French mosques host dialogue weekend on anniversary of Charlie Hebdo attacks

Mosques across France are opening up to the public for dialogue on Islamophobia and the differences between jihadism and Islam as the country marks one year since radical jihadis' deadly attack at a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket.

Michel Euler/Pool/AP
Members of the family of late policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe, who died last year's January attacks, sing a gospel next to a wreath of flowers laid by French President Francois Hollande in Montrouge south of Paris, Saturday Jan. 9, 2016. Hollande is honoring 17 victims killed in Islamic extremist attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher market and police a year ago this week, unveiling plaques around Paris marking violence that ushered in a tumultuous year.

Mosques all over France are taking part in a dialogue weekend, opening up to the public as a shaken country marks one year since radical jihadis attacked a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket, killing 17 people.

The open-door initiative that includes tea and pastries was organized by France's main Muslim body to counter islamophobia and highlight the differences between jihadism and moderate, peace-loving Islam.

Nurturing inter-religious cohesion has become a top priority among leaders in France, officially a secular nation, ollowing fresh attacks in November. Those attacks led police to conduct over a dozen raids on Muslim places of worship and close several over fears they were radicalizing members.

France has the highest Muslim population of Western Europe.

Muslim leaders hope the move will channel the spirit of the demonstration of January 11, during which millions marched for unity on the streets of Paris.

Coming on the heels of the deadly Nov. 13 attacks, when 130 people were killed, the remembrance for the Charlie Hebdo attacks has been quiet, as The Monitor’s Sara Miller Llana earlier reported:

Last year, in the wake of the brutal assault at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Paris was defiant.

As the first post-attack edition of the satirical magazine hit newsstands last January, Parisians set alarms at dawn to ensure they’d get a copy. Most were disappointed to find it had sold out before their first sip of coffee. France put on a march that drew millions, including dozens of heads of state, to the streets.

Now, as a week of commemorations kicks off to honor that time and the lives that were taken, France is more muted.

In other events to mark the first anniversary of January's bloodshed, French President Francois Hollande paid homage Saturday to a female police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, who was killed by gunman Amedy Coulibaly in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge on Jan. 8.

Hollande unveiled a memorial plaque and stood solemnly amid a rousing rendition of the Marseillaise, followed by spontaneous gospel music.

"I am not bitter," said the victim's mother, Marie-Louise Jean-Philippe. She told French media that the "beautiful ceremony... warmed her heart."

In the evening, many will gather for a tribute at a Jewish supermarket in the eastern suburb of Vincennes, the site of a fatal hostage siege by Coulibaly on Jan. 9.

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