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"We want to be heard... not pushed to the edge of society," Asmae Eumosid, a veiled woman from the suburbs of Paris, told the press.
Thousands of people marched Sunday in the French capital Paris to protest Islamophobia in the country after a man with far-right views fired shots in a mosque in the southwestern city of Bayonne two weeks ago, injuring two elderly men.
The protest, which brought together 13,500 people according to a count by an independent counting firm, also came as the debate over the position of Muslims and Muslim symbols and especially the wearing of the hijab (veil) was rekindled in France.
The demonstrators held out slogans denouncing attacks on Islam and a number of women participating wore veils, while others had adopted some with colors of the French flag.
The march which has divided the country’s political class was called by some 50 personalities, collectives, and organizations, including the Collective against Islamophobia in France. Members of left-wing parties took part in the march, while some kept their distances with the initiative arguing it threatened France’s tradition of secularism.
"We came to sound the alarm, to say there is a level of hate you don't go beyond," one marcher, Larbi, a 35-year-old businessman, told AFP. "We are open to criticism, but you mustn't go beyond certain limits of aggression," he added.
"We want to be heard... not pushed to the edge of society," Asmae Eumosid, a veiled woman from the suburbs of Paris, told AFP, adding that "you hear a lot of nonsense about Islam and about veiled women today."
"With or without the veil, we are sick of being the last in line," said a nurse, Nadjet Fella, who said she had campaigned in Algeria against pressure to wear the veil there.
"I chose not to wear it, but it hurts me that those who wear it are picked on," she explained.
According to a survey by the French Institute of Public Opinion published earlier this month, more than 40 percent of Muslims have endured religious discrimination in France. The country has approximately six million Muslims, which makes it the second-biggest religion in the country and the largest Muslim community in Europe.