PARIS - Imams and ordinary Muslims in France have reacted with fury to the beheading of a fellow citizen by jihadists, but many warn they too are being "held hostage" by pressure to denounce such acts.
Muslims nationwide have rallied to condemn the execution of 55-year-old mountaineer Herve Gourdel this week by Algerian militants with ties to the Islamic State jihadists sowing terror in Iraq and Syria.
"It's heartbreaking, I couldn't sleep. Those who did this are wild animals," said Chagour Khaouther, an Arabic teacher in the Parisian suburbs.
"I can't accept that they claim to do this in the name of Islam."
Gourdel was kidnapped on Sunday by Algerian group Jund al-Khilifa shortly after a chilling call by IS militants for Muslims to kill citizens from countries involved in a US-led coalition fighting the extremists, "especially the spiteful and filthy French."
The threat raised national security jitters throughout France, where authorities are already battling to prevent would-be jihadists from going to fight in Iraq and Syria amid fears they will return to commit attacks on home soil.
Gourdel's execution also ratcheted up the pressure that has been mounting on leaders of Europe's largest community of Muslims - numbering some five million - to take a public stand against IS jihadists.
We are also 'filthy French'
In an unusual move, the French Council of the Muslim Faith - an official representative for the country's Muslims - called for a rally against the "horrific and bloody barbarism of the (IS) terrorists" in Paris on Friday afternoon.
And leading Muslim figures signed a message published in French newspapers Friday condemning "atrocities committed in the name of a murderous ideology hiding behind the Islamic religion."
"We are also the 'filthy French'," said the statement.
There were also calls on social media for displays of solidarity in several other French cities, including Nantes in the west and Lyon in the east.