French Muslims join opposition to same-sex marriage

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Fifty Muslim activists have issued an open letter urging fellow Muslims to join a major Paris protest against the law at the weekend.

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French Muslims have begun joining a mostly Catholic-led movement against same-sex marriage, widening opposition to the reform that the Socialist-led government is set to write into the law by June, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Fifty Muslim activists issued an open letter on Monday urging fellow Muslims to join a major Paris protest against the law on Sunday. That followed a similar appeal last Saturday by the influential Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF).

Leaders of almost all main faiths in France have spoken out against the law, but not called on their followers to march in Sunday's demonstration to avoid giving the opposition campaign an overly religious tone.

President Francois Hollande and his government clashed with the Catholic Church last weekend, telling Catholic schools not to discuss the law with their pupils and urging state education officials to report anti-gay discussions at Catholic schools.

"We will protest on Jan. 13 by joining a pluralist campaign to preserve the traditional framework of marriage," the Muslim activists' letter said. "We invite all French Muslims to turn out in large numbers."

The UOIF statement also urged Muslims to join the "March for All", the Paris protest against the reform the government has dubbed "Marriage for All".

"This bill, if it passes, will disrupt family and social structures and civil law dangerously and irreparably," it said.

The Muslim activist letter was signed by intellectuals, business leaders and leaders of several grassroots Muslim groups. It accused the government of using the marriage issue "to mask its ineffectiveness in the fight against unemployment".

France's 5-million-strong Muslim minority is Europe's biggest and Islam is the second largest faith after Catholicism.