French President Francois Hollande has declared that "Muslims are the first victims of fanaticism" and vowed France will protect all religions in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
In a speech on Thursday at the Arab World Institute in Paris, a week after gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine in the French capital, he said France was a secular state and united during such difficult times.
"French Muslims have the same rights as all other French," he said. "We have the obligation to protect them.
"Anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic acts have to be condemned and punished."
"It is Muslims who are the first victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance and anti-Muslim acts, like anti-Semitism, should not only be denounced, but severely punished," Hollande said.
His comments came a day after the Union of Islamic Organizations of France called for "a strong gesture from the president to the Muslims of France" who it said had suffered hatred and attacks from anti-Muslim groups.Hollande warned against stigmatization in France.
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