PARIS (AP) – French President Francois Hollande insisted Thursday that any anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic acts must be “severely punished”, as he sought to calm rising religious tensions after his country’s bloodiest terrorist attacks in decades.
With 120,000 security forces deployed to pre-vent future attacks, nerves jumped overnight when a car rammed into a policewoman guarding the president’s palace.
The incident at the Elysee Palace had no ap-parent links to last week’s shootings and might have been an accident, prosecutors and police said.
The country is tense since 20 people, including three gunmen, were killed in last week’s ram-page. It began at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which was burying several staff members Thursday. Charlie Hebdo had been re-peatedly threatened for its caricatures.
Two of the attackers claimed allegiances to al-Qaeda in Yemen, and another – who targeted a kosher supermarket – to the Islamic State group.
The attacks occurred in an atmosphere of ri-sing anti-Semitism in France, and have prompted scattered attacks on Muslim sites around France in an apparent backlash. They have also put many French Muslims on the defensive.
Hollande said in a speech that France’s millions of Muslims should be protected and respected, “just as they themselves should respect the nation” and its strictly secular values.
“Anti-Muslim acts, like anti-Semitism, should not just be denounced but severely punished,” Hollande said Thursday at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris.
Noting that Muslims are the main victims of Islamic extremist violence, he said, “In the face of terrorism, we are all united.”