French president pledges to protect Jewish community
PARIS (AP) French president Francois Hollande said that the country must offer its protection and affection to the Jewish community as anti-Semitism is on the rise in France.
"Jewish are at home in France, it's the anti-Semites who have no place into the Republic", Hollande said in a speech at a prestigious annual dinner of the country's main Jewish organization.
Many French Jews feel increasingly worried about anti-Semitism, particularly coming from young Muslims who embrace radical ideology propagated online.
France has Europe's largest Jewish population, about half a million. More than 7,000 emigrated to Israel last year.
Hollande noted that acts against Muslims are also on the rise in France.
About 10,000 soldiers and police forces are protecting synagogues, but also mosques, schools and cultural centers, Hollande recalled. They will stay mobilized "as long as necessary", he said.
Earlier Monday, France's Muslim leaders have refused to attend the dinner, angry over comments by a Jewish leader associating young Muslims with violence.
Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF Jewish council, was denouncing a growing number of acts against Jews in France. He specified that he was talking about a "very small minority" of Muslims.
The French Muslim Council (CFCM), in a statement denounced Cukierman's comments as unfounded, including his use of the expression "Islamo-fascism."
Cukierman explained later that he was specifically thinking of the authors of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen who had "claimed allegiance" to Islam. "Jews and Muslims, we are all in the same boat", he said.
Leaders of the CFCM have attended the event since the creation of the Council in 2003.
This year's event comes amid increasing fears of anti-Semitism and religious tension in France after attacks by Islamic extremists against a kosher market and satirical newspaper.