Anti-Muslim riots erupted on Saturday, for the second consecutive day, in Ajaccio, the capital of the French island of Corsica. The riots come amid a rise in Islamophobia on the island and across France.
The first day of roits began on Dec. 25, after a demonstration of about 600 people turned violent, with half of the protestors attacking a Muslim prayer room and trying to burn Quran books, shouting slogans such as “Arabs Away,” “We are at home,” and “We are going to kill you,” in French or Corsican.
The demonstration had begun peacefully in support of two firemen and a policeman who had been injured on Dec. 24 in a Ajaccio suburb, Jardins de l'Empereur, which is known for a high rate of unemployment and drug-trafficking. The officers arrived in order to control a fire, but were assaulted by a group of young hooded residents, who insulted them and broke their vehicle's window, according to regional administrative authorities, “seriously injuring” them.
Roughly 250 to 300 protestors responded by heading toward the suburb, seeking a confrontation with whoever they believed had attacked the officers. According to the French online investigative website Mediapart, the protesters walked into people’s homes, terrorizing the residents.
About a hundred of these protestors vandalized a Muslim prayer room — even attempting to set it on fire — as well as a kebab restaurant located outside the suburb.
According to authorities, no one has yet been arrested. The authorities stated that police officers were not covering the area at the time.
Since the Paris terror attacks of January and November, Islamophobic violence has dramatically spread across France. In Corsica, the nationalist party that won the regional elections two weeks ago, promoted anti-immigrant slogans during the electoral campaign.
According to Marwad Muhammad, a researcher and former spokesperson for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, the French social democrat government has its share of responsibility for the violent acts that have taken place in Corsica.
“The government discourse over the past weeks rid racists of their inhibitions,” he said. He particularly highlighted that the proposal to strip binationals of the French citizenship, was dangerous, but “it suggests that there are two types of French citizens, the ‘pureblood’ and the other.”
He added that the French state should not express such surprise about the events in Corsica.
Since the state of emergency was declared, the French government “has carried out violent raids and house arrests in many innocent Muslim homes,” he said.
On Dec. 8, two French Representatives from the National Assembly assaulted Latifa Ibn Ziaten, a Muslim mother, who’s son was killed in a terror attack in March 2012. While she was invited to participate in a legislative meeting on the topic of secularization, a pair of lawmakers criticized her for wearing a Muslim veil. They followed her into the hallway saying “You are not French, Madam. You say you have the French nationality while you are wearing a veil, you are a shame for the country,” she reported then.
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France is home to the largest Muslim community in Europe with about 5 million people. Two hundred and seventy four Islamophobic acts and threats were registered in the first half of the year, according to the National Observatory Against Islamaphobia. This represented a 281 percent rise compared with the same period last year. Nevertheless, very few of the complaints have resulted in arrests or probes.