A French Muslim human rights group on Monday announced plans to expand its activities outside the country amid concerns for its safety and recent controversial statements by officials on Islam.
“As an organization, we no longer feel we can conduct our work in a safe environment, as our lives are threatened and the government designates us as an enemy,” said the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in a statement.
The group said they had been targeted by hate messages, death threats and insults over the past week after the French government announced it wanted to dissolve the organization.
“Using fake news from the far right, some political figures in the entourage of president Macron have even tried to pin last Friday’s attack on organizations who denounce Islamophobia, as if it was conceptually impossible to address both terrorism and contemporary forms of racism, including Islamophobia,” said the statement.
“For these reasons, whatever the outcome of the government’s attempt to dissolve CCIF, we have decided to extend our activities internationally, to ensure continuity of our operations and protect our teams.”
French authorities recently launched a massive wave of investigations on Muslim organizations in the country following the killing of a Paris teacher.
Samuel Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at Bois-d’Aulne College in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, was brutally murdered by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. The suspect was gunned down by police.
The teacher, during one of his classes on freedom of expression, had shown the controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, according to reports.
Muslim leaders across France have condemned the murder, stressing that extremists abuse religion for their own goals and their actions could not be justified through Islam.
Community leaders also expressed their concern that the recent attack would again stigmatize French Muslims and inflame Islamophobic sentiments.
The government has announced last week that it was probing 51 French Muslim associations, including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.
Interior Minister Darmanin claimed that elements of the organization had caused officials to consider it “an enemy of the republic.”
Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” and announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called “Islamist separatism” in France.
“The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the republic,” he said.
Some civil society groups and organizations that “act against the law and values of the country” might be closed or face tight financial audits, according to Macron’s plan.