French far-right group storms site of new mosque
Around 60 members of a French far-right group occupied the site of a future mosque on Saturday to protest against the influence of Islam in France. Their act was widely condemned by politicians and Muslim groups.
Around sixty members of an extreme right-wing group stormed the site of a future mosque in France on Saturday, to protest against what they see as Islam's increasing influence in the country.
According to French media, protesters from a group called Generation Identity occupied the building site in a suburb of the town of Poitiers, western France, at around 6am.
They climbed onto the building's roof and displayed a banner marked with “732 generation identity” in reference to the year 732, when Charles Martel halted the advance of the invading Muslim army to the north of Poitiers.
The group makes their views clear on their website, which bears the statement: “We do not want more immigration from outside Europe or new mosque construction on French soil”.
The protesters apparently took to social media site Twitter, declaring they would not be leaving the mosque until they were removed by the authorities.
But the demonstrators left the site around 1pm after reaching an agreement with police. Three members of the group were subsequently arrested.
France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls denounced Saturday's dawn raid, describing it as "hateful provocation", while Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault “strongly condemned” the act, saying it was against “the French Republic and its values”.
Both the country’s ruling Socialist Party and the Communist Party have called for Generation Identity to be dissolved. Prosecutors in Poitiers are examining whether to press charges against the group for “holding an unauthorized protest and inciting racial hatred”.
France’s Muslim groups were left shocked and angered by the occupation. The French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM) said the group’s “wild” act undermined cohesion between France’s religious communities.
“This occupation was wild and illegal and was accompanied by the shouting of hostile slogans against Islam and Muslims. It is the first time this has happened in the history of our country,” said a statement from the CFCM, France’s main Muslim organisation.
“We are deeply concerned about this new form of anti-Muslim violence which demonstrates, once again, the willingness of these factions to risk our national cohesion by inciting hatred and division,” the statement read.