French Muslim fury at mosque attack ‘silence’
PARIS, March 6 (AFP) - Top French figures led by President Jacques Chirac Saturday condemned arson attacks on two mosques after Muslim leaders sharply criticised what they considered the inadequate response of the politicians.
Chirac condemned the torching of the mosques which occurred early Friday, assuring the Muslim community of his sympathy and support.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed indignation at the incidents in eastern France and said he had ordered “that everything be done to find the perpetrators of these outrages”.
But Muslim leaders were up in arms, criticizing the political establishment for failing to attend a silent demonstration at Annecy, where one of the attacks occurred.
One fire devastated an 80-square metre (860-square foot) prayer room in nearby Seynod, while the other seriously damaged the heating system at the mosque in Annecy.
“No leading political figure came,” Kamel Kabtane, a local Muslim community leader, told demonstrators massed outside Annecy mosque.
“We are in a pre-electoral period and many politicians did not dare come, fearing perhaps a backlash from voters,” he added.
There were no public indications Saturday who was behind the attacks.Chirac phoned Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), and Kamel Kabtane to express his utter condemnation of what he described as odious acts, a presidential statement said.
It said Chirac “expresses his sympathy and support to all the Muslims of France and assures them of the government’s determination to find and punish those who carried out these attacks”.
In a letter to Kabtane, religious head of the mosque in Lyon, Raffarin said: “I will personally ensure that you will be kept informed of the progress of investigations into these unacceptable acts.
“I wish it to be understood that I firmly condemn all attempts by those who try to propagate hate in our country,” the prime minister went on.
Meanwhile the CFCM described the attacks as “unspeakable, racist and anti-Islamic” and Boubakeur warned that such acts “can only worsen the sensitive religious climate in our country.”
The CFCM is the first recognised national council for the country’s estimated five million Muslims.
The Representative Council of Jewish institutions in France also strongly condemned the attacks, expressed full solidarity with the Muslim community and demanded “a forceful response from authorities”.
French Justice Minister Dominique Perben Friday said the perpetrators being sought by police should be given exemplary punishment while Muslim leaders have called for mosques to benefit from the same level of protection as synagogues.
Perben said he wanted a tough new law against racially and religiously motivated attacks passed last year to be applied. The law provides for jail terms for offenders of up to 20 years.
Subject: France news