French PM launches action plan against anti-Semitism, racism
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French PM launches action plan against anti-Semitism, racism

France to spend 100 million euros for program to combat rising extremism in wake of deadly Paris attacks

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls presents the government's plan aimed at fighting racism and anti-Semitism at the Val-de-Marne Prefecture in Creteil, south-eastern Paris suburb, April 17, 2015. (AFP/ Patrick Kovarik)
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls presents the government's plan aimed at fighting racism and anti-Semitism at the Val-de-Marne Prefecture in Creteil, south-eastern Paris suburb, April 17, 2015. (AFP/ Patrick Kovarik)

France’s prime minister announced Friday the government would pour 100 million euros into a major anti-racism and anti-Semitism action plan devised in the aftermath of the deadly Paris jihadist attacks.

The program, which among other measures increases penalties for crimes deemed to have been fueled by racism and anti-Semitism, comes as at a time when acts against Muslims and Jews have shot up in France.

“Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims, of foreigners, homophobia are increasing in an unbearable manner,” Manuel Valls said in the Paris suburb city of Creteil, the scene of a brutal attack on a Jewish man and his girlfriend in December.

The governmental plan is comprised of 40 measures centered around the justice system, education and Internet monitoring.

It includes the establishment of a body to “combat hate on the Internet” and forces internet hosts to “have legal representation in France.”

In schools, teacher training will be overhauled, and principals will be encouraged to report racist or anti-Semitic incidents. Organized visits to memorials and other sites will also be held throughout the school year, according to the plan.

“It is through education, teaching skills and understanding of the other that we can counter the stereotypes and negative images,” said Valls.

On Thursday, the country’s Islamophobia watchdog said anti-Muslim acts had lept six-fold in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2014, fueled by the January 7-9 attacks when Islamic extremists went on a killing spree that left 17 dead, including four gunned down at a kosher supermarket.

And the Jewish community is also increasingly worried, with anti-Semitic acts doubling last year compared with 2013, prompting a rising number of Jews to leave for Israel.

“French Jews must no longer be scared to be Jewish” and “French Muslims must no longer be scared to be Muslim,” Valls said.

And it is not just these two communities — the largest in Europe with an estimated four to five million Muslims and around 600,000 Jews — that are targets.

The Roma, a minority group that comes mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, are also discriminated against, according to activists.

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