- al Qaeda - Burqa - France - Internet - Nicolas Sarkozy
REUTERS - Al Qaeda's north African wing threatened revenge against France for launching a "war" against Muslim women who wear full burqas that cover them from head to toe, according to a Web statement posted in the group's name.
French legislators expressed concern this month that more and more Muslim women were wearing a burqa or a niqab which cloaks the entire body, sometimes leaving a gap for the eyes.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said the garments were not welcome in France because they are a symbol of the subjugation of women.
"Here is France mustering all her capacity, mobilising all her institutions and organising her ranks to wage a perfidious new war against our sisters who wear the niqab," said the statement posted on a Web site used by al Qaeda supporters.
It said the French were committing these injustices "at a time when their denuded women ... flock to our land and occupy our beaches and streets, outrageously defying the feelings of Muslims". It said France's campaign against the burqa was tantamount to "religious terrorism" and was an incitement to a hatred that would only grow.
"This is why we call upon all Muslims to respond to this hatred by another that is more ravaging, we call upon them to confront this French obstinacy," the statement said.
It said Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb vowed "before God not to be silent in the face of these provocations and injustices and do all in our power and take revenge at the first opportunity against France and its interests wherever they may be found, for the honour of our daughters and our sisters".
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is the remnant of an Islamic insurgency that raged through former French colony Algeria for most of the 1990s.
The group was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), itself a spin-off of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) which was blamed for a series of bombings in France in 1995.
France, home to Europe's largest Muslim minority, is strongly attached to its secular values and to gender equality.