Hollande reassures Muslims, demands respect for French values

By REUTERS
January 15, 2015 15:22
1 minute read.

 
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President Francois Hollande assured Muslims in France and abroad on Thursday that his country respected them and their religion but would not compromise its commitment to freedom and democracy.

Speaking a week after three days of Islamist militant violence that killed 17 people in Paris, he told a meeting at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris that Muslims were "the first victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance."

His speech struck a careful balance between France's commitment to protect its five-million-strong Muslim minority, Europe's largest, and to uphold the principle of free speech even for caricatures that Muslims find offensive.

French Muslims have reported dozens of attacks on mosques since Islamist gunmen targeted satirical journal Charlie Hebdo last week. Authorities in several Middle East countries have denounced the newspaper's decision to print more cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in its first post-attack edition on Wednesday.

"Islam is compatible with democracy and we should refuse any confusion (about this)," Hollande said at the Institute, where the slogan "We are all Charlie" was written in French and Arabic on the building's facade.

"French of the Muslim faith have the same rights and duties as all citizens," he said, and should be "protected and respected, as they should respect the republic."

Also on Thursday, the French military's cyberdefence specialist reported a surge of hacking against 19,000 different French websites in the past four days, mostly denial of service attacks. Websites of all kinds were affected, he said.

"This is the response to last Sunday's march by people who do not share our values, ranging from shocked believers to hardened terrorists," Vice Admiral Arnaud Coustilliere told journalists, referring to a mass protest march led by Hollande and more than 40 world leaders.

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