MONTAUBAN, France - In the latest sign of growing Islamophobia in the European country, two pig heads were dumped at a mosque in southern France, to the outrage of Muslim and Jewish groups.
"It is contemptible," Hajii Mohamed, the mosque's imam, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"To attack a religion like this, I don't know what is happening. People lose their heads, especially during Ramadan."
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Two pig heads were hung Wednesday, August 1, on a gate at the entrance of the mosque in the southern city of Montauban shortly before Fajr prayers.
A large amount of pig blood was spilled on the ground.
Islam considers pigs unclean because they are omnivorous, not discerning between meat or vegetation in their natural dietary habits unlike cows and sheep for instance, which eat only plants.
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.
The umbrella French Council of the Muslim Faith described the defilement of the mosque as "a racist and xenophobic provocation".
It called on French authorities to bring those responsible to justice swiftly.
The town of Montauban saw the killing of two French paratroopers by a self-styled Al-Qaeda gunman in March.
The gunman was killed in a police siege of his apartment after killing five people, including three Jewish children.
The incident was the first in the southern Tarn-et-Garonne region, leading to speculation it was a response to the March shooting spree.
Muslim leaders have distanced their faith from the shooting, saying it was against the teachings of Islam.
The mosque defilement has sparked outrage among French officials and Jewish leaders.
"I can only be outraged in the face of such a revolting act that strikes a blow to the dignity of the Muslims of France," Interior Minister Manuel Valls said in a letter to the mosque's imam.
He added that police were "completely determined" to bring the culprits to justice.
The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France said it was "outraged by the hateful desecration of the mosque".
France's Union of Jewish Students also said it was appalled by an incident that had occurred in a "worrying climate of hatred".
The incident occurred against a backdrop of an increase in anti-Muslim hostility in France.
"For this to occur during the holy month of Ramadan, it's unspeakable," Abdallah Zakri, the chairman of France's Islamophobia Observatory, said.
"It is racist provocation."
Four French Muslim instructors were sacked for observing Ramadan fasting while looking after children on a summer camp in a Paris suburb.
The town council which had dismissed the four instructors reacted to an outcry by announcing Tuesday that it would no longer enforce a requirement for summer camp workers to eat and drink in the middle of the day.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe's largest.
French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.
This year's elections were also marked by debate over the use of halal methods of animal slaughter.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
Under Sarkozy, the French government a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
The French government also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net