Protests against the film The Innocence of Muslims, which erupted in violence in several countries around the world, have spread to Europe, and notably to France, the country that is home to the largest Muslim population on the continent (four to six million people), and Belgium. “Islamists want to demonstrate again in Paris", announces Le Figaro, which reports that a call for a 22 September demonstration in Paris against the US made film ridiculing Mohammed and Islam, is circulating on social networks. At a first unauthorised demonstration outside the American embassy in the French capital, 152 people, mainly Salafists (proponents of a radical branch of Islam), were detained by police.
In its editorial, the conservative dailyinsists —
It is our duty to respond firmly to avoid being overwhelmed. Public authorities should use every means to forbid the further demonstrations that the Salafists want to organise, and punish the instigators. France cannot allow itself be walked over.
Commenting — but not directly citing — thefront page of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo which shows a Muslim in a wheelchair — who could be the Prophet — being pushed by an Orthodox Jew, Le Figaro warns —
Let’s not fall into the trap of responding to their intimidation with stupid provocations. Publishing caricatures of the Prophet is as facile as it is irresponsible.
Agitation is also ongoing in Belgium: “Extremists threaten Moroccan residents of Antwerp who have expressed criticism,” headlines De Morgen, in the wake of violent demonstrations in the Borgerhout neighbourhood of Antwerp on 15 and 16 September, triggered by young extremists at the behest of the radical group Sharia4Belgium, and resulted in 230 arrests.
So as to avoid further clashes, the Flemish city’s mayor, socialist Patrick Janssens, has banned further demonstrations in Borgerhout from 19 September. For De Morgen’s editor in chief, Wouter Verschelden, debate in the run-up to municipal elections on 14 October is now focused on “this small group of marginals represented by Sharia4Belgium etc” —
A handful of youths, who are barely old enough to grow a beard, peddling provocative and hateful language. A language which seems to be especially successful with 12-15 year olds, kids with too much free time and too little parental authority.
Verschelden argues that the Muslim minority does not know how to respond to the threats of a small number of “marginal rioters”, and he is also critical of the media attention focused on these youths, because that is exactly what the extremists want. For him, it is not the instigators, but the urban context and multiculturalism that should be called into question.