French opposition MPs criticise Salafist presence on Paris demonstration
French right-wing opposition politicians have expressed concern that a group of about 200 Salafist fundamentalist muslims were present on an unauthorised anti-United States protest on Saturday in central Paris.
Conservative former prime minister François Fillon says he wants President François Hollande to explain “why the Paris Police Chief tolerated a Salafist demonstration”, while the leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, condemned what she called “an intimidation”.
Current Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insisted that the demonstration was not authorised and that “the police did their job”.
It was the first such protest in a European country over the film Innocence of Muslims, which has offended many Muslims and was made in California.
Police broke up the demonstration and rounded up around 150 people.
Protestors gathered firstly near the US embassy in Paris, but some also shouted slogans in front of the Interior Ministry, and others went to the Champs Elysées where they knelt down on the pavement to pray.
Six police officers were injured in clashes with the activists and one 16 year old was taken into custody in connection with acts of violence.
Its unclear who organised the protest but many participants say they were contacted by text messages or through social networks.
Dalil Boubakeur, the senior Muslim representative in Paris, condemned the protest, saying that “these fundamentalists present Islam in a manner which is not genuine, but violent and political”.
Interior minister Manuel Valls told French television channel France 2 that the demonstration was “unacceptable”, and declared that he had “given instructions so that it would not happen again.”
He told Le Figaro newspaper “what is really worrying is that those involved are not just young people living in high-rise estates on the outskirts of France’s big cities, but groups of Salafists pure and simple”.
Valls said that proposals for a new law which would allow prosecution of those who attended terrorist training camps, usually in Pakistan or Afghanistan, would be examined by ministers at the end of September
The law builds on plans made at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, in the wake of the Mohamed Merah killings, though some legal experts say that such activity is already punishable under existing French laws.