French Muslims protest after mosque attacks

French Muslim leaders have sharply criticised "the inadequate response of politicians" after a spate of arson attacks on mosques.

    The attack damaged Annecy mosque's heating system

    The leaders criticised the political

    establishment for failing to attend a silent protest demonstration

    at Annecy on Saturday, where one of the attacks occurred.

    One fire totally devastated an 80-square metre

    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

    Muslim community leader, told demonstrators massed outside Annecy


    "We are in a pre-electoral period and many politicians did not

    dare come, fearing perhaps a backlash from voters," he added.


    The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM)

    described Friday's

    attacks as "unspeakable, racist and anti-Islamic".

    "No leading political figure came (to the demonstration)...

    We are in a pre-electoral period and many politicians did not

    dare come, fearing perhaps a backlash from voters"

    Kamel Kabtane,
    Muslim community leader

    Its leader, Dalil 

    Boubakeur, warned that such acts "can only worsen the sensitive

    religious climate in our country".

    There were no public indications on Saturday as to who was behind the


    But President

    Jacques Chirac has

    assured the Muslim community of his sympathy and


    He said the 

    government is determined "to find

    and punish those who carried out these attacks".

    Mosque protection

    And in a letter to Kamel Kabtane, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said

    : "

    I wish it to be understood that I firmly condemn all attempts

    by those who try to propagate hate in our country."

    Muslim leaders have called for mosques to benefit

    from the same level of protection as synagogues.

    French Justice Minister Dominique Perben has said he wants a tough new law against racially and

    religiously motivated attacks passed last year to be applied to the perpetrators.


    law provides for jail terms for offenders of up to 20 years.



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