Mila Orriols, a 16-year-old French girl who had criticised Islam on social media, was forced to go into hiding after she received thousands of death threats from Muslim fundamentalists. Humanists International expresses its solidarity with Mila, calling upon the French Government to intervene to stand on the side of freedom of expression and thought, unconditionally condemning the hate of religious fundamentalists.
On 18 January Mila posted a series of stories on her Instagram account in reply to one of her followers, who had attacked her with homophobic insults. In her reply Mila said the following:
“I hate religion, […] there is nothing but hate in the Quran, Islam is shit, that’s what I think. I am not racist, not at all. You cannot be racist towards a religion. I said what I thought, you will not make me regret it. There are still people who will get offended, I clearly don’t give a damn, I say what I want, what I think. “
The video was reposted online and quickly went viral, provoking hateful and violent reactions from thousands of Muslim fundamentalists around France and abroad. “I receive 200 messages of hate each minute”, said Mila, who on 20 January went into hiding under the protection of the French police.
“I have not insulted anyone, nor threatened anyone, nor called for violence against anyone. What I did was blasphemy, general criticism of religions, and nothing else.”
The public debate in France escalated quickly, dividing the population between those expressing their solidarity with Mila and using the hashtag #JeSuisMila and those expressing their disagreement with the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasMila.
During a radio interview, the Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, condemned the death treats, whilst also adding that “insult of religion is an attack to freedom of conscience“. Minister Belloubet later clarified her statement, defining it as “clumsy”, and adding in a tweet that “One can criticise religion. One cannot incite to hatred”. Later on, she admitted: “I should not have said it”.
Humanists International’s Membership Engagement Manager, Giovanni Gaetani, commented:
“What is happening in France is terrible and cannot be underestimated. It is not acceptable that a teenage girl is under the protection of the police for merely having criticised one religion.
“It does not matter in which terms or how harshly she criticised it. In this regard, the accusations of ‘islamophobia’ or ‘incitement to hatred’ are false, as the Public Prosecutor concluded some hours ago. Mila did not attack any single person. She only criticised one specific religion.
“What is really at stake in the ‘Affaire Mila’ is the right to freedom of thought and expression, a value recognised not only by the French constitution, but also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The French Government cannot be ambiguous nor shy in this regard, otherwise the message that it sends to religious fundamentalists is that they are allowed to violently limit the right to freedom of expression of others if they feel that their religious feelings are offended: this is not acceptable for an European liberal democracy in 2020.
“We unequivocally condemn the hateful messages and the death threats received by Mila, while blaming the initial clumsy reaction of the Minister of Justice and praising instead those who took a clear stand in defence of Mila, like Marlène Schiappa, French Secretary of Equality between women and men, and the Moroccan-born French journalist Zineb El Rhazoui.
“France is a secular country and it is important that we reaffirm one clear principle: that secularism is for the sake of all citizens, and that freedom of thought and expression are non-negotiable values.”