July 7, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10696

Arab Commentators, Muslim Clerics Call France's Riots Divine Punishment For Its Anti-Islam Policies, Payback For Its Colonial History

July 7, 2023
Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestinians, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 10696

In response to the riots that erupted in France following the tragic incident of the police shooting and killing of a teenage boy named Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on June 27, 2023, various Arab commentators, including Muslim clerics, took to social media and websites to express their perspectives. They argued that the rioters' violent reactions can be seen as a form of divine punishment against France due to its anti-Islam policies and positions, as well as a consequence of its colonial history and foreign interventions.

This report aims to examine and highlight the commentaries presenting these arguments across multiple social media platforms and websites. Rather than seeing it only or solely as a civil rights issue among the French involving police brutality, many saw it as divinely inspired revenge against an old adversary for a multitude of past transgressions, from comments by Brigitte Bardot to the intervention against Qaddafi's Libya.

Commenting on the recent riots in France, Libyan cleric and YouTuber Zain Kairalah referred, in a video, to a statement made by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2020, in which he described Islam as being in crisis. Kairalah claimed that both France and Macron have faced numerous crises since that statement was made. He invoked Quranic verse 15:95, stating that Allah may have intended to fulfill it by saying, "Indeed, We are sufficient for you against the mockers." Kairalah emphasized that Allah will eventually take care of those who mock Islam and administer punishment accordingly. Towards the end of his video, Kairalah pointed out the current struggles faced by Macron, stating, "Look at the person who claimed Islam is in crisis; he himself is now experiencing a crisis. He has faced humiliation multiple times, and his country has suffered economic and political crises."[1]

On July 3, 2023, Syrian YouTuber Abduldaem Al-Kaheel, who identifies himself as a researcher of the scientific miracles of the Quran and Sunnah, echoed a similar argument. In his video, Al-Kaheel accused France of waging war against Allah and oppressing Muslims and stated: "But Allah says: Do not ever think that Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. Quran 14:42 One of the most unjust acts is their deliberate mistreatment of two billion Muslims, now Allah Himself has preoccupied them with their own selves. They have mocked this Prophet, but Allah Almighty says, 'Indeed, We are sufficient for you against the mockers.' I was thinking about this verse at that time. What does it mean when Allah says, 'Indeed, We are sufficient for you against the mockers?' They are mocking now... Look, my dear brother, Allah has preoccupied them with events, problems, and disturbances."[2]

On Twitter, user Nasser Al-Nasser commented on the unfolding events in France in a series of questions tweeted July 1, 2023, in which he hinted at France's foreign policies and colonial history. He wrote: "What is happening in France?? Is it the vengeance of fate? Is it the result of France's crimes in Africa during the colonial period?? Or is it the result of France's crimes and the civil wars it created or participated in in Lebanon and Syria?? Or is it the result of French conspiracies against Iran and its attempt to ignite a civil war last year in the name of freedom?? Or is it the result of the theft of African gold? Or is it the result of all of this and what was hidden is even greater? Will the situation spread to other European countries?? Will we witness other internal crises?"[3]

In a video titled "France is burning due to Macron's racist policies," Algerian political commentator and former diplomat Mohamed Larbi Zitout claimed that the riots were a result of France's systematic provocations and hostility towards Islam, and referred to the death of teenager as the "the final straw that broke the camel's back."

In the video, which was posted on July 1, 2023, he stressed that French politicians should understand that anyone who challenges Islam by expressing hostility towards it will be defeated. After accusing France of extreme hostility towards Islam and Muslims with a widespread "colonial mentality" among lawmakers, he noted that he realized that many Muslims who live in France have celebrated and rejoiced over the riots because "they believe that the rioters are avenging them, and they believe that the reactions of the rioters is rational against humiliation, oppression and hostility."[4]

On July 1, 2023, Moroccan cleric Abdellah Nhari argued, in a video on his YouTube channel, that the riots in France are a form of payback for France colonial history and the damage it had caused in the countries it colonized. He said: "For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. France must drink from the same cup." He mentioned French former film star Brigitte Bardot's condemnation of Muslims for celebrating Eid Al-Adha by sacrificing animals, saying that she had aimed to label Muslims as bloodthirsty, and then commented: "Now we see this people engaging in the destruction of banks, shops, hotels, cars, and roads. Whoever sows such harmful plants must inevitably reap harm."[5]

U.K-based Algerian TV host and producer Hafsi Ahmed reiterated Nhari's point on June 29, 2023, expressing his support for the riots in a tweet he shared with his 20,000+ followers using hashtags "Racist France" and "France is Burning." He wrote: "France will pay the price for plundering Africa's wealth, within its own borders. Here are scenes showing what happened to a series of ZARA stores. Note: Anything is permissible, and we even support it. Those who have admonitions and slogans of the Republic of Plato should keep them to themselves."[6]

On July 1, 2023, the online Arabic daily published an article by its UK-based Palestinian editor-in-chief Abdel-Bari Atwan that stated that the riots "were not only the result of the police's assassination of the Algerian teenager Nahel, but rather the result of escalating frustration due to the prevalence of injustice, oppression, the excessive power of security apparatus, and the inhumane living conditions that migrants, especially those of Arab and Islamic origins, endure." Atwan further described France as "one of the leading centers of racism, hatred, and Islamophobia in the European continent," adding that "Nahel's assassination by a police officer served as the catalyst for an underlying and increasingly explosive frustration that has become difficult to control."

Elaborating on his analysis of the riots in France, Atwan wrote: "The issue is not only about racist policies, marginalization, and the adoption of hatred [and] Islamophobia, but also a regrettable return to the colonial past and its legacy in dealing with the immigrant descendants of colonies in France. It extends to political, military, and economic interventions in a destructive and bloody manner in their original countries. Wasn't it the French government under Nicolas Sarkozy that led the military intervention in Libya, sending NATO planes to bomb innocent civilians and causing the death of tens of thousands of them under the pretext of supporting the 'revolution' and changing the dictatorial regime? Later, we discovered that the reality was completely different, and the actual goal was to plunder oil and gas resources, undermine Muammar Gaddafi's project to introduce the African dinar backed by gold, and combat the creeping colonial influence in the African continent."[7]

Similarly, writer Atef Saadawy wrote in an article titled "France: We love you; We Hate you" that was published July 5, 2023 on the UAE-based online news website that the riots were "not just a response to a heinous and unjustifiable murder, but a response to long-standing historical accumulations that extend beyond the current century." He further explained his views regarding the violent protests by saying: "It was not a momentary anger, but rather an anger that awaits the opportune moment to explode and leave nothing behind. It is an anger that seeks revenge from the past more than it triumphs for the present, looks towards the future, or seeks justice for the victim. It is an anger loaded with many complex historical grudges and buried, hidden hatred, waiting for the opportunity to break free. And now it has found it. This hatred holds the current France accountable for all the mistakes and sins of previous French republics, not only in Algeria but in every country it occupied throughout its history. This hatred punishes France for what its proponents call its "long colonial crimes" and its dark past soaked in the blood of innocents."[8]

Some commentators have mocked France for its support of the events of the Arab Spring beginning in 2010 by tagging a 2012 tweet by the Arab Twitter account of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs that expressed such support. For example, under the hashtag "France is Burning," Saudi Twitter user Eng. Hussam Al-Asiri tweeted to his 33,000 followers on July 1, 2023: "You have tasted the bitterness from the same cup that you tried to use to destroy nations, and here we see you today acting contrary to your alleged beliefs. Therefore, I wanted to present this song to you with a warm voice, hoping that you would believe in democracy once again and demand an end to your excessive use of force against your own people."[9]


[1], July 1, 2023.

[2], July 3, 2023.

[3], July 1, 2023.

[4], June 1, 2023.

[5], July 1, 2023.

[6], June 29, 2023.

[7], July 1, 2023.

[8], July 5, 2023.

[9], July 1, 2023.

Share this Report:

Help Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI

MEMRI is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax-deductible and kept strictly confidential.