A French journalist was granted police protection after hosting a documentary about the impact of radical Islam on a poor town in the north of the country.
Ophélie Meunier, 34, has received death threats in the wake of Zone Interdite – or ‘Exclusion Zone’ – a documentary aired in France on January 23, which looks at the influence of strict Islamic views in the Belgian border town of Roubaix.
Meunier found a restaurant where women can eat separately from men and a toy shop selling faceless dolls to conform to Islam’s strict interpretations, which forbid the depiction of facial features.
She also spoke to Amine Elbahi, 26, a Muslim lawyer from Roubaix who helped expose the educational institution that received £53,000 in public money to educate poor children but was instead accused of spreading Islamic teachings.
Elbahi spoke out against the influence of radical Islam in the film and has now been branded an “infidel” and threatened with beheading. He is also under police guard.
The news that the couple have been threatened has sparked an outcry in France, where many feel the secularism on which the modern republic was founded is threatened by religious ideologies imported by foreign migrants.
Ophélie Meunier, 34, a French journalist, has received death threats after she produced a documentary exposing the influence of radical Islam on a northern French town
The documentary uncovered a toy store in Roubaix that sold faceless dolls.
Bernard Rougier, pictured, professor of Arab civilization and society at Sorbonne Paris III University and specialist in radical Islam, says the faceless dolls and teddy bears represent the introduction of an ideological principle into the world of childhood
Emmanuel Macron, a centrist preparing for an April presidential election in which he is likely to face a right-wing challenger, has been accused of being lenient on immigration and failing to defend French values.
Eric Zemmour, a far-right commentator and Macron rival who has twice been convicted of hate crimes for making comments about Islam, quickly aligned himself with Meunier after it was revealed she had been threatened.
“Ophélie Meunier is in mortal danger,” he tweeted Saturday as the documentary drew attention.
Amine Elbahi, 26, a Muslim lawyer from Roubaix who spoke in the film, was also threatened with beheading
“That’s what happens when you show the French the Islamization of our country. Millions of patriots thank her for her courage.”
In a clip shared on Zone Interdite’s official Twitter page, radical Islam specialist Professor Bernard Rougier holds the faceless dolls and teddy bears while declaring: “It’s a way of showing that from childhood will be a better Muslim than others and implies others are not good or true Muslims.
“And so it’s the introduction of an ideological principle into the world of childhood… In that sense it’s quite worrying, yes.”
The hidden camera footage shows the undercover reporter walking into stores that sell the dolls, which also sell books with the same images.
A Muslim lawyer from Roubaix, Amine Elbahi, who spoke out on the program about radical Islam, was also placed under police protection after he said he had been threatened with beheading.
Mr Elbahi, 26, appears in several sequences of Zone Interdite – translated Exclusion Zone – broadcast on French private TV channel M6.
He has told French news channel BMFTV that his phone number has been circulating on social media and “several murder calls have been sent”.
“I have been threatened with beheading, slashing and assault for making a truthful speech with my face uncovered, specifically about the inaction of my municipality’s mayor,” he said.
“What I said upset people. Given the threats I’m receiving, my goal must have been right.”
Toy shops in Roubaix also stocked “Hamza teddy bears” that had no facial features, among other toys that follow Islamic law, which forbids the depiction of facial features of any kind
Mr Elbahi referred to the criminal investigations against the Roubaix-based “association” featured on the M6 program, Ambitions et Initiatives pour la Réussite (Ambitions and Initiatives for Success).
His lawyer, Mr Jean Tamalet, says Mr Elbahi has received threats on social media, particularly Twitter, but also texts, WhatsApp messages and voice recordings.
In the threatening messages, he is referred to as a “kafir,” which means “infidel” or “infidel” in Arabic.
“Kafir” was a word used by supporters of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to denote “Muslim and non-Muslim opponents” through “various propaganda materials,” according to the Counter Extremism Project.
Attorney Jean Tamalet told AFP: “He was told to be beheaded and slaughtered. We won’t let a single threat get away.
“We will report anyone who threatens this gentleman.”
Three members of the charity who received the €64,640 council payment and are accused by prosecutors of being abused to offer Islamic education are due to appear in court alongside the mayor of Roubaix on Wednesday.
French legislation states that public entities are prohibited from donating to religious charities, a law intended to uphold the state’s secular values and views.
Mayor Guillaume Delbar, 50, is accused of “negligently” breaking that law when he gave the coalition the green light for funding, but says he may have been framed.
The three club members are accused of infidelity – which they deny. You say the association has never offered religious instruction.
Muriel Cuardrado, a lawyer for one of the charity’s members, said the association had previously helped children from disadvantaged backgrounds earn the baccalauréat, the French national academic qualification that students can obtain at the end of secondary school.
“When I read in the press that this is a missionary association, I get stomach cramps,” she said.
Mayor Delbar said he decided to stand behind the association because he had “developed an impressive program of support for the educational success of Roubaix’s children”.
He continued: “I might have been tricked. I might have made a mistake. But the debate must not be manipulated by those who see separatists everywhere.”
Separatists is a term President Macron uses to condemn Muslims who he says are “dividing the nation” by living in their own communities with their own rules and customs.