denis; and the Masjid Al Fath in Clichy-sous-Bois. Cazeneuve said that «under the cover of religion the mosques held meetings aimed at promoting a radical ideology that was contrary to the values of the French Republic and could constitute a serious threat to public security and order.»
November 2. A Kurdish convert to Christianity said he received death threats while living in makeshift migrant camps outside the French cities of Calais and Dunkirk. He said:
«In Calais, the smugglers saw a cross around my neck and said: ‘You are Kurdish and you are a Christian? Shame on you.’ I said, ‘Why? I’m in Europe, I’m free, I’m in a free country.’ They said, ‘No, you are not free, you are in the Jungle. The Jungle has Kurdish rule here. Leave this camp.’ The smugglers were from inside the camp, and were Kurdish. They said to me, ‘We will tell the Algerians and Moroccans to kill you.'»
November 4. The Moroccan-born French-Jewish scholar Georges Bensoussan, 64, was sued in France for alleged hate speech against Muslims. The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France, CCIF) filed a complaint against Bensoussan for «public incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence against a group of people because of their religious affiliation» because of remarks he made on Radio France about Muslim anti-Semitism. He said:
«There will be no integration until we get rid of this atavistic anti-Semitism that is kept secret. It so happens that an Algerian sociologist, Smain Laacher, with great courage said that ‘it is a disgrace to maintain this taboo, namely that in Arab families in France and elsewhere everyone knows that anti-Semitism is spread with the mother’s milk.'»
November 7. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that French police carried out more than 4,000 counter-terrorism searches since the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Police seized 600 firearms, including 77 «weapons of war.» Nearly 500 people were arrested, and 95 house arrests are still in force. Nearly 80 deportation orders were issued against foreign nationals linked to the jihadist movement, including Islamic hate preachers. Some 430 individuals suspected of wanting to join jihadist groups in the Middle East were banned from leaving France.
November 12. Sting, the British rock icon, reopened the Bataclan, the Paris concert hall where jihadists murdered 89 people on November 13, 2015. Sting sang the Arabic expression «Inshallah» (Allah willing). He called it «a very beautiful word.» Those in attendance, including more than a thousand of the victims’ family members, applauded the song with ovations and tears.
November 13. France marked the first anniversary of the November 13, 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed.
November 16. Some 70,500 people applied for asylum in France between January and October 2016, according to the French refugee agency Ofpra. Officials predict that the total for 2016 will be around. Some 80,000 applications were received in 2015.
November 18. Rachid Kassim, a 29-year-old French jihadist of Algerian descent, who is linked to a string of terror attacks in Europe, gave his first-ever interview. Kassim, who is believed to be based on the Syria-Turkey border, said: «To behead an animal, it would be difficult. With enemies of Allah, it is a pleasure.» He added:
«A lot of us are jealous of brothers who attack in dar ul-kufr [an Arabic term for non-Muslim lands]. We believe that even a small attack in dar ul-kufr is better than a big attack in Syria. As the door of hijrah [migration] closes, the door of jihad opens. If I stayed in dar ul-kufr, I would do an attack there.»
November 18. Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled a new campaign to stop young people joining jihadist groups. The latest publicity campaign, which aims to combat «propaganda that takes the form of a musty neo-romanticism,» consists of two videos filmed from the point of view of a boy and a girl tempted by radicalization. They are interactive, allowing participants to choose between listening to friends and acquaintances or jihadist recruiters, and end with the girl in a forced marriage in Syria and the boy carrying out a terror attack in France.
November 19. Police discovered an arsenal of weapons — a rocket launcher, bulletproof vests, Mauser pistols, Kalashnikov cartridges and two grenade launchers — in a garage in a shopping center in Évry, a suburb of Paris. Investigators said they had not established a link to terrorism.
November 22. The U.S. State Department added Abdelilah Himich, a Moroccan-born French citizen who served six months in the French Foreign Legion, to its list of «specially designated global terrorists.» Himich, also known as Abu Suleiman Al-Faransi, founded the 300-strong Islamic State «European foreign terrorist fighter cell» and reportedly helped plan the deadly jihadist attacks in Paris and Brussels.
November 25. Five of the jihadists arrested on November 21 plotted to target the headquarters of France’s CGSI intelligence agency in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, the headquarters of the Paris Judicial Police (DRPJ) at Quai des Orfèvres and the nearby Palace of Justice. Other targets included the Disneyland Paris amusement park and the Champs-Elysées Boulevard. The attacks were planned for December 1.
December 8. Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux launched the Foundation of Islam of France (Fondation de l’Islam de France). The new foundation is charged with «contributing to the emergence of an Islam of France that is fully anchored in the French Republic.» It will conduct academic research in «Islamology» and organize lay training for imams.
December 12. Police arrested 11 people suspected of helping to arm Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Tunisian who killed 86 people by driving his truck into a crowd in Nice. Ten suspects were arrested in Nice and another was detained in Nantes. The 11 people arrested are believed to have been in contact with three people, including two Albanians, arrested on July 6 and charged with supplying Bouhlel with an assault rifle and a pistol.
December 12. Jobseekers of North African origin face widespread discrimination in France, according to a survey which showed that 30% of big businesses preferred candidates with French-sounding names.
December 13. The commission charged with overseeing the use of surveillance equipment (Commission nationale de contrôle des techniques de renseignement, CNCTR) reported that French security services monitored the activities of 20,282 people in year October 2015 to October 2016. Nearly half (47%) of those under surveillance during the period were/are suspected jihadists. Another 29% are members of criminal gangs.
December 15. The main suspect in a jihadist attack on a high-speed train in northern France testified that he acted on orders from the same Islamic State terror cell that carried out the Paris attacks in November 2015. Ayoub El Khazzani, a 27-year-old-year Moroccan with Spanish residency, told a counterterrorism judge in Paris that he received specific orders from Abdelhamid Abaaoud to attack a Paris-bound Thalys express train in August 2015. The revelation established, for the first time, a direct link between the August 2015 train attack, which was thwarted by three Americans, and the November 2015 Paris attacks.
December 22. The Mayor of Beziers, Robert Menard, was charged with incitement to hatred for saying that the number of Muslim students in his city was a «problem.» In an interview with the French news channel LCI, Menard said: «In a class in the city center in my town, 91% of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance.» He also tweeted his regret at witnessing «the great replacement» to describe France’s white, Christian population being overtaken by foreign-born Muslims. Menard denied that his comments were discriminatory. «I just described the situation in my town,» he said. «It is not a value judgement, it is a fact. It is what I can see.»
December 24. The French national rail company, SNCF, announced that it would deploy armed guards on French trains. The move came after it emerged that Anis Amri, the presumed author of the jihadist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin on December 19, rode a French train to travel southern France to Italy, where police shot him dead.
December 31. French citizens were required to contribute an extra €1.60 ($1.70) on their property insurance policies to help finance a fund for victims of jihadist attacks. The new law requires policy holders to contribute €5.90, up from €4.30. Some 90 million insurance policies are financing the fund, which currently has reserves of €1.45 billion ($1.5 billion). More than 200 people have died in France in the last two years as a result of terror attacks.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
January 17, 2017 at 5:00 am