Muslims throughout France and Italy attended Masses on Sunday as a gesture of solidarity with their Catholic neighbors after the gruesome killing of an 85 year-old priest last week.
Time.com is reporting on groups of Muslims in France and Italy who decided they have had enough of being represented as terrorist thugs due to the outrageous behavior of Islamic jihadists and showed up at Masses this weekend to show their support for the Christian community.
For example, at the cathedral in Rouen, France, the town where 85 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was killed on the altar on July 26 by two teenaged jihadists, a few dozen Muslims gathered for Mass. Some sat in the front row, across from the altar.
“We are very moved by the presence of our Muslim friends and I believe it is a courageous act that they did by coming to us,” Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, said after the service.
Among the congregation that day was one of the nuns who was briefly taken hostage at Hamel’s church when he was killed. She joined other Catholics in shaking hands and embracing the Muslim attendees after the service.
When a small group of Muslim unfurled a banner outside the church which read, “Love for all – hate for none” they were applauded by onlookers.
Jacqueline Prevot, who was in attendance at the Mass, called the Muslim presence “a magnificent gesture.”
“Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming. I am confident. I say to myself that this assassination won’t be lost, that it will maybe relaunch us better than politics can do. Maybe we will react in a better way.”
Time reports that many of the Muslims who attended the service in Rouen were Ahmadiyya Muslims, a minority sect that doesn’t regard Muhammad as the final prophet.
The same gesture of solidarity was repeated in Italy where three imams attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. Wearing traditional dress, they sat in the front row.
Mohammed ben Mohammed, a member of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, reported that he called upon the faithful in his sermon Friday “to report anyone who may be intent on damaging society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.”
In Lombard, Ahmed El Balzai, the imam of the Vobarno mosque in the province of Brescia, said he was not afraid of repercussions for speaking out.
“I am not afraid. … These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” El Balazi said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni thanked Italian Muslims for their participation, saying they “are showing their communities the way of courage against fundamentalism.”
Catholics offered a similar gesture in Normandy on Friday when they joined their Muslim neighbors at Friday prayers at the mosque in the same town where Father Hamel was killed.
According to the Catholic Herald, The head of France’s main Muslim umbrella group, Anouar Kbibech, who attended Friday’s gathering, called upon Muslims to visit churches on Sunday to show solidarity with their neighbors.
Another imam, named Abdelatif Hmitou, issued a scathing rebuke of the young killers who claimed to have slain the priest in the name of Allah.
“You have the wrong civilisation, because you are not a part of civilisation. You have the wrong humanity, because you are not a part of humanity,” Hmitou said. “You have the wrong idea about us (Muslims), and we won’t forgive you for this.”
He continued, “How did the idea reach your mind that we might loathe those who helped us … to pray to Allah in this town? How could you think that, Mr Killer? Mr Criminal?”
Hmitou was referring to the sale of the property upon which their mosque was built – which was sold to them for a symbolic fee with the help of Sainte Therese church in the northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Father Hamel’s killers were both shot and killed at the scene after exiting the church last Tuesday morning. Authorities have apprehended another 19 year-old man who was charged with “criminal terrorist association” after investigators found a video in his home showing one of the slain teens warning of “violent action” to come.
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