The prayer room at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport.
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
PARIS, April 29, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) – The recently released book of a far-right French presidential hopeful, who claimed that the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport was infiltrated by “Muslim radicals” and warned against the “Islamization of France,” has scared away Muslim workers from the airport’s prayer room fearing that they might be tracked by police as “potential terrorists.”
“It is now something of a rarity to see a Muslim worker dare enter the prayer room since the publication of the book “Les Mosquees De Roissy” (The Mosques of Roissy),” an airport worker told IslamOnline.net Saturday, April 29.
Philippe de Villiers, the head of the right-wing Movement for France (MPF) party, claimed in his book that the airport was infiltrated by “Muslim radicals.”
He alleged that the radicals have found jobs among the airport’s personnel and the ground stuff.
“I now prefer to pray at home rather than being labeled a terrorist,” Ayman, 27, a luggage worker at the airport said while looking at the empty prayer place.
“You are a terrorist now until proven innocent,” smiling Ayman added.
Villiers has stirred up controversy in recent weeks with increasingly tough statements about Muslims, which critics call racist and officials describe as exaggerated.
The daily Le Parisien, in an extensive report on April 23, on Villiers’ charges about radicals at the airport, quoted officials saying the problem was minimal and suspicious workers were kept under surveillance.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Justice Minister Dominique Perben toured the airport on April 20 and said only 122 of about 83,000 ground staff were being watched.
The cover of Villiers’s controversial book.
French Muslim leaders said that placing all Muslims in one basket is a cause for concern.
“It is extremely alarming and worrying to stigmatize all Muslim workers at the airport as terrorists for no reason other than being Muslims,” Ammar Al-Asfar of the French Council for Muslim Faith (CFCM) told IOL.
“French Muslims are really in an unenviable situation since when they opt for work in large numbers at a certain place, they are accused of concocting plots; but when they remain jobless, they are criticized for being lazy, negligent and indifferent,” he added.
Asfar, however, urged French Muslims to address these accusations in a wise and astute manner, and refuse to be provoked.
The CFCM earlier called on the French politicians and intellectuals to condemn Villier’s racist remarks.
It further championed calls to sue right-wing leader.
Daw Meskine, Secretary General of the French Council of Imams, said Villiers’s anti-Muslim remarks were a political stunt.
“When there are no real political programs, Islamophobia becomes an election issue to win much-needed votes,” he said.
The number of Muslims in France exceeds six millions, representing 10% of the population and possessing 1.8 million votes.
They come from 53 countries. Algerians represent a great majority of French Muslims.
French intellectuals have said Muslim organizations in France have made great strides and acted “more positively” to counter racist campaigns, which made some of them to change their names and hide their roots to spare themselves discrimination and police hunt.
French Muslims have heaped the blame for the sullied image squarely on media outlets and right-wing leaders, saying their allegations only fan up Islamophobia in the country.