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"I say what I think. I'm not a racist "

Eine muslimische Schülerin vor dem Eingang einer Schule in der französischen Stadt Meaux (Archivbild aus dem November 2015)A French student criticizes Islam. Then she receives death threats and has to “go into hiding”. And all of France is discussing how much criticism of religion can be possible - and in what tone.

A French teen, Mila, has been fearful for her life since she cruelly criticized Islam on her Instagram account. "I hate religion, the Koran is full of hatred ... your religion is shit," said the 16-year-old student. Since then, she has received death threats and had to "go into hiding" with relatives on the advice of the police. She cannot go to school because anonymous agitators revealed the address of her high school on the Internet and called for the "godless bitch" to be punished.

The case has sparked heated debate in France after Abdullah Zekri, CFCM delegate general of the French Islam Council, justified the threats against Mila. Zekri said Mila had provoked the reactions and now has to deal with it herself. "If you sow wind, you have to expect the storm," said Zekri on the radio station Sud Radio. "The girl knows what she's saying. (...) She insulted religion, now she has to bear the consequences of her words," he said. Zekri also heads the French Islamophobia Observatory.

"We are in France, not in Saudi Arabia"
The French State Secretary for Women's Rights, Marlène Schiappa, called Zekri's statements "criminal" and "unworthy". Marine Le Pen said the teenager's comments were "the oral version of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons". The perpetrators justified the terrorist attack on the editorial staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 after the publication of the Mohammad cartoons. "Mila's statements can be considered vulgar, but we cannot accept that someone in France will be sentenced to death," wrote the party leader of the Rassemblement National on Twitter.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet (LREM) further fueled the discussion with a radio interview. She commented on the incident involving Mila's critical words about Islam. "Insulting religion is a violation of freedom of conscience," said Belloubet on Europe 1. "We are in France, not in Saudi Arabia. Every religion can be criticized. Blasphemy is not a criminal offense," said Republican (LR) Senate Group Leader Bruno Retailleau. The youth lawyer, Richard Malka, called the Justice Minister's comment shocking. Malka said she had parroted the propaganda of the Islamic World League, which campaigns across Europe to punish blasphemy.

The Justice Minister has since corrected her statement and described it as "unfortunate". The judiciary initiated two investigations. A first trial on whether the statements made by the young people could be rated as “hate speech” was discontinued on Thursday. The second trial, directed against the people who sent the death threats, is still ongoing.

Mila explained in the daily Libération that everything started with a live posting on Instagram, in which she exchanged ideas with a lesbian acquaintance about the beauty of Arab women. A Muslim man is said to have interfered and insulted them as "dirty lesbians". That is why she recorded her video, in which she expressed her opinion about religions in general and Islam in particular. "I say what I think. I am not a racist. I have the right to say what I think I have no regrets," said Mila.

Frankfurter Allgemeine
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