France’s national survey on levels of racism in the country shows a slight increase in the country’s tolerance, the Local reported Monday. The survey’s results also come amid a sharp rise in racist incidents that many believe are in response to the high-profile terror attacks in France and Belgium over the past year.
The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights conducts the survey annually to assess the levels of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in France. In 2014 and 2015, the survey found levels of racism were rising in the country, but the 2016 report found the trend has started to reverse.
“The tensions around identity issues, which have risen in recent years, have greatly improved,” the authors of the report wrote. “The conflicts within French society are dwindling, and racist behavior and remarks are deemed increasingly intolerable.”
Researchers said they were surprised racism had gone down despite the terror attacks, according to the Local. They believe moments of national unity after the terror attacks may have helped to promote tolerance.
However, the results of the survey indicate that despite the waning racism, France still has a long way to go. In this year’s survey, 50 percent of French people said they were “not at all” racist, compared with 43 percent last year.
And despite the survey’s findings, reports of violent incidents and other crimes against minorities, particularly Muslims and Jews, have been frequent in recent months. The French Ministry of the Interior found a rise of 22.4 percent in the number of actions characterized as racist, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim, the Local reported. Overall, there were 2,034 incidents in the past year, the highest number since these surveys began.
After members of the Islamic State group killed more than 130 people and wounded hundreds in Paris in November 2015, Muslims in France felt fearful, not supported, the New York Times reported at the time. This contrasted with the expressions of solidarity after the attack in January 2015 on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead. By the end of last year, Dilcra, a government body that monitors racism in France, recorded more than 400 hate crimes against French Muslims alone, the Local reported. That represented three times more anti-Muslim hate crimes than the previous year, when 133 were reported.
French Jews have also experienced a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in recent years. The Ministry of the Interior found that despite making up just 1 percent of the French population, Jews account for 40 percent of racist attacks. This is down from 50 percent in 2014, according to a 2015 report by the French Jewish Community Protection Services, but still represents a disproportionate number.
A rise in anti-Muslim attacks has been seen in the United States as well after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December that left 14 dead. But France had already had an uneasy relationship with its Muslim population, and many have said the recent terror attacks are likely to make life more difficult for Muslims there and elsewhere in Europe. Researchers said it's too early to predict whether the rise in tolerance will continue through 2016, but they noted: “It appears that French society refuses to make an amalgam between terrorism and Islam, and promotes the acceptance of others.”