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Anti-Muslim acts haved soared in France since Paris attacks, group says

French Council for the Muslim Religion says country has seen as many anti-Muslim acts in January as in all of 2014

At least as many anti-Muslim acts have taken place in France since the Jan. 7-9 attacks on the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket than for all of last year, a leading Muslim group said Friday.

The French Council for the Muslim Religion said its recent study found that 128 anti-Muslim actions or threats were recorded in France, not including Paris, from Jan. 7 through Jan. 20, in comparison to 133 in all of France, including Paris, in 2014. Not all the acts included in the study were reported to police.

The attacks began on Jan. 7 with the killing of 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a publication that frequently lampooned religion and had been threatened repeatedly after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Four others died in a hostage siege and shootout at a Jewish supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris.

Since the attacks, mosques have been damaged by a grenade, gunshots and repeated vandalism, and stores owned by Muslims have been burned, the French Council for the Muslim Religion said in its report. At least one person was assaulted and hospitalized, said Abdallah Zekri of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, which worked with the council to produce the study. 

The groups say the actual number of incidents may be even higher than the study indicates. "These figures do not reflect reality, as many Muslims don't want to systematically file a complaint when they are victims of xenophobic acts, convinced that there will be no follow-up, which is unfortunately often the case," Agence France-Presse quoted the observatory as saying.

The release of the council’s figures came a day after the government promised to focus on healing social and religious fractures in French society by starting with schools. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called schools the "essential link" in transmitting French values to those in the country’s notorious big-city suburbs, called "banlieues,” which house many of France's poorest — especially minorities with immigrant roots, including many Muslims from former French colonies.

The plans announced Thursday include special training and testing for teachers about French and European citizenship, along with secularism and how to teach it. Concern about schools fueled national debate after some children refused to observe a minute of silence for victims of the Jan. 7-9 attacks. Valls shocked many this week by referring to a "territorial, social, ethnic apartheid" that especially affects the suburbs.

"We have to look at all the divisions, the tensions that have been going on for years ... the neglect of the suburbs, the ghettos, the social misery," Valls said Tuesday. "A geographical, social and ethnic apartheid has established itself in our country."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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