French TV journalist Ophélie Meunier, 34, presents the documentary series Zone Interdite, with the recent episode examining the impact of radical Islamic influence in France
A journalist has been placed under police protection after presenting a documentary on the impact of radical Islam on a French town.
Ophélie Meunier, 34, has received death threats for her role in Zone Interdite, a hard-hitting documentary centered on the impoverished northern town of Roubaix.
The show featured a restaurant with booths where women could eat without being seen by men, and a toy store that sold faceless dolls to Muslims who follow the Islamic rule that prohibits the depiction of facial features from any kind whatsoever.
Authorities closed the featured restaurant, Le Familial, after the show aired for “health and safety reasons.”
Residents of Roubaix argued that the cabins were not just accessible to Muslim women, but to everyone.
He also drew attention to a €64,640 (£53,715) payout to the local council, given to an ‘association’ to help teach poorer pupils in Roubaix, which was later charged by prosecutors with be used to provide Islamic education instead.
A Muslim lawyer from Roubaix, Amine Elbahi, who spoke out about radical Islam on the show, was also placed under police protection after saying he was threatened with beheading.
Mr Elbahi, 26, appears in several sequences of Zone Interdite – translating to Zone Restreinte – broadcast on the French private television channel M6.
He told French news channel BMFTV that his phone number had circulated on social media and that “several calls for murder had been broadcast”.
The program featured a toy store that sold faceless dolls for Muslims who follow the Islamic rule that prohibits the depiction of facial features of any kind. Pictured is a woman draped in the Hamas flag and members of the pro-Palestinian group in Roubaix, France (file photo)
“I am threatened with beheading, slitting, aggression because I held a speech of truth with an open face, and in particular on the inaction of the mayor of my commune”, he declared.
“What I said upset people. Considering the threats I receive, my aim must have been right.
Mr. Elbahi informed about the criminal investigation into the Roubaix “association” presented in the M6 program, Ambitions et Initiatives pour la Réussite.
His lawyer, Me Jean Tamalet, claims that Mr. Elbahi received threats on social networks, notably on Twitter in particular, but also text messages, WhatsApp messages and voice recordings.
In the threatening messages, he is described as “Kafir”, which translates to “non-believer” or “infidel” in Arabic.
‘Kafir’ is a word used by supporters of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups to refer to ‘Muslim and non-Muslim adversaries’ through ‘various propaganda outlets’, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
Lawyer Jean Tamalet told AFP: “He is being told he is going to be beheaded and shot. We will let no threat pass.
“We will press charges against anyone threatening this gentleman.”
Three members of the charity, which received the municipal gratuity of 64,640 euros, accused by the prosecution of being used to offer Islamic education, are due to appear in court on Wednesday alongside the mayor of Roubaix.
Broadcast on private French TV channel M6, Amine Elbahi, 26, is another member of the documentary crew who was placed under protection after receiving death threats (File photo taken in Roubaix, France)
French law stipulates that public bodies are prohibited from contributing to religious charities, a law that aims to uphold the secular values and opinions of the state.
Mayor Guillaume Delbar, 50, is accused of breaking the law “negligently” when he gave the association the green light to receive funds, but he says he may have been deceived.
The three members of the association are accused of breach of trust – which they deny. They say the association has never offered religious classes.
Muriel Cuardrado, a lawyer for one of the association’s members, explained that the association had previously helped children from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain the baccalaureate, the French national diploma that students can obtain at the end of secondary school.
“When I read in the press that it is a proselytizing association, it gives me stomach cramps,” she said.
Mayor Delbar said he decided to partner with the association because it “has developed a wonderful program to help the children of Roubaix achieve academic success”.
He continued: “I may have been deceived. I may have made a mistake. But the debate should not be manipulated by those who see separatists everywhere.
Separatists is a term used by President Macron to condemn Muslims who he says “divide the nation” by living in their own communities with their own rules and customs.