French Prime Minister Manuel Valls refused to associate extremism with a specific religion. He said Monday that Islam had nothing to do with terrorism.
Valls was speaking at a conference that was intended to foster stronger ties with the Muslim community in the country. France has 5 million Muslims, the most of any European country. The French government recently decided to hold a number of meetings with Muslim community leaders.
"We must say all of this is not Islam," Al Arabiya quoted Valls as saying. "The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel ... the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism." Five months after an extremist attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Valls said that Islam, the second largest religion in the country, would stay in France. Valls acknowledged, however, that some in France reject Islam, adding that Islam provokes prejudices and misunderstandings.
Around 120 to 150 Muslim community leaders will attend the first forum organized by the French government. The forum aims to spark debate on various topics, such as building mosques, Islam’s image in the media and security at religious sites.
Yahoo News reports that 300 mosques are going to be built, adding to the 2,500 already in the country. However, some residents have expressed strong opposition to the buildings for Islamic worship. Cyril Nauth, the far-right mayor of Mantes-la-Ville, has tried halting a project to turn a city-owned site into a mosque.
Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Muslim Council, said the forum would give French Muslims an opportunity to express themselves. He said the present situation called for “renewed attention from public powers.” According to him, Muslims who get involved in extremist activities “belong to a different world.”