Protestors hold placards during a demonstration against islamophobia, in Paris, Nov. 10, 2019. Placard on the left reads: “ Let muslims live their faith”. Photo: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Dozens of civil society organizations have urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to open formal infringement procedures against the French government for entrenching Islamophobia.

In a written complaint to the UNHRC, some 36 groups from 13 countries outlined the “clear violation of a number of basic rights that are protected in legislation that is ratified by Paris.”

The coalition said that France’s actions and policies in relation to Muslim communities also violated international and European laws.

“France has seen shocking levels of state-sanctioned Islamophobia in recent months. This has precipitated the closure of mosques, Muslim schools, Muslim-led charities and civil society organizations,” said Muhammad Rabbani, the managing director of Cage, which co-signed the complaint.


“As a signatory to the UN, France cannot be allowed to infringe upon its international rights obligations so openly, and yet present itself as the land of ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite,’” Rabbani said, referring to the national motto of France, “liberty, equality, fraternity.”

The 28-page complaint, which was seen by the London-based online news outlet Middle East Eye, stressed the necessity of a formal infringement procedure against the French government because there was no effective remedy within the French legal system to stop structural Islamophobia.

The document cited the anti-Islam remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, including his October 2020 speech in which he defended the republication of blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The speech sparked protests across the world and calls for the boycott of French goods.

The coalition of civil society groups slammed the government’s defense of such publications.

It said such a stance “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace,” citing the UN Human Rights Committee’s own comments on depictions of the Prophet (PBUH).

The groups also said the French government exploited the murder of a schoolteacher that followed the speech “for racist and Islamophobic purposes,” including the raiding of several Muslim homes and organizations.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the raids were conducted against some individuals “not linked with the investigation around the beheading (of the teacher) but to whom we want to send a message.”

Teacher Samuel Paty was murdered by a teenager of Chechen origin after he showed his students the caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) published by Charlie Hebdo. The assailant was killed by French police near the scene of the attack.

The document also referred to several examples of state aggression against Muslim children, including an October 3, 2020 raid on a mosque in which children were learning Arabic, where authorities counted the youths, allegedly classifying them based on whether they were wearing a headscarf.

The coalition censured France for acting “out of proportion” and “unreasonably” applying exceptions to restrictions on fundamental freedoms in order to protect national security.

Feroze Boda of the Muslims Lawyers Association, who submitted the complaint on behalf of the group, expressed hope that Muslims around the world would support the coalitions’ call.

“Muslims around the world united behind the cry to hold the French government accountable for continuing to support publications defaming the Prophet (PBUH),” Mr. Boda said. “We hope they will unite again around this global first, a truly collective effort, which expands the call for accountability and positive change to include the dismantling of pervasive hateful policies against Muslims in France.”

“These policies are not only counter-productive, but they are open to abuse, and have been abused—while also being completely out of touch with reality,” Mr. Boda added.

The complaint’s signatories also included the Strasbourg-based European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, the Muslim Association of Britain, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (