France's Muslim community is expressing growing concern that Islam has become a major topic of political debate and manipulation in the run-up to the country's presidential election.
Right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen and nationalist politician Eric Zemmour openly oppose Islam and make "denunciatory" speeches about the "Muslim threat" and their rhetoric is often echoed by officials at various levels.
On Monday, Zemmour claimed that the city of Roubaix in northern France is "Afghanistan 2 hours from Paris," bbabo.net reported citing the Daily Sabah.
“French residents who are Muslims should lead a French way of life and not consider sharia law above the laws of the republic,” the politician said in a radio interview.
The Islamophobic rhetoric coming from the mass media creates an extremely uncomfortable environment for the country's Muslims.
“Sometimes I tell myself that no one can even imagine how aggressive all this is,” says psychiatrist Fatma Bouvet, a French Muslim woman of Tunisian origin.
“Sometimes we even arrange meetings among the Arabs to talk about how bad things are.”
“I feel terrible,” says Khadija, a 38-year-old social worker. “I have the impression that today's France spits on my grandfathers, who fought to free her, and on my parents, who came to build her roads.”