An angry crowd vandalised a Muslim prayer hall and burnt copies of the Quran in Corsica, a French island, on Friday. The violence took place amid heightened tensions in a low-income part of the city of Ajaccio, after two firefighters and a police officer were injured there the night before in a clash with unidentified youth. On Friday, more than a hundred people gathered to show solidarity for the officials, when a part of the group broke away and attacked the mosque.
An AFP correspondent reported that they were shouting “Arabs get out” and “This is our home”. The group smashed the glass door to the mosque, damaged property inside it and burnt several books including copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the break-in an “unacceptable desecration”, while French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack stemmed from racism and xenophobia, Al Jazeera reported.
The attacks took place on Christmas, a day after Muslims in the city celebrated a feast day commemorating the birth of Prophet Muhammad. The French Council of the Muslim Faith pointed out that the violence was perpetrated “on a day of prayer for both Christians and Muslims”.
The anti-immigrant far-right Front National made significant gains in Corsica in regional elections held last month. The situation in the country has been tense since the November 13 attacks in Paris, where 130 people were killed in shootings and bombings planned by the Islamic State.