POITIERS, France - In the latest assault on Muslim worship places, a group of French far-rightists have stormed and occupied a mosque building site in France's historic city of Poitiers, to the shock of the Muslim community.
"We are thunderstruck, local Muslim imam Boubaker El Hadi Amor told Agence France-Presse (AFP).These are people who are stuck in the year 732, and who don't see that the world has changed.
Scores of far-right extremists stormed the site of a mosque in Poitiers on Saturday, October 20, in protest at building the Muslim worship place.
Travelling from all over the country, the rightists gathered in front of the building to protest the mosque construction.
They climbed on the mosque's roof and unfurled two banners, one identifying their organization while the other proclaiming Charles Martel beat the Arabs at Poitiers in 732.
That battle is remembered by French for halting the advance of Islam into Western Europe.
After negotiations, the far-rightist attackers agreed to end their occupation of the mosque and leave the site.
We were planning to stay longer but as we had no intention whatsoever of a physical confrontation we are leaving with the police in a good mood without an unhappy ending, a spokesman for the demonstrators, Damien Rieu, said as the occupation of the mosque ended.
Four far-rightists were held for questioning over storming the mosque's site, while the rest of demonstrators underwent identity checks.
Poitiers is in shock, Alain Claeys, the mayor of the town of 90,000 inhabitants, told AFP.
Police said it has opened an inquiry into an unauthorized demonstration, incitement to racial hatred, participation in a gathering with a view to carrying out joint damage.
There could be charges of theft as about 10 carpets were removed from the mosque and taken to the roof where they were badly damaged by rain.
The far-right attack on the mosque invited a storm of condemnations in France.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is in the Philippines, said he firmly condemns a provocation that reveals an unacceptable religious hatred.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls also condemned hateful and inadmissible provocation and the questionable confusion of the group.
The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism ((Licra) described the mosque's occupation as a demonstration of hate.
Leftwing groups called for the far-right group responsible for the occupation of the mosque to be dissolved.
The umbrella French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), spoke of its strong indignation and its deep concern in the face of this new form of anti-Muslim violence.
The occupation, it said, had been serious, savage and illegal, accompanied by slogans hostile to Islam and without precedent in the history of France.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, the largest in Europe.
Saturday's attack is the latest of a series of attacks on mosques in France.
In August, two pig heads were hung on two pillars outside a mosque in the southwestern town of Montauban.
In January, vandals attacked a French mosque in the GlonniÃ¨res district of Le Mans, covering its walls with graffiti reading Islam out of Europe, No Islam and France for the French.
Three days earlier, another mosque in Miramas was daubed with Islamophobic slogans along with the name of Front National presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
Fascist graffiti was also painted on the wall of a mosque that is under construction in Montigny-en-Ostrevent reading President Adolf or Hei in reference to the Nazi salute. Heil Hitler.Two pig heads were also left at the site a mosque is being built in Nanterre.