Victim-Blaming: AP ‘Explainer’ Asks ‘Why Does France Incite Anger in the Muslim World?’

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The Associated Press (AP) has received backlash for appearing to blame France for the spate of radical Islamic terrorist attacks it has suffered in recent months, citing its “brutal colonial past” and “staunch secular policies”.

The not-for-profit news wire service, which is supposed to be a bastion of neutral, non-partisan reporting, published an ‘AP Explains’ article asking “Why does France incite anger in the Muslim world?” — appearing to put the blame for recent terror attacks in which jihadists murdered three people in a Nice church and beheaded a schoolteacher in the street, among other incidents, on French society.

Indeed, France has probably suffered more high-profile radical Islamic terror attacks than any other Western country since September 11th, including the beheading of an elderly priest during a church service, the murder of 130 people in an attack on the Bataclan theatre and associated suicide bombings and street spray shootings, and a lorry attack on an open-air Bastille Day celebration which left 86 dead and over 450 injured.

But according to AP, it is France’s “brutal colonial past, staunch secular policies and tough-talking president who is seen as insensitive toward the Muslim faith” which contribute to the fact it is “so often the target of deadly violence from the extremist margins”.

AP’s explainer was poorly received by many readers on social media, where it was decisively “ratioed” by thousands of users.

“While French officials often say their country is targeted because of its reputation as the cradle of human rights and a rampart of global democracy, what distinguishes France most is its unusual attachment to secularism,” AP suggested, echoing sentiments in a similar article published by POLITICO lambasting France’s “extreme form of secularism and embrace of blasphemy”.

“A 2004 banning [sic] Muslim headscarves and other ostentatious religious symbols in schools remains divisive, if not shocking to many outside France. A 2011 law banning face veils made Muslims feel stigmatized anew,” AP added — although this would hardly explain why Islamic terrorists in France are targeting Christian sites, which are obviously not secular.

“The words [President Emmanuel Macron] uses have provoked outrage as well,” citing his announcement of new legislation “aimed at Islamist ‘separatism’, which raised fears of the further alienation of French Muslims” — although again it is not explained how laws aimed at preventing the formation of parallel societies could be said to be alienating Muslims from mainstream society.

“At a memorial for a teacher beheaded for showing the prophet caricatures to his class, Macron gave a speech extolling tolerance, knowledge and religious freedom. But he drew ire, including from Turkey’s president, for saying, ‘We won’t renounce the caricatures’ and that France should ‘diminish Islamists’,” the news agency added.

Surprisingly little time was dedicated to France’s allegedly “brutal” colonial history in, for example, Algeria, beyond a reference to “angry outcasts who see their homeland as sinful and disrespectful toward Islamic traditions, or simply racist against Arab and other immigrants from lands that once enriched the French empire.”

The Arab and North African peoples are themselves no strangers to colonialism, of course, conquering Spain and Portugal and attempting to conquer France — only being stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours — and sailing out of port cities including Algiers to attack European shipping and coastal settlements to capture Christian slaves right up to the 1800s.

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