More than 10,000 Parisians paraded through the French capital on Sunday 10 November 2019 to protest against animosity towards Islam and discrimination against Muslims.

In a staggering display of solidarity, thousands of people have marched against Islamophobia on the streets of Paris and other French cities.

The mass spectacle comes following an attack two week prior when an elderly gunman with far-right links injured two men at a mosque of the southwestern city of Bayonne. 

According to French authorities, the suspected attacker who previously stood as a regional candidate for the far-right National Front party in 2015, admitted that the attack was conducted as part of a revenge-seeking plot. Without any evidence, the alleged assailant based his actions on a conspiracy theory pointedly disparaged Muslims for Notre Dame cathedral fire. 

People hold placards reading “report racism” (L) and “the women together” as they participate in a demonstration in Paris to protest against Islamophobia. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt, AFP.

Raising his voice on behalf of French Muslim citizens, President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to denounce what he called a “heinous crime”. He alluded to the nations espoused uniting camaraderie known as esprit de corps.

“The Republic will never tolerate hatred. Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our Muslim compatriots. I commit myself to it,” said President Macron. 

A woman patriotically donning a veil to resemble the colours of the national flag (blue, white and red). Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt, AFP.

Whilst in Paris, demonstrators carried placards denouncing attacks on Islam with banners which read “Yes to criticism of religion, no to hate against the faithful” to discredit criticism of Freedom of Speech.

Some tenacious women also proudly displayed their patriotism by adopting the traditional Muslim veils in blue, white and red colours resembling the French flag.

The demonstration was assembled by several community organisations including the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) as well as Muslim groups.

“We want to be heard… not pushed to (the) edge of society,” Asmae Eumosid, a veiled woman from the suburbs of Paris.

Regrettably, Muslims in France have reported high rates of discrimination in recent times. According to a survey conducted early this month by French pollster IFOP, more than 40% of Muslims in France felt they had experienced religious discrimination. 

The country has the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe followed by Germany. According to Pew Research Centre, there were 5.7 million Muslims in 2016 (constituting for 8.8% of the country’s population). Furthermore, Islam is also the second sizeable religion in France.

The burgeoning French Muslim population has grown in recent years and is only expected to continue to do so. Unfortunately, this is partly due to a record number of vulnerable people seeking asylum in Europe as they flee the unabating conflict in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries. 

A sign reads: “French and Muslim… Proud of our two identities.” Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt, AFP

France is a nation fiercely protective of the quintessential secular principles known as Laïcité, as stated in its constitution, having banned the donning of religious symbols in state schools. This is exemplified in Article 1 of the French constitution, which states that “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic.

Nevertheless, the demonstration was an elating marvel of French harmony denoting unity and potential for change.