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France's Melenchon defends marching against Islamophobia in Paris

A MARCH of over 13,000 people against Islamophobia in Paris on Sunday split the French left as the Socialist and Communist parties declined to participate because of concerns over the involvement of some Islamist organisations.

However, France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has rejected the idea that protesting against Islamophobia contradicts France’s secular political tradition and hit back at accusations from fascist leader Marine Le Pen that he had committed “treason” by marching with “Islamists.”

Mr Melenchon said Ms Le Pen had “turned her back on France because she does not understand that this is a march for the republican unity of the French,” he said.

He said he stood by previous remarks that it was as legitimate to be anti-Islam as anti-Catholic but added: “When our Muslim compatriots, who represent the second religion of this country, are singled out, insulted, threatened, it is our duty to come to the rescue.”

He added that Ms Le Pen ought to be careful about condemning others, given that the suspected shooter who seriously injured a 74-year-old and a 78-year-old when firing at a mosque in Bayonne on October 28 is a former candidate for her National Rally party, as she has rebranded the National Front.

The march attracted further controversy after some participants donned yellow stars accompanied by yellow crescents, a reference to the Star of David that Jewish people were forced to wear to identify themselves under nazi occupation.

A councillor from Saint Denis, Madjid Messaoudene, said the gesture was “precisely a form of homage to this collective memory of the Shoah, a way of saying: ‘Never again’.” But critics, who included Bordeaux mosque imam Tareq Oubrou, said comparisons with the Holocaust were inappropriate and showed “an ignorance of the history of Jews in France.”

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