PARIS (Reuters) – The French government on Sunday condemned the defacing of an Islamic cultural centre in western France with Islamaphobic slogans, and said an attack on Muslims was an attack on the Republic.
The tags, daubed on the side a building used as a prayer room in the city of Rennes, were found shortly before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in France on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said it was a disgusting attack against the fundamental freedom to believe in a religion and that Muslims deserved the same protection as any other religious group in France.
“Attacks against Muslims are attacks against the Republic,” Darmanin said after he visited the site.
Among the slogans scrawled on the building were “Catholicism – religion of the state” and “No to Islamification”.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), one of the main groups representing Muslims in France, called the incident an “unbearable aggression”.
“As Ramadan approaches and in the face of a surge in anti-Muslim acts, the CFCM calls on Muslims in France to be vigilant,” the association said on Twitter.
France follows a strict form of secularism, known as “laicité”, which is designed to separate religion and public life.
Darmanin, a conservative in President Emmanuel Macron’s government, is the main sponsor of legislation passing through parliament which the government says is designed to tackle what it describes as encroaching fundamentalism that is subverting French values.
Senior representatives of all religions were consulted during the drafting and the CFCM supports the bill.
While the legislation does not single out Islam, some critics say it points the finger at Muslims.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by David Evans)