Racism is crime, not opinion, says French lawmaker

Millions of French people felt hurt, Carlos Martens Bilongo tells Anadolu Agency after being target of racial abuse at parliament.

Racism is crime, not opinion, says French lawmaker

Racism is not an opinion but a crime, asserted a French lawmaker who was the target of racial harassment earlier this month while addressing the country's parliament.

Weeks after the incident, National Assembly member Carlos Martens Bilongo expressed to Anadolu Agency how deplorable it was to have heard such words in 2022.

"By insulting an elected official, we insult France," said Bilongo, who represents the eighth constituency of the Val-d'Oise department, just north of Paris. "There are millions of French people who felt hurt" due to the racism he faced, added the Black lawmaker of the Unyielding France (LFI) party.

On Nov. 3, Bilongo was interrupted while addressing the chamber by fellow member of the National Assembly Gregoire de Fournas, from the National Unity (RN) party, who yelled from his seat: "Go back to Africa." The session was promptly cut short after the comment.

At the time of the verbal attack, Bilongo was making a speech to draw attention to the situation of 234 migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking aid ship but stranded at sea for days due to the refusal of any EU country to accept them.

Asked whether he or other deputies had been subjected to such racist harassment before, Bilongo replied: "I've heard of it before, unfortunately. After this sad incident, I was insulted again via email, mail, various channels, Twitter, and the like."

Besides these, he said he also received messages of support, which he welcomed.

In a plea for unity to "keep this humanist arc of living together, and sweeping away racism, xenophobia and hatred of the other" at a time when the world is "perhaps at the dawn of a new war," Bilongo urged everyone to persevere and show courage, even in "adversity."

Though the far-right Fournas, told local press that this comment was meant toward those on the migrant ship, not Bilango, the incident has been at the center of controversy for a long time.

On Nov. 4, the French National Assembly slapped Fournas with a two-month cut to his parliamentary allowance and banned him from the assembly for 15 days.