From the “If It Walks Like a Duck” files.
Agence France-Presse reports that the 15 members of a militant French Muslim group that claims it was formed to combat Islamophobia went on trial in Paris on Monday for plotting terrorist attacks. The group, Forsane Alizza, which also calls itself the “knights of pride,” denies the charges.
The group’s leader, 37-year-old “emir” Mohamed Achamlane, testified that he was merely calling for the “legitimate defense” of the Muslim community, adding “I am not racist, I am not an anti-Semite.” But prosecutors have put forward evidence that includes a list of “targets” among which Jewish shops in the Paris region were prominent.
The group’s words and deeds further put the lie to Achamlane’s denials of “terrorist intent.” In 2012, Forsane Alizza put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries, adding, “If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims.”
Prosecutors also confronted Achamlane with videos of himself giving inflammatory speeches with Kalashnikov rifles in the background, and using phrases such as “By all-powerful Allah, we will put scars on France.” His response: “We wanted to make a provocative video with a wall of Kalashnikovs and my bearded head to redress the balance,” adding, “There is no radical or moderate Islam. There is only authentic Islam.”
Forsane Alizza was formed in 2010, gaining attention for organizing protests against the government’s decision to ban veils in public. The French government ordered the group disbanded two years later, claiming it as a “private militia.”
If convicted, members of the group each face up to 10 years in prison.
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