PARIS, Sept 26 — France’s Muslims held marches today to express their disgust after a radical Algerian group allied with Islamic State beheaded a French hostage.
Dalil Boubakeur, President of the French Council of Muslim Faith, held a gathering outside the Paris Mosque, where he is the rector.
“We, Muslims of France, are shocked by the murder of innocents; we are horrified by this barbarism, by this terrorism,” Boubakeur told a crowd of several thousand gathered after Friday prayers before a minute of silence. “With such blind barbarity, how can they talk of Islam,” He was flanked by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and a Catholic monseigneur.
Similar events to condemn Islamic State were held at mosques in Lyon, Nantes, and Bordeaux.
“These people don’t understand the religion,” Abdelkerim Janah, the imam of Nantes told the crowd.
Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy, a Paris suburb with a large immigrant population, has called for a rally on September 28 at Paris’s Place de la Republique.
“It is crucial that the Muslims of France and Europe come out and condemn this barbarity,” Chalghoumi said in an interview yesterday on France Info radio. “It is a duty.”
President Francois Hollande September 24 confirmed that an Algerian militant group had killed Herve Gourdel, a mountain guide they had seized three days earlier east of Algiers and threatened to kill if France didn’t cease bombing raids against the Islamic State in Iraq. A video showing the beheading was posted this week, said SITE Intelligence Group, a watchdog that tracks militant movements.
“There is the world of human beings and then there is the world of these people,” Boubakeur said on France Info radio yesterday. “I don’t know how their brains work. They are monsters.”
The killing followed videos over the past month showing the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker by Islamic State, and a call by Islamic State’s spokesman to kill Americans and Europeans, particularly the “dirty French.”
The rector of the Lyon mosque, Kamel Kabtane, wrote a joint letter entitled “We are dirty French too” published on newspaper Le Figaro’s website and signed by 19 French Muslims including university professors, lawyers, and doctors.
“These savages have no right to claim to be Muslim and to speak in our name,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, the #notinmyname Twitter campaign that began in Britain earlier this month, has hit France, with 56,000 tweets in the past five days, according to Topsy.com.
The campaign, which began after a British hostage was murdered in Syria, involves individual Muslims posting photos or videos and holding signs saying “notinmyname,” to disassociate themselves from the Islam preached by Islamic State.
The Union of Islamic Organisations of France, which has been accused of being close to the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement two days ago “condemning with the greatest firmness the horrible assassination of our compatriot Herve Gourdel” and saying that “the Muslims of France and of the world reject any association with these crimes.”
Individual Muslim organisations have condemned Islamic State ever since it went on the offensive over the summer, threatening the stability of Iraq, and as the press reported the growing number of French youth in their ranks.
On September 9, three of the largest French Muslim organisations jointly signed a statement of solidarity with Christian Iraqis threatened by Islamic State, and told mosques to read a statement in support of Arab Christians at the following Friday’s prayers.
French Muslim organisations are often divided along ethnic lines, with individual organisations and mosques representing Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians or Turks.
French law forbids the collection of official statistics on race or religion.
A Pew Research Center study in 2011 estimated that France has 4.7 million Muslims, or about 7 per cent of France’s 65 million inhabitants, making it the country’s second-largest religion. Other studies have found as few as 1.8 million and as many as 8 million Muslims, often depending on what question the survey asks.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament this week that 580 French people have gone to fight in Syria with radical Islamist groups, and that 36 have died there.
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France’s top anti-terrorist magistrate until retiring in 2007, said there’s little Muslim leaders can do to stop young people heading to Syria.
“The mode of recruitment and radicalisation is now totally different,” he told reporters September 12. “It’s all online now, whereas before it was by physical contact. It’s all so quick now. From their incitement to the time they leave for Syria can be a matter of weeks.” — Bloomberg