• France's news in English

Valls pledges hard line against Islamists

AFP · 27 Sep 2012, 16:49

Published: 27 Sep 2012 16:49 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In a speech marking the inauguration of the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, the biggest Islamic place of worship ever built on French soil, Interior Minister Manuel Valls pledged to come down hard on extremists, warning that foreign activists trying to stir up trouble would be immediately deported.

But he also held out an olive branch to the country's four million Muslims by promising state help for the construction of more mosques and for the training of Muslim clerics.

Valls, whose rhetoric has frequently drawn comparisons with that of rightwing former president Nicolas Sarkozy, praised French Muslims for their measured response to the recent publication of a satirical weekly's publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

"Islam has its place in France because the Islam of France, it is a part of France," he told representatives of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities attending the official opening the mosque capable of hosting 1,500 people.

Relations between the French state and a Muslim community that has its roots in former colonies Algeria and Morocco have been strained in recent
years by a string of controversies pitting their faith against France's secular tradition.

Legislation introduced under Sarkozy which bans women from wearing full veils in public is widely resented and long-running debates over halal methods of animal slaughter and whether public prayers should be authorised have added to tensions linked to the economic marginalisation of many Muslims.

Concern over the development of radicalism among some young French Muslims has meanwhile intensified in the aftermath of Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah's killing of seven people in the southern city of Toulouse earlier this year.

It is in this context that Valls has adopted much of the rhetoric deployed by Sarkozy during his time in office.

He warned Thursday that he would not "hesitate to expel those who claim to follow Islam and represent a serious threat to public order and, as foreigners in our country, do not respect our laws and values."

He also made it clear that the Muslim community as a whole had to accept responsibility for tackling extremism, which he linked to a reemergence of anti-Semitism in the country.

"France's Muslims can congratulate themselves on the singular model that they are building," Valls said. "Of course it remains fragile, not every problem has been solved or overcome.

"If all religions have their share of fundamentalists, it is in Islam that this raises fears. It was on French soil and with a French passport that Mohammed Merah killed in the name of Islam.

Story continues below…

"Anti-Semitism is a terrible scourge and its resurgence cannot be disguised."

Built within two kilometres (just over a mile) from Strasbourg's celebrated cathedral, the new mosque has a capacity of 1,300 square metres (14,000 square feet), making it 1.5 times as big as the previous largest one in France, at Evry in the Paris suburbs.

It has a 16-metre copper dome but no minaret and has taken nearly two decades to complete since the project was first launched in 1993.

The cost of construction was €10.5 million ($13.5 million), with the local region and the governments of Kuwait, Morocco and Saudi Arabia all contributing.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available