1st Dec 2020

Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech

  • Black ribbon around EU flag (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU leaders have urged other nations to stop inciting hatred after a Tunisian migrant murdered three people in France on Thursday (29 October).

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms these attacks, which represent attacks on our shared values," they said in a statement following a video-summit the same day, which had meant to focus on the pandemic.

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"We call on leaders around the world to work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions rather than division," they added.

Speaking outside a Roman Catholic church in Nice, southern France, where the killings took place, French president Emmanuel Macron also denounced the "Islamist terrorist attack".

"People can believe or not believe, all religions can be practised, but today the nation is beside our Catholic compatriots", he said.

"If we have been attacked once again, it is because of our values, our taste for freedom; the freedom to believe freely and not give in to any terror", he added.

"I say it with great clarity again today: We will not give any ground," Macron said.

"We will protect all our citizens ... my message is one of absolute firmness and unity. There is only one community in France, the national community," he said.

The attacker, a 21-year old Tunisian man called Brahim Aouissaoui, had come to Italy one month ago, crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

He then travelled to France by train on Thursday morning, walked to the Notre-Dame basilica, and killed three people with a knife while shouting "Allahu Akbar!", meaning "God is the greatest", before police shot him dead.

The EU appeal to "leaders around the world", came after some Muslim statesmen, led by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his media machine, had spent the past week demonising France.

They did it after Macron had defended the right of French media and teachers to show cartoons of Mohammed, deemed blasphemous by Muslims.

And Macron had done so, on grounds of free speech, after a Muslim immigrant of Chechen origin recently beheaded a teacher for showing the cartoons to his class.

The French Council for the Muslim Faith denounced the Nice killing and called for worshippers to cancel a religious holiday, called Mawlid, in mourning.

Unequivocal condemnations of the murders also rolled in from around the world, including the US and India, for instance.

Erdoğan silent

For his part, Erdoğan said nothing.

But his spokesman, Fahrettin Altun, appeared to blame Macron for what happened.

"We call on the French leadership to avoid further inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and focus, instead, on finding the perpetrators of this and other acts of violence," Altun said.

The foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia, where a man stabbed a guard outside the French consulate on Thursday, condemned the Nice killing.

But the Saudi statement, urging "the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence, and extremism", also alluded to Macron's earlier defence of the Mohammed cartoons.

Meanwhile, the former Malaysian prime minister, 95-year old Mahathir Mohamad, said on Twitter that "Muslims have a right to punish the French".

"Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past," he also said, before the US social media firm took down his comments.

The Nice attack risks further polarising French politics and society.

It is grist to the mill of French far-right party, the Rassemblement National, which has harangued against Muslim migrants for years.

But even the centre-right mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, said on Thursday: "Enough is enough ... We have to remove this Islamo-fascism from our territory".

And just two hours after the Nice incident, French police in the town of Avignon shot dead a far-right extremist, Philippe Guemas, after he had attacked a man of north African descent while armed with a gun.

Security alert

France has raised its security alert status to its highest level and more than doubled the number of soldiers sent to guard schools and temples from 3,000 to 7,000 in anticipation of further violence.

And the security scare compounded tension, coming shortly after Macron had announced a national lockdown due to a second wave of coronavirus.

The attacks in Paris and Nice have stirred memories of Islamist massacres in both cities in 2015 and 2016.

There were 21 jihadist plots in the EU last year, of which four failed, 14 were stopped, and three were carried out, according to the joint EU police agency in The Hague, Europol.

But Europe had recorded its lowest number of terrorist incidents of all types last year since 2012.

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