French Jewish leader asks faithful to avoid skullcap for safety

Fred Dufour, AFP | The newly elected "Great Rabbi of France" Haim Korsia, poses for a photograph on June 22, 2014, in Paris.

A leading Jewish authority in Marseille, southern France, asked fellow Jews on Tuesday to refrain from wearing their traditional skullcap to stay safe after a machete-wielding teen attacked a Jewish teacher.


Zvi Ammar, head of the Israelite Consistory of Marseille, said he is asking Jews to go without the kippa "until better days".

His call came a day after a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd attacked and wounded a Jewish teacher on a street in Marseille -- France's second-largest city -- then told police after his arrest that he acted in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Ammar said his decision to ask Jews not to wear the kippa was the hardest of his life. But he said he prefers "being criticised for making this decision than regretting it one day if, by misfortune, something very grave occurs". Ammar spoke on French TV stations BFM and iTele.

However some Jewish leaders disagreed with Ammar's advice, with one calling it "defeatist" and the Grand Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, tweeting that "we must not cede to emotion", remarks he made in an interview on TV5.

'Radicalised on the Internet'

Monday's attack by a 15-year-old ethnic Kurd left the 35-year-old teacher with an injured hand and shoulder, according to Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin.

The teenager rushed the victim from behind and stabbed him in the shoulder, then chased after him for a few metres until he fell, Robin said.

At a press briefing Monday, Robin told reporters the teenager "has the profile of someone who was radicalised on the Internet". 

"He claimed to have been acting for Daesh," Robin said, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.

"You get the sense that he does not have a full grasp of the fundamentals of Islam," he added.

A good student radicalised online

The boy admitted to investigators that he planned to arm himself and kill police as soon as he was released, according to Robin.

The prosecutor said the teenager's family was unaware of his radicalisation and that he was a "good student".

"It appears there was a form of premeditation" with the intent of killing the victim because of his religion, Robin said.

The teenager, who will turn 16 next week, faces charges of "attempted murder on grounds of religion" and "defence of terrorism".

Reacting to the incident on Twitter, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, "The anti-Semitic aggression against a teacher in Marseille is revolting."

The teacher was on his way to work at the Franco-Hebraic Institute when he was attacked.

‘Revolting anti-Semitic aggression’

The incident came nearly two months after another assault, north of Marseille, in which three people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities and support for the IS group stabbed a Jewish teacher, injuring him in the arms, legs and stomach.

Tensions are mounting in France less than two months after attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris left 130 people dead. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described the slashing as a "revolting anti-Semitic aggression".

Two churches were burned Sunday, and a boar's head and racist inscriptions were found Friday at Perpignan's main mosque. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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