French imams rally against ‘crazies who have seized our religion’

Following the hostage dramas and Charlie Hebdo massacre, France’s imams have condemned any violence committed in the name of Islam during Friday prayers. The same message was announced at more than 2,300 mosques throughout France the Friday after the attack. “We denounce the odious crimes committed by the terrorists, whose criminal action endangers our willingness to live together,” said the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur. He called on “all Muslims of France” to participate in demonstrations planned for Sunday to pay homage to victims of the attack.

“The people who carried out that attack in the name of Islam are not Muslims… The Prophet did not advocate violence against non-Muslims,” insisted Abdel Qader Achour of the conservative Omar Ibn Al Khattab mosque not far from Charlie Hebdo’s office.

“France is our country, we have been here for three or even four generations, and we should not be afraid,” he stated as around one thousand of the faithful gathered to pray.

“To a cartoon you reply with a cartoon, to a drawing with a drawing, to a newspaper article with a newspaper article… But you don’t reply with guns,” said Mustafa Riad of the Union mosque in the southern city of Montpellier.

Muslim theologian Tareq Oubrou, an imam in Bordeaux, in the southwest, said Muslims were furious that their religion had been “claimed by crazies… and uneducated, unbalanced people.”

Muslim leaders fear that the Charlie Hebdo massacre may lead to attacks on Muslim communities throughout France. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France was “in a war against terrorism,” not “against a religion.” Francois Hollande called for an end to “stigmatization and sorry caricaturing” or others.

“There are several million Muslims in France, and the vast majority are integrated into French society,” said Claude Dargent, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris. “And for those who aren’t, it’s less a question of religion than their social and economic situation.”