[Opinion] Why France's shutdown of a pseudo-human rights NGO is so important
On 2 December, the French government shut down CCIF (Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France), a well-known group that claims to fight Islamophobia and promote human rights. This reflects an increased awareness that charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can pose a real threat to society – something that we at NGO Monitor have been documenting for years.
CCIF was shut down not because its leadership was arrested for terror-linked or violent activities, nor for being indicted for similar actions. Rather, CCIF was closed for creating an atmosphere of hate, discrimination, and antisemitism and for spreading conspiracy theories. The French government accused the NGO of using the façade of human rights to advance politically motivated ideologies that involve hate speech, incite to violence, and in certain cases glorification of terror and terrorists.
The government’s decision cites evidence that the senior leadership at CCIF holds extreme Islamist political views and associates with radical Islam elements (including Al Qaida fighters). The decision document goes into great detail and references specific statements and incidents, such as CCIF’s close connection to an individual who justified ritual stoning and described AIDS as a punishment for sinful behaviour. Particular attention is given to this individual also promoting antisemitism and creating an atmosphere that would allow or even call for physical violence against Jews.
Notably, in 2012 during the debate over cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, the NGO shared caricatures by a caricaturist described by the French government as an infamous antisemite and Holocaust denier. The government also underlines CCIF’s failure to reject violence and condemn terror, which is seen as a form of endorsement.
Reflecting these concerns, for years NGO Monitor has pointed to clear connections between terror groups and senior officials at Palestinian NGOs, as well as their public endorsement of violence and glorification of terror. We highlighted multiple cases of NGOs promoting antisemitic tropes, accompanied by an almost blanket failure to condemn terror and the murder of innocent civilians.