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March against Islamophobia attracts support from France's far-left

Banners reading «Stop all forms of racism» and «Stop islamophobia», displayed by marchers near Gare du nord in Paris, 10 November 2019.
Banners reading «Stop all forms of racism» and «Stop islamophobia», displayed by marchers near Gare du nord in Paris, 10 November 2019. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

More than 10,000 people marched on Sunday in Paris denouncing 'Islamophobia' and racism in France. The government and most political parties stayed away from the event, excepting the far left.

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The demonstrations against Islamophobia were called by a number of individuals and organisations, including the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).

The march followed an attack last month on a mosque in the south western French city of Bayonne, where an 84-year-old man shot and wounded two men.

In Paris, protesters held placards denouncing attacks on Islam.

The demonstrations started at Paris' Gare du Nord and finished at Place de la Nation (Paris, 10 novembre 2019).
The demonstrations started at Paris' Gare du Nord and finished at Place de la Nation (Paris, 10 novembre 2019). GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The question of the veil

The Muslim veil was a particularly sensitive theme, with a number of women taking part wearing traditional Muslim veils.

Some even had veils bearing the blue, white and red colours of the French flag.

The debate over the veil and the question of radicalisation has been revived in France, a country which has faced several jihadist attacks in recent years.

"We want to be heard, not pushed to edge of society," said Asmae Eumosid, a veiled woman from the suburbs of Paris

Nadjet Fella, a nurse who had once campaigned in Algeria against social pressure to wear the veil, was amongst the veiled women in Paris, this time supporting their cause.

"I chose not to wear it, but it hurts me that those who wear it are picked on," she added.

Far-left parties were present at the march. Here, a pamphlet of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA)
Far-left parties were present at the march. Here, a pamphlet of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) Sébastien BOZON / AFP

France's secular principles

According to recent studies, France has between five and six million Muslims, which makes it the largest Muslim community in Europe.

However, a landmark law in 1905 decreed the separation of the Church and the French state, laying the grounds for the country's unique secular principles, called 'laicity'.

For example, France prohibits the wearing of visible religious symbols in public schools, or for civil cervants while on duty.

This includes the Jewish kippa, the Sikh turban or a visible Christian cross.

Politicians distance themselves, except far-left Mélenchon

Last week, the Socialist party formally distanced itself from the demonstration.

Several members of the government also made it clear they had no sympathy for the march, as did far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Critics also accused some of the 50 original signatories to the petition calling for the march of having links to political Islam including the CCIF itself.

However, a number of far-left politicians, including Jean-Luc Melenchon, the firebrand leader of France Unbowed party, nevertheless joined the Paris rally Sunday.

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