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Far right slams Hollande tribute to Muslim World War I dead

François Hollande addresses members of the Asian community to mark the festivities of the Lunar New Year on Monday
François Hollande addresses members of the Asian community to mark the festivities of the Lunar New Year on Monday Reuters/John Schults

France's far right is up in arms over President François Hollande's participation in a ceremony honouring Muslims who fought for France during World War I. Hollande was to inaugurate a memorial to the 100,000 Muslim soldiers who died during the war at the Great Mosque in Paris on Tuesday

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His presidential predecessors Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy also presented memorials and plaques remembering Muslims who fought for France.

Of the 100,000 Muslim soldiers who died for France in the war, more than 70,000 lost their lives at the battle of Verdun in 1916.

French Muslim leaders have welcomed the move.

"Even if this is not new, it's good that François Hollande again reminds those who reject Muslims that thousands of natives died for France," said Abdallah Zekri of the CFCM coalition of Islamic groupings.

"He should seize the chance to discuss the present worrying atmosphere with us," he added.

Zekri's statement enraged Louis Aliot, the vice-president of the far-right Front National, who slammed the visit as a "crude attempt at manipulation".

"These comments are totally irresponsible becue France has never forgotten the soldiers who died for France," he stormed, claiming that the ceremony is exploiting them for the sake of "sectarian lobbyists".

"If increasingly radical political Islam poses a problem [...] of republican compatibility in our country, it's not up to France to adapt and to provide answers it's up to that religion," Aliot said.

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