Mus­lim prayer hall set on fire on French is­land of Cor­sica

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

AJAC­CIO, France—A Mus­lim prayer hall in the French is­land of Cor­sica was rav­aged by fire on Satur­day in what pros­e­cu­tors said was prob­a­bly a crim­i­nal at­tack.

The blaze oc­curred just months af­ter the is­land, pop­u­lar with tourists for its turquoise wa­ters and pic­turesque moun­tains, was rocked by anti-Arab ri­ots over Christ­mas. The build­ing, one of the largest prayer halls in the cap­i­tal Ajac­cio, suf­fered ma­jor dam­age in the fire, said Ab­dal­lah Zekri, the head of the Na­tional Ob­ser­va­tory Against Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

He called on the au­thor­i­ties “to do ev­ery­thing to shed light on this in­ci­dent in or­der to avoid an es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence”.

“It has been calm since the end of the year, but un­for­tu­nately cer­tain ill-in­ten­tioned peo­ple want to in­flame the situation,” he told AFP.

Protests erupted on the Mediter­ranean is­land over Christ­mas af­ter fire­fight­ers and police called to a low-in­come im­mi­grant neigh­bour­hood were am­bushed and at­tacked.

Demon­stra­tors shout­ing slo­gans such as “This is our home!” and “Arabs get out”, van­dalised a prayer hall and set fire to books in­clud­ing copies of the Qu­ran.

Sev­eral anti-Mus­lim acts oc­curred in the weeks that fol­lowed, in­clud­ing an at­tack on a Mus­lim butcher’s shop. French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve is­sued a state­ment on Satur­day ex­press­ing “sol­i­dar­ity with the Mus­lims of Cor­sica”. He also voiced the “com­mit­ment of the gov­ern- ment to pro­tect all places of wor­ship, and to en­sure free­dom of wor­ship through­out the ter­ri­tory”. Na­tion­al­ists won re­gional elec­tions in Cor­sica for the first time in De­cem­ber.

The is­land has the sec­ond largest pro­por­tion of for­eign­ers in France, at be­tween eight and 10 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion, af­ter the Paris re­gion.—Reuters

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