Hollande says Muslims 'main victims of fanaticism'

15th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that Muslims were the "main victims" of fanaticism, as funerals were held in Paris for five of the 17 people killed in last week's Islamist attacks.

Speaking at the Arab World Institute in Paris, Hollande said: "It is Muslims who are the main victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance", adding the whole country was "united in the face of terrorism."

Members of the Muslim community in France, Europe's largest, have "the same rights and the same duties as all citizens" and must be "protected," the president vowed.

The five buried included two of Charlie Hebdo's best-known cartoonists and Franck Brinsolaro, 49, a police protection officer who was killed in the satirical magazine's editorial meeting.

Even as the ceremonies took place, the magazine continued to fly off the shelves, sparking fury in some parts of the Muslim world for depicting the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

Georges Wolinski, 80, and Bernard "Tignous" Verlhac, 57, who were gunned down by two Islamist brothers in the attack claimed by Al-Qaeda, were buried at private family funerals.

Thousands braved drizzle outside the town hall memorial service for Tignous, laying flowers under a huge portrait of the cartoonist as his wife Chloe paid tribute inside.

His cartoon-covered coffin was carried through an applauding crowd for final burial, as people held aloft banners reading "Thank you Charlie Hebdo" and "Our heroes."

"It would really annoy you to see us here today with our long faces. We shouldn't be sad, but proud to have known you," said Coco, a fellow Charlie Hebdo cartoonist.

After the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people died, the French rushed to get their hands on the "survivors' issue" which sold out Wednesday before more copies of an eventual print run of five million hit newsstands.

Long queues formed again on Thursday as copies were snapped up.

"Charlie Hebdo is alive and will live on," Hollande said Wednesday. "You can murder men and women, but you can never kill their ideas," he said, declaring the previously struggling weekly "reborn".

The Charlie Hebdo assault on January 7 was followed two days later by an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris by a gunman claiming to have coordinated his actions with brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.

In all, 17 people died over three days in the bloodiest attacks in France in half a century, which ended when police stormed two hostage sieges and killed all three gunmen.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also announced that a Malian described as a "hero" after he helped hostages in the supermarket would be granted French citizenship.

- 'All is forgiven' -

In Wednesday's new edition of Charlie Hebdo, the prophet is depicted with a tear in his eye, under the headline "All is forgiven".

He holds a sign reading "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), the slogan that has become a global rallying cry for those expressing sympathy for the victims and support for freedom of speech.

The creator of "Je suis Charlie" told AFP Thursday he was seeking to copyright the slogan to stop the nearly uncontrollable flood of people seeking to profit from it.

Speaking at Tignous' funeral, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said France was a country where "one can draw anything, including a prophet."

But the cover of the new Charlie Hebdo has sparked controversy and protests in some parts of the Muslim world, where many find the depiction of the prophet highly offensive.

Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, where at least one of the Kouachi brothers trained, released a video Wednesday claiming responsibility for the attack, saying it was "vengeance" for the cartoons of the prophet.

The Afghan Taliban on Thursday condemned Charlie Hebdo's publication of further Mohammed cartoons and praised the gunmen.

Angry protests have been staged in countries from Pakistan and Turkey to the Philippines and Mauritania.

Pope Francis, speaking in Manila, stressed that "you cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people's faith, you cannot mock it."

Amedy Coulibaly, who shot dead four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket in Paris and a policewoman the day before in attacks he said were coordinated with the Kouachi brothers, has claimed links to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

A Spanish High Court judge on Thursday announced a preliminary investigation into a stay Coulibaly made in Madrid days before the attacks.

- 'Grave provocation' -

A Turkish court ordered a block on websites featuring images of the magazine cover and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday described it as a "grave provocation", adding: "Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult."

But many have sought to calm tensions, with French Muslim leaders urging their communities to "stay calm and avoid emotive reactions".

France continued to receive support from its Western allies.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will fly into Paris later Thursday to pay his respects to the dead, said he wanted to give the French capital a "big hug."

France has deployed armed police to protect synagogues and Jewish schools and called up 10,000 troops to guard against other attacks.

Authorities have admitted "clear failings" in intelligence. The three gunmen were known to French intelligence and on a US terror watch list "for years".

Meanwhile debate was mounting in France over where freedom of expression begins and ends.

Controversial comedian Dieudonne will stand trial on charges of condoning terrorism after describing himself as "Je suis Charlie Coulibaly", referring to the supermarket attacker.


© 2015 AFP

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