Thousands of Muslims gathered across France on Friday to denounce the beheading of tourist Herve Gourdel by militants in Algeria who said their act was a response to French strikes against Islamic State fighters.
France's five-million-strong Muslim population is the largest in Europe. Some on the French right have suggested the community has not condemned Gourdel's murder this week strongly enough, a charge its leaders reject."He was the victim of a cowardly murder," Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris told hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the mosque after noon prayers.
"Islam demands respect of life ... The Koran tells us that to kill one man is to kill all humanity," he said. Similar gatherings were planned in the southern port of Marseille and Nantes in the west.
In a video released by his captors on Wednesday, 55-year-old tour guide Gourdel is seen kneeling with his arms tied behind his back before four masked militants. The video does not show the beheading, but a militant holds the head up to the camera.
France was the first Western country to join the US-led strikes on targets in Iraq. Its jets have carried out a new attack since the murder and a poll released on Friday showed public support for intervention surged to nearly 69 percent.