French minister: Muslims are the main victims of radical Islam

French minister: Muslims are the main victims of radical Islam
Marlene Schiappa attends a remembrance service for Stephanie Monferme, a police employee who was murdered, Rambouillet, Paris, France, Apr. 30, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 May 2021

French minister: Muslims are the main victims of radical Islam

French minister: Muslims are the main victims of radical Islam
  • ‘We need to prevent young people from enrolling into radical groups via social media,’ Marlene Schiappa says
  • Marlene Schiappa: ‘We must fight racism and prejudices, conveyed in particular by the extreme right movement in France’

PARIS: The first victims of radical Islam around the world are Muslims and this radical movement is an insult to French citizens of Muslim faith who observe their religion peacefully, according to Marlene Schiappa, French minister delegate in charge of citizenship.

Speaking to Arab News, she said: “Our objective will be to fight radical Islam by providing the locally elected with concrete tools to better control foreign funding and grants to associations, and thus counter hotbeds of separatism . . . we also need to prevent young people from enrolling into radical groups via social media, and falling prey to the Daesh propaganda.”

On April 11, the walls of the Avicenna Islamic Cultural Center in Rennes were covered with offensive tags against Muslims. Asked for her reaction to such Islamophobic acts committed in France, she said: “As the interior minister said, this is an insult to the country. In France, in 2021, we cannot condone the act of offending millions of innocent citizens who have no problems with the country as such. This is not my vision of France. I strongly condemn these acts, and I was very shocked by these outrageous tags.”

Talking about her visit to the Grand Mosque in Paris on April 12, she said: “I went to the mosque to meet the rector, Mr. Shems-Eddine Hafiz, on the eve of Ramadan. It was important for me to send a message of peace and solidarity to the French Muslim population, especially after the vile anti-Muslim tags that were inscribed on the site of a cultural center in Rennes.”

She added: “I had the pleasure of meeting dedicated women who are working to fight domestic, gender-based and sexual violence, and are helping their fellow citizens during these challenging times. This is a tough period for everybody.”

Explaining her position on the veil, she said: “I want to mention that a lot of incorrect things are already being said: No, the veil will not be banned in public spaces. It is false to say that the government is taking such a position, which only a few senators are in favor of. I am also aware of what’s going around about this issue, especially on social media,” she said.

“I am not in favor of banning the veil in the context of school trips, since I grew up in a city where most mothers wore the veil during these outings. If we prohibit the veil, we are effectively excluding a certain number of students’ mothers who are part of this country. This is not my goal. The notion of secularism applies to the state and to public services, but not to society per se, which is why secularism is a notion of neutrality intended for public services, and is a citizen’s choice.”

Asked about her assessment regarding the fight against radical Islam in France and the areas in which the government still has to work on, Schiappa said: “We have been working on the ground for three years, thanks to the action of the Cells for the Fight against Radical Islam and Community Withdrawal (CLIR). Since 2018, we have closed 559 institutions, and more than 22,000 inspections have been carried out throughout the territories as part of the CLIR. ”

She added: “Not one euro of public money, or of the French people’s money will go to the enemies of the republic. We must equip ourselves with tools on the ground to provide assistance specifically to the locally elected.”

The “draft legislation against separatism,” it is alleged, tends to scare the Muslim population living in France. Asked what she has to say to those who have reservations about this bill, she said: “We are working on this bill with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin with the aim of ensuring peace for Muslims, for all the French population.”

Asked how she views the progress of the female cause in the Arab world, she said: “I see the progress going in the right direction, equality between men and women being a fundamental value — moreover, protected in the charter of principles of Islam in France. We must carry on.”

On the integration of French people of Arab descent into French society, she said: “It is reassuring to observe that the majority of young people feel well integrated into French society. This is what a republic should be. We must fight racism and prejudices, conveyed in particular by the extreme right movement in France, and we should always keep in mind that the republic stands for equality, freedom and fraternity for all citizens. Secularism is the freedom to choose to believe or not to believe, without having to be worried about it, and therefore it is what protects us.”

Giving her Ramadan message to French Muslims, Schiappa said: “I would like to wish them a happy Ramadan. I also would like to convey the message that we are looking after them, the same way we do with all citizens living on French soil.”


US ships fire warning shots to fend off Iranian speedboats in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon

US ships fire warning shots to fend off Iranian speedboats in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon
Updated 1 min 5 sec ago

US ships fire warning shots to fend off Iranian speedboats in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon

US ships fire warning shots to fend off Iranian speedboats in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon

US ships fire warning shots to fend off Iranian speedboats in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon


US names ambassador Richard Norland as special envoy for Libya

US names ambassador Richard Norland as special envoy for Libya
Updated 31 min 35 sec ago

US names ambassador Richard Norland as special envoy for Libya

US names ambassador Richard Norland as special envoy for Libya
  • Norland will lead US diplomatic efforts for a negotiated political solution in the North African country

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday named Richard Norland, US ambassador to Libya, as the US special envoy for the country, the US State Department said, to lead diplomatic efforts for a negotiated political solution in the North African country.
The appointment comes as the Presidency Council, which functions as Libya’s head of state for now, was chosen through a United Nations-facilitated process that also selected a new Government of National Unity that took office in March, replacing rival administrations in east and west.


Iraqi journalist targeted in shooting undergoes brain surgery

Ahmed Hassan, a journliat who worked for Alforat TV, was shot outside his home in Diwaniya province. (Al-Forat TV)
Ahmed Hassan, a journliat who worked for Alforat TV, was shot outside his home in Diwaniya province. (Al-Forat TV)
Updated 53 min ago

Iraqi journalist targeted in shooting undergoes brain surgery

Ahmed Hassan, a journliat who worked for Alforat TV, was shot outside his home in Diwaniya province. (Al-Forat TV)
  • The attack on Ahmed Hassan came exactly 24 hours after anti-government campaigner Ihab Al-Wazni was shot dead

BAGHDAD: A prominent Iraqi journalist, shot by gunmen Monday in southern Iraq, has undergone brain surgery and is in a critical condition, a Baghdad hospital said.

The attack on Ahmed Hassan came exactly 24 hours after anti-government campaigner Ihab al-Wazni was shot dead, also in the south, sending protest movement supporters onto the streets to demand an end to official impunity.

Hassan was shot several times by an assailant as he arrived home at night near Diwaniyah, in images captured on a surveillance camera as in a string of previous attacks.

He had to be transported to a hospital in the capital that specialises in neurological surgery.

"Ahmed Hassan has been operated on and transferred to intensive care where he will be kept under constant surveillance for a critical period of two weeks," hospital spokesman Mohammed Mouyed said.

He said that Hassan, who works for Al-Forat satellite television, underwent several procedures.

On Sunday, Wazni was shot dead in an ambush outside his home in the city of Karbala.

Around 30 activists have died in targeted killings and dozens of others have been abducted or survived attacks since October 2019.

None of these attacks have been claimed but activists have repeatedly blamed armed groups linked to Iran who wield considerable influence in Iraq.

Authorities have consistently failed to publicly identify or charge the perpetrators of these killings.

Al-Forat's owner Ammar al-Hakim, a prominent Shiite politician, Monday urged the government to "protect freedom of speech" and to "urgently" shed light on the assassinations.

After Wazni's murder, Al-Beit Al-Watani (National Bloc), a movement born out of the anti-government protests, said it would boycott parliamentary elections slated for October.


Families of Iran massacre victims urge world leaders to protect graves

Families of Iran massacre victims urge world leaders to protect graves
Updated 10 May 2021

Families of Iran massacre victims urge world leaders to protect graves

Families of Iran massacre victims urge world leaders to protect graves
  • In 1988, security forces executed tens of thousands of political prisoners
  • ‘It’s time for the UN to hold the regime’s leaders to account,’ opposition figure tells Arab News

LONDON: The families of thousands of Iranians executed and buried in mass graves have written to the UN and world leaders urging them to prevent Tehran’s ongoing destruction of their last resting place.

In 1988, Tehran executed thousands of political prisoners aligned with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a political group that had participated in the 1979 revolution but was later targeted by the regime.

At the time, Amnesty International said the executions were “a premeditated and coordinated policy which must have been authorized at the highest level of government.”

Estimates for the exact number of people killed range from 4,500 in just one summer to as many as 30,000.

Now, more than 1,100 families of those executed have petitioned the UN and world leaders as their loved ones’ graves are now being destroyed or used as mass graves for religious minorities.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella opposition group incorporating the PMOI, said: “Most of us have forgotten where exactly our loved ones are buried, many of them in mass graves. Paranoid of the repercussions of international scrutiny into this horrific atrocity, the Iranian regime has embarked on erasing the traces of the evidence on the massacre by destroying the mass graves where they are buried.”

The NCRI has published a list of over 5,000 names of people it says were executed during the 1988 massacre.

It said the ongoing destruction and repurposing of the mass graves represents another abuse against a people already suffering from the loss of loved ones — many of whom were tortured before their death.

“Previously, (Tehran) destroyed or damaged the mass graves of the 1988 victims in Ahvaz, Tabriz, Mashhad, and elsewhere. These actions constitute the collective torture of thousands of survivors and families of martyrs. It is another manifest case of crime against humanity,” the NCRI said.

The letter urged Guterres, relevant UN bodies and international human rights organizations “to prevent the regime from destroying the mass graves, eliminating the evidence of their crime, and inflicting psychological torture upon thousands of families of the victims throughout Iran.”

Ali Safavi, a member of the PMOI and the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, told Arab News: “The mass executions of tens of thousands of dissidents in the 1980s, in particular the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners … is without doubt one of the greatest crimes against humanity since World War II.” 

He lamented the international community’s “appeasement” of the regime. Whenever countries ignore Tehran’s human rights abuses, it only serves to embolden the regime, said Safavi.

“It’s time for the UN, as the highest world authority entrusted with upholding human rights, to break its silence, launch an international inquiry into this heinous crime and hold the regime’s leaders to account,” he added.


EU’s Borell says Iran nuclear talks moving to crucial stage

Josep Borrell is chairing the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna. (AFP/File Photo)
Josep Borrell is chairing the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 10 May 2021

EU’s Borell says Iran nuclear talks moving to crucial stage

Josep Borrell is chairing the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna. (AFP/File Photo)
  • “I am optimistic,” EU foreign affairs chief said

VIENNA: Negotiations in Vienna between world powers and Iran are moving into a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be critical to saving their 2015 nuclear deal, the European Union's top diplomat said on Monday.

US officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its limits on uranium enrichment about a year later.

“I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks, (until) end of the month,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing the talks, told a news conference in Brussels.

“But a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter into a phase of nonstop (talks) in Vienna,” he said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The crux of the 2015 agreement was that Iran committed to rein in its uranium enrichment program to make it harder to obtain the fissile material for a nuclear weapon, in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.

Tehran denies having nuclear weapons ambitions.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the negotiations as tough and laborious, but added that all participants were conducting them in a constructive atmosphere.

“However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons,” Maas said in Brussels.