Sarkozy condemns racist arson attack on mosque

22nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

About 1,000 people demonstrated Sunday to protest against rise in Islamophobia following an arson attack on a mosque near Lyon.

SAINT-PRIEST – French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Sunday the "ashamedly racist" arson attack on a mosque in southeast France at the weekend and promised to bring the vandals to justice.

"I learned with consternation about the arson attack that damaged Saint Priest Mosque," Sarkozy wrote in a letter to Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM).

"I condemn with utter firmness this ashamedly racist act and pledge my total support for French Muslims," he added.

His comments came as 1,000 people demonstrated Sunday in front of the mosque in the town of Saint Priest near Lyon, which was slightly damaged in Saturday's fire, to protest against Islamophobia in the country.

A mosque near the southeast city of Lyon was slightly damaged by fire in Saturday’s attack. The fire broke out at the entrance to the mosque in the suburb of Saint Priest but did not spread and the only damage to the interior was caused by smoke, police said.

The mosque rector, Kamal Kabtane, condemned "the rise in racism and Islamophobia" and referred to recent anti-Islamic incidents in France, including an attack on another mosque in the Lyon area in August and the desecration of 500 Muslim soldiers' tombs in a war cemetery in the north of the country earlier this month.

Political and religious figures were among those protesting Sunday against the blaze, with one demonstrator holding the remains of a burnt Koran.

"It is an odious act that has brought us here today. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident," said Gerard Collomb, the Socialist mayor of Lyon.

The founder of French Muslim association CMF said he hopes the government will introduce a draft law to ban Islamophobia.

"A statement of support is great, but we expect more concrete solutions," said Abdelaziz Chaambi.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) also condemned the attack on the mosque as a "cowardly anti-Islamic act".

[AFP / Expatica]

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