France must offer its protection and affection to the Jewish community amid rising anti-Semitism, President Francois Hollande has said.
“Jewish are at home in France, it’s the anti-Semites who have no place into the Republic,” Mr Hollande told a prestigious annual dinner of the country’s main Jewish group.
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.
Mr Hollande told the French Jewish Institutions Representative Council (CRIF) event that acts against Muslims were also on the rise in France. About 10,000 soldiers and police forces were protecting synagogues, but also mosques, schools and cultural centres, the president said, adding that they would stay mobilised “as long as necessary”.
The Paris dinner was dogged by controversy when France’s Muslim leaders refused to attend over comments by the CRIF’s leader associating young Muslims with violence.
Roger Cukierman, who was criticising a growing number of acts against Jews in France, stressed that he was talking about a “very small minority” of Muslims.
The French Muslim Council (CFCM) condemned Mr Cukierman’s comments as unfounded, including his use of the expression “Islamo-fascism”.
Mr 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 CFCM 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 Charlie Hebdo.