While French authorities believe the blaze that destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral was accidental, it has brought attention to the surge of attacks on Christian symbols in Europe.
Nearly 2,000 Christian houses of worship in France have been desecrated in the past two years, according to police. In Germany, there were four such incidents in March.
Some French politicians have attributed the church desecrations — averaging more than two a day — to “militant secularism.”
But in virtually every attack across Europe, writes Raymond Ibrahim for the Gatestone Institute, “authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals.”
“In those rare instances when the Muslim (or “migrant”) identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues,” he writes.
Ibrahim cited an analysis by the German website PI News that observed: “Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols. There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators.”
Authorities avoid at all costs blaming migrants, the website said.
“It is not the perpetrators who are in danger of being ostracized, but those who dare to associate the desecration of Christian symbols with immigrant imports. They are accused of hatred, hate speech and racism.”
French police documented 875 attacks in 2018 and 1,045 in 2017, the Sun newspaper of London reported just nine days before the Notre Dame fire.
ISIS followers online called the Notre Dame fire “retribution and punishment” from Allah. And many social-media users with Muslims names were saying the same Monday.
Paris public prosecutor Remy Heitz said Tuesday there was no obvious indication the fire was caused by arson. The roof was undergoing a massive $6.8 million renovation project when the blaze broke out. Reuters reported 50 people were working on the investigation.
Ibrahim, author of the new book “Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West,” is a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
‘That’s enough of this code of silence’
Recent attacks on churches have included a fire in Saint-Sulpice church in Paris, human feces smeared on a wall in Notre-Dame-des-Enfacts in Nimes and the vandalization of the organ at Saint-Denis basilica outside Paris.
Police believe the fire at Saint-Sulpice was started deliberately.
After the Saint-Sulpice fire, the Sun reported, the leader of the Republican party in France, Laurent Wauquiez, charged media was not giving the issue enough attention.
“Saint-Sulpice is not only a church, it’s a part of who we are. That’s enough of this code of silence,” Wauquiez said, according to the Sun.
Two opposition members have called for a parliamentary investigation into anti-Christian acts.
Last year, in addition to the desecrations, 129 churches reported thefts, and the French interior ministry said 59 church cemeteries were vandalized.
PI News said that in Germany, “there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity: attacks on mountain-summit crosses, on sacred statues by the wayside, on churches… and recently also on cemeteries.”
Ibrahim writes that the report offers a hint of who is behind the attacks.
“Crosses are broken, altars smashed, Bibles set on fire, baptismal fonts overturned, and the church doors smeared with Islamic expressions like ‘Allahu Akbar.'”
He cites a November 2017 report by a German website that in the Alps and Bavaria alone, around 200 churches were attacked, and many of the perpetrators are “youthful rioters with a migration background.”
Elsewhere, notes Ibrahim, they are described as “young Islamists.”
He writes that in European regions with large Muslim populations, “there seems to be a concomitant rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols.”
In the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, where more than a million Muslims reside, for example, some 50 public Christian statues were beheaded and crucifixes broken prior to Christmas in 2016.
A local newspaper in the German town of Dülmen reported in 2016 that “not a day goes by” without attacks on religious statues in the town of less than 50,000 people and the immediate surrounding area.
In January 2017, a study found Islamic extremist attacks on Christians in France rose by 38 percent, from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016. The majority took place during the Christmas season.