De Villepin urges heightened security at religious sites

27th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 27 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday called for increased security at religious sites amid a troubling rise in the number of racist and anti-Semitic acts committed across the country.

PARIS, Aug 27 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday called for increased security at religious sites amid a troubling rise in the number of racist and anti-Semitic acts committed across the country.

"The multiplication of racist and anti-Semitic acts is a reality in our country. We must work to better understand the reasons in order to better fight against them," de Villepin told the afternoon paper Le Monde in an interview.

"The protection of sensitive sites must be reinforced. For example, I want to encourage the installation of video surveillance systems, in liaison with religious authorities," he said.

De Villepin's comments came on the heels of the release of justice ministry figures showing that 298 anti-Semitic acts had been reported to court authorities between January 1 and August 20, most of which remain unsolved.

Earlier this week, the French minister said that 160 violent anti-Semitic acts had been committed in the first seven months of the year, as compared with 75 such acts during the same period last year.

De Villepin explained to Le Monde that while 11 of those 160 acts could be attributed to far-right activists and 50 of them to "individuals of Arab-Muslim descent", 99 of them had been committed for "reasons that remain unclear".

Last weekend, arsonists torched a Jewish centre in eastern Paris, scrawling swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans on the walls. The incident prompted a snap visit to France by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Also this month, a swastika was painted on a wall in front of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris and 60 graves were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in south-eastern Lyon, allegedly by a 24-year-old man who turned himself in. This week, graves at a Catholic cemetery in Lyon were also vandalised.

De Villepin noted that the recent spate of attacks has touched "all religions, Christians and Muslims. The number of anti-Muslim acts has multiplied dangerously."

"I refuse to accept that religion has become a factor of division and hate in our country," he said.

He warned against a rise in copycat racist attacks, saying the risk of such a phenomenon was "undeniable".

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively out of a total population of 60 million.

© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article