Thousands of Muslims attended Catholic mass in France and Italy on Sunday, July 31 to express their unity with Catholics. Muslim clergy encouraged this action in response to the murder of Catholic priest Jacques Hamel in a church in Normandy on July 26, 2016.
Two 19-year-old men, allegedly affiliated with ISIS, murdered the priest by slitting his throat during a service. Police killed the two attackers as they ran out of he church shouting “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great.”
Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, attended a service at Notre Dame Cathedral. The imams of many mosques in Italy also attended mass.
A Message of Unity
One Muslim woman who attended mass in Saint-Denis told reporters that their message was both peace and unity. Catholics expressed gratitude for the support of the Muslim community.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, said on Twitter:
“Thank you to all those Italians of Islamic religion who direct their communities along the path of courage against fundamentalism.”
Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim leaders in many communities in France and Italy also called for greater surveillance and security at houses of worship.
Local Muslims Won’t Bury Attackers
The imam of one of the two mosques in Saint-Etienne-de-Rouvray, Mohammed Karabirla, told reporters he would not permit the two attackers to be buried in the Muslim cemetery. Karabirla added:
“We won’t taint Islam with this person. We won’t participate in preparing the body or the burial.”
Another local Muslim said that the sin of the murder was so grievous that the killer was “no longer a part of our community.” City officials have not yet decided whether the killers can be buried anywhere in the community.
Featured image from video screengrab.