One of the things I looked for during the recent discussion about anti-semitism in France was some statistics about anti-Islamic and anti-Arab violence for comparison. I was shocked that I couldn’t find any. The French government went out of its way to disagregate data about antisemitic attacks, but could not even be bothered to track attacks on mosques. I knew that there had been attacks on mosques – I remembered seeing them on the news – but no figures seemed to be available. All I could find was Tariq Ramadan, a fairly visible European Muslim intellectual, making the same complaint.
Today’s news from AFP leads me to think Ramadan may be on to something:
Swastikas drawn on the entry to a Strasbourg mosque
STRASBOURG (AFP) – Swastikas were painted on the gateway to a Strasbourg mosque before dawn Tuesday, according to police sources. Furthermore, the inscription “death to arab” (sic) was printed on the surrounding wall of this predominantly Turkish mosque in the Meinau district [of Strasbourg]. Two outdoor garbage cans were burned without causing damage to the building. The imam of mosque, who lives at the mosque, heard a noise around 2am and was able to put out the fire, according to the management of the Eyyub Sultan mosque at a press conference. They have made out a complaint.
The mosque spokesperson, Cengiz Dogan, said that “We condemn this unacceptable act, which unfortunately is not unprecedented.”
“This odious act targets the entire Muslim community and is a part of an atmosphere in which more and more racist and islamophobic acts are taking place,” added Abdelhaq Nabaoui, president of the Alsace regional council for Islamic affairs, who listed a number of “similar” events in the area.
Last week, a mosque in Hagenau (Bas-Rhin dept.) was the victim of an attempted arson and two swastikas were drawn on the building. A funeral parlour in Oberhausbergen, near Strasbourg, was also the target of an attempted arson and swastika-painting, according to Mr Nabaoui. Finally, at the beginning of April, five headstones – four Muslim and one Jewish – from the military semitary in the Cronenbourg district of Strasbourg were desecrated, notably by marking them with swastikas.
Alsace is a very conservative part of France, particularly with regard to religion. It may not be very representative. However, this sort of news leads me to wonder to what degree the recent upswing in reported anti-semitic acts in France might have to with increased attention as much as an actual increase in anti-Jewish sentiment, and whether anti-Islamic violence is being drastically underreported.