French govt defends teen girl bullied for anti-Islam posts

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PARIS — The cyber-bullying must stop.

That was the message forcefully delivered by France’s equality minister in an impassioned appeal Friday on behalf of a 16-year-old who has been hounded online after posting comments critical of Islam.

The girl has faced a deluge of insults and threats. She had to stop attending classes, and a French prosecutor has launched two police investigations after the location of her school and other details about her were published online, French media have reported.

Her anti-Islam comments and the reaction to them have split opinions online, where there are hashtags for and against the teen.

For some, she brought the storm upon herself with Instagram video posts last week that crudely savaged the religion in a country with an estimated 5 million Muslims. For others, she was simply exercising the right to free expression, legally guaranteed and fiercely defended in France.

Without getting into the right or wrong of what the teen said, the government’s point-person against sexism and other forms of discrimination was witheringly critical of the cyber-bullying that the teen is facing.

“No woman is responsible for the violence she suffers. None. Never,” said Marlene Schiappa, the secretary of state for sexual equality and combating discrimination.

Schiappa noted that French legislation enacted in 2018 outlawed cyber-bullying in groups. She said she wants judicial authorities to act in this case.

She also said the teen wants French media to stop publishing photos and videos of her.

“I hope that everyone can put political considerations aside and respect the wishes of a young, 16-year-old girl who is violently threatened,” Schiappa said.

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