French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday sought to reassure the Muslim community in France that it had its "full place in France" and Muslims should have no shame after terrorist attacks that the government affirmed had nothing to do with Islam.
Speaking to Parliament to announce that France would be beefing up security measures to combat the terrorist threat, the Prime Minister decried the killing of 17 people last week - seven of them journalists - and he also condemned and promised severe action against racist or anti-Semitic attacks.
"Islam is the second religion in France," Valls told the deputies. "It has its full place in France." France is at war with terrorism, with radical, Jihadism but not with any religion, the Prime Minister told Parliament.
He said France, as a lay country, was open to all religions and strived for equality for all in the Republic.
"But this Republic will show proof of the greatest firmness, the greatest intransigence in the face of those who attempt, in the name of Islam, to smother our neighbourhoods, to impose their order on the basis of trafficking and on the basis of religious radicalism," Valls said.
The head of government promised to tackle the social problems facing many poor neighbourhoods in France, where immigrants or their children have not been properly integrated and are excluded from society.
He vowed to work on the education sector to emphasise that France was a lay country and also to inculcate the values of the French Republic in pupils.
"The Republic is not possible without schools, schools are not possible without the Republic," he said.
The "debate is not between Islam and society, it is a debate even within Islam, which Islam in France must carry on within itself, among Muslim leaders, intellectuals, among the Muslims who are telling us for several days that they are afraid," Valls remarked in an emotionally-charged speech.
He said that there can no longer be attacks against Jews because they are Jewish or against Muslims because they are Muslims.
Four Jews were killed in the hostage-taking in Paris last Friday and there have been around 60 anti-Muslim attacks, gun attacks, grenade attacks, arson and insults and tagging of Mosques since last week, the Interior Ministry has said.
Valls condemned these acts and vowed to take measures to stamp out sectarian attacks, no matter who is the target.
"I don't want to see any more in our country that Jews are afraid and I don't want that there are Muslims who are ashamed, because the Republic is fraternity, it is generous, it is there to welcome some people," Valls stated.
He announced a series of measures that will be put in place to reinforce the war on terror. These will include even more strict controls on internet and those who use this media to promote or organise radicalism or terrorism. In addition, France will put in place a "single-cell" system for detainees imprisoned for terror or extremists activities to prevent them organising in jails here and to prevent radicalisation of other prisoners.
Valls also said that he had asked Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to work on better cooperation with other countries to be able to track the movements of terror suspects and the sharing of passenger list information will be bolstered. More exchanges of the Passenger National Register (PNR) are to be envisaged. This particular subject, among others, is to be discussed at an international terrorism conference on February 18 in Washington.
Valls also indicated that French security services would set up a register or listing of potential terror suspects and enforce obligatory controls on their addresses and these would be confirmed by police.
But Valls refused calls from some parliamentarians for an "exception law" that could lead to division or segregation and he said he would never betray the values of the Republic or its laws.