Rallies and protests against radical Islam are taking place across France following the execution of French hostage Herve Gourdel by militant Islamists in Algeria. In Paris, members of France’s five million strong Muslim community organized a rally Friday in front of the Paris mosque.
They came by the hundreds on a sunny afternoon – Muslims and non-Muslims – to express their sorrow for the death of 55-year-old Herve Gourdel – and to reject the brutal methods of Islamic State and other radical groups.
Hanan Awuadjaa is from Algeria, where Gourdel was captured and killed this week by an Islamic State ally, which calls itself Jund al-Khalifa, or Soldiers of the Caliphate.
“I don’t find words to express myself,” he says, “because I’m very, very disappointed, and I’m so sad…we are here today to think about our victim and to pass the message: ‘please stop it. Stop it. Stop it.'”
Gourdel’s picture was displayed at the entrance of the mosque, where politicians and Muslim clerics called for the country to unify in denouncing extremism. Another banner carried the ‘not-in-my-name’ slogan launched by Muslims in Britain to reject radical Islam.
French Council of the Muslim Faith head Dalil Boubakeur said Islam respects life and condemns the killing of innocents – an argument echoed by Ahmadou Dia from Guinea, who joined the rally.
Dia said Islamic State and other extremists are sullying the Muslim faith. He said they are barbarians and terrorists, and he was here to say ‘no.’
Since Gourdel’s death, the French government has launched more airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq, while also tightening security here, after the group called on Muslims to kill Westerners.
On Friday, the British parliament also approved airstrikes in Iraq – and there are reports France is considering extending its strikes to jihadist strongholds in Syria.
Other rallies are being staged across the country both to denounce militant Islam and remember Gourdel, including another scheduled for Sunday in the French capital.