"This is a new sign of the Crusader hatred which Westerners harbour against Muslims while they boast of freedom, democracy and human rights," al-Zawahri said on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel on Tuesday.

   

The French parliament this month voted to ban religious emblems in state schools, a measure Paris says will keep tensions between Muslim and Jewish minorities out of public classrooms, but which Muslims around the world have said targets Islam.

   

"France is the country of freedom which defends freedom to show the body, and to be immoral and depraved.

 

In France you're free to show yourself but not to dress modestly," said al-Zawahri, who is thought to be hiding, along with bin Ladin, somewhere in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

   

"This is a campaign planned by the Crusader Zionists (Israel supporters) with their agents in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia and other Islamic countries," al-Zawahri said, in an attack on Muslim countries which have made moves to secularise their societies along Western lines.