It is becoming difficult to give you news about the situation in France. Apart from a minor incident involving a mosque, the media have lost interest or are complying with censorship recommendations from their editors who fear that the public would turn to the “extreme-right” if it receives correct information. Perhaps our attempt to provide information qualifies us as “extreme-right” too. To avoid legal problems our lawyers advise us to put up a warning:
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In the sixteenth consecutive night of violence in France, 502 cars were set alight. Hundreds of molotov cocktails were thrown at policemen, cars and buildings, including a mosque in Carpentras in the south of the country. In Belgium’s sixth consecutive night of car torching, fifteen cars, including one truck and a bus, were damaged by fire – eight of them in Brussels. The situation in Denmark seems to be tense as well.
In both Paris and Brussels the authorities are nervous because islamist weblogs have called for demonstrations and violent protests today. The French authorities have banned all rallies and protests until Sunday evening. The Belgian authorities do not want the media to report about the weblogs. In Paris and Brussels the police are on the alert.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has said it is “concerned” that the state of emergency in France “may lead to human rights violations” by the French police. Yesterday, one policeman was jailed and four were suspended because they had beaten up a 19-year old “youth” in a Paris suburb. The “youth” had just been released from custody for involvement in riots and had returned to taunt the officers. The beating incident was filmed by the television channel France 2. The channel is one of the French media outlets that does not want to broadcast acts of violence committed by “youths” for fear of copycat actions. The media devote a lot of attention to the beating incident. Apparently there is no fear that this will lead to copycat behaviour by frustrated policemen.
There is also considerable media attention for two molotov cocktails thrown at a mosque in the southern town of Carpentras. Though there was no material damage the French authorities have strongly condemned the attack. “This act of agression is as undignified as it is unacceptable,” Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said. President Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, too, condemned the agression “with the greatest firmness” and expressed solidarity with the Muslim community of France.
Earlier this week two churches were set ablaze, but the French government did not express solidarity with the Christians of France. The Jewish community has also been advised to keep quiet about attacks on synagogues lest they attract the attention of copycats. After the attacks, the French authorities did not explicitly express solidarity with the Jews but advised them “not to publicize their fears, as such declarations could encourage rioters to attack Jews and Jewish community buildings.” Apparently, the media and the politicians are convinced that copycats are never Christians or Jews, but always Muslims. Doesn’t that attitude smack of racism?