Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), said on Thursday that attacks against mosques and anti-Muslim graffiti and comments were increasingly common after a heated debate on banning religious symbols in schools.
“Faced with the seriousness of the situation and the growing number of incidents, the French Council of the Muslim Faith is particularly worried about the deterioration of the situation and wants to alert public opinion,” he said in an open letter.
The ban on Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, due to come into effect in French schools in September, has triggered protests from France’s Muslims and other religious groups, Islamic countries and Pope John Paul II.
Boubakeur, who is regraded as a moderate figure, said some media reports had portrayed young French Muslims as primarily responsible for rising anti-Semitism in France and its prayer leaders, or imams, as “a horde of foreign mercenaries without the slightest regard for the rule of law”.
This appeared to be a reference to France’s expulsion of Muslim cleric Abd al-Qadr Bouziane to his native Algeria last week because he said the Quran allowed husbands to beat unfaithful wives.
A Lyon court has since quashed the order used to expel Bouziane, but President Jacques Chirac on Thursday vowed to press charges against the cleric if he returned to France.
Boubakeur said at the time of the expulsion that Islam was not a religion that favoured beating women, but he also denounced what he called a “media witch hunt against ignorant and frustrated imams”.