State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014 - Case study: Tahiti: Islamophobia in French Polynesia

French Polynesia is an overseas country (pays d'outre-mer) of the French Republic made up of several groups of Polynesian islands. The most densely inhabited island is Tahiti, with almost 70 per cent of the country's diverse population. While the majority of French Polynesians identify as unmixed Polynesians, there are also large numbers of mixed Polynesians, Europeans and demis, of French and Polynesian descent, as well as a significant minority of East Asians.

Despite the island's long history as a multi-ethnic society, however, tensions have been growing in recent years among the largely Christian population with regard to the Muslim minority. In October 2013, hundreds of French Polynesians took to the streets of Papeete to protest against the opening of a mosque for the approximately 500 Muslims living in the archipelago. The mosque, which would have been the first in French Polynesia, was inaugurated on 15 October 2013 to celebrate the Islamic religious holiday Aïd al-Kébir. The protests led to the prayer room being shut within days of its opening, with the city administration deciding that the premises could only be used as office space due to allegedly failing to meet public safety standards.

Nevertheless, following heated public debate, the government confirmed the constitutional rights to freedom of religion and assembly, and issued a statement reaffirming the principles of freedom of culture and thought. The statement highlighted French Polynesia's history as a country where many cultures have peacefully coexisted. Nevertheless, following the protests, the lawyer for the French imam lodged a complaint against the authors of anti-Muslim postings on the internet who set up pages to denounce the mosque. The lawyer also stated that he had received death threats for taking on the case.

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