Anti-Muslim graffiti was found scrawled on the walls of a cultural centre in the western French city of Rennes early Sunday morning. Politicians from both the left and right have reacted angrily. An investigation is underway.
The caretaker of the Avicenne cultural centre in Rennes found the graffiti on the walls of the building around 6 am while prayers were taking place on Sunday morning.
“No to islamisation,” “Long live the King,” “Mohamed pedophile prophet,” “Eternal France”, “The crusades will begin again” and “Catholicism religion of the State” were just a few of the slogans, photos of which were quickly handed over to police.
Christian crosses, fleur-de-lis and the Chi-rho symbols were also depicted.
“Just two days before the announcement of Ramadan, worshippers are shocked to find these obscene words. It’s very violent, our community is very upset,” said Mohammed Zaidouni, the president of the regional Muslim council in Britanny. “We are children of the Republic and we’re faced with violence and barbarism.”
An investigation into vandalism of a religious nature has been opened with the Rennes court.
Public prosecutor Philippe Astruc said special attention would be paid to the case due to its sensitive nature. He said it would be treated similarly to the attempt to destroy the Rennes cathedral in a fire in June 2020.
The perpetrators risk four years in jail and a fine of 30,000 euros.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin responded on Twitter offering his support to the Muslim community of France.
“These anti-Muslim inscriptions are unacceptable,” he wrote, saying he would visit the community later on Sunday.
“These actions do not have a place in France, including in Rennes. All my support goes to the people of Rennes and in particular those worshippers shocked by such intolerable actions,” wrote mayor Nathalie Appere of the Socialist Party on social media.
“Hatred only produces hatred,” wrote Sandra Regol, second in charge of the local branch of the EELV green party, which was also included in the graffiti with the words “EELV = traitors”.
Debate on separatism as trigger
Les Republicains MP Valerie Boyer spoke of a shameful act, while the president of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand condemned “unacceptable sectarian vandalism”.
The deputy of the hard-left France Unbowed (La France Insoumise) Alexis Corbière said the vandalism was the result of a hateful atmosphere created by small handful of people.
“Recent history has taught us that any debate over Islam are often accompanied by increased anti-Muslim acts,” pointed out Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French council of Muslim Faith (CFCM) in a statement.
“The proposed law on separatism has unfortunately unleashed hatred from all sides,” he wrote, referring to the government’s recent bill on reinforcing Republican values, which touches on aspects related to radicalisation within religious communities.
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“There is at the moment an anti-Muslim climate in France which we condemn strongly. Unfortunately, the declarations by some politicians have only served as fuel to the fire,” Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia told AFP.
In Nantes, the door of a mosque was destroyed by a fire on Thursday evening, while a 24 year-old man proclaiming neo-Nazi ideas was arrested on Friday for threatening to attack a mosque in Le Mans.