French interior min. insists on the right to dress in public

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French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin insisted that Jews and members of all other faiths be allowed to display their religious attire in public, saying it was a force of the French Republic.

Darmanin was speaking earlier this week at the unveiling of 269 restored gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre Union, eastern France, which were vandalized in February 2015, some of them being spray painted with swastikas.

“France’s strength lies in granting a public right to followers of religious denominations, and of course to Jews, to maintain their religion. [and] let them preserve their dress in public and preserve their Jewish appearance, ”Darmanin said.

The minister denounced anti-Semitic attacks such as the one in which the Jewish cemetery of Sarre Union was desecrated, stressing that for such attacks to take place, “there must be a discourse that legitimizes some of these acts.

“It is our great responsibility to be careful with the words, to give all the support necessary for a sympathetic and inclusive speech, and to condemn any intolerance in any form,” he said.

Gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre Union in eastern France (credit: Consistoire du Bas-Rhin – Eli Butbul and Yoav Rouseno)

The minister’s comments may have referred to an incident last week in which far-right French nationalist and likely presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who is also Jewish, asked a Muslim woman to remove her hijab. during a tour in the Parisian suburb of Drancy.

Hundreds of members of the Jewish community, as well as local residents of Strasbourg and the Bas-Rhin region of France, attended the inauguration ceremony, along with the French Chief Rabbi and the First Vice-President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Haim Korsia, French members of parliament and other dignitaries.

Also present were Rabbi Avraham Weill, who is the Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and Bas-Rhin, a permanent member of the Conference of European Rabbis; Prefect of the Grand Est region Josiane Chevalier; elected president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France Elie Korchia; and president of the Israelite Consistory of Bas-Rhin Maurice Dahan.

In the past five years, there have been two other incidents in which Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in eastern France in Alsace, particularly in Herrlisheim and Quatzenheim, while another in Westhofen, in the southwest of France, was also vandalized.

In his remarks, Darmanin noted that there have been around twenty anti-Semitic acts in the Alsace region, stressing that the country will not tolerate such attacks.

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