The French Interior Ministry announced a ban on protests against the film Innocence of Muslims on Friday, fearing that demonstrations could lead to violence.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), which has repeatedly advocated a calm response from millions of French Muslims, stood by the government’s decision. “While the freedom to demonstrate is guaranteed to all and cannot be restricted in proportion to the requirements of public order, we believe that in the current context, events in the public space can be manipulated,” the coalition said in a statement on Friday. “We therefore call on Muslims in France not to appear.”
On Friday, far-right former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen voiced her support for a complete ban on Muslim veils and Jewish skullcaps. In a radio interview with French daily Le Monde, she called for outlawing religious headgear “in shops, on public transport and on the streets,” according to France 24. She also reiterated demands for banning prayers in public places and the serving of kosher and halal foods.
President François Hollande condemned Le Pen’s statements, saying, “everything that tears people apart, opposes them and divides them is inappropriate, and we must apply the rules, the only rules we know, the rules of the Republic and secularism,” reported AFP.
Jean-François Copé, leader of the right-wing UMP party, also expressed disagreement with Le Pen. “Marine Le Pen wants to ban any signs of religion on the street, starting with the veil and the kippah,” he said. “By doing this, she shows she understands nothing of secularism. Secularism is not the eradication of all religious expressions in society.”
Without referring to Le Pen by name, the CFCM stated, “those who call today to ban the veil and the kippah in public aspire to establish a totalitarian regime in France.”
The CFCM issued statements condemning both the Innocence of Muslims and a series of cartoons published in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Le Pen, who is the president of the anti-immigration National Front Party, had previously said the protests responding to the film and cartoons represented the beginning of a process of “intimidation” by Muslims.
Following the release of Charlie Hebdo’s most recent publication, France closed schools and missions in 20 countries in anticipation of protests.