Paris: Two female topless activists from the self-proclaimed "sextremist" group Femen were violently dragged away after storming the stage at a conference on women and Islam near the French capital of Paris, the media reported on Monday.
A video footage showed the two topless women race on to the stage as two Imams were giving a talk on Saturday evening at the conference in Pontoise near Paris, The Local reported.
The women, of Algerian and Tunisian origin, had anti-Muslim slogans on their chest that said: "No one will submit me, I am my own prophet." They began shouting the same words to the audience.
While the two Imams were clearly taken aback and shrank away from the women, a group of around 15 men, including security guards, ran onto the stage to bring an abrupt and violent end to the protest act.
Images show the two women disappearing under a sea of bodies, with some of the men appearing to launch kicks and slaps at the pair. The melee continued behind a screen out of sight of the cameras.
The site Buzzfeed France confirmed that one of the women had been punched several times in the aftermath of the incident, before the police took them away.
While the organisers of the conference have announced their intention to file charges, the head of Femen, Inna Shevchenko, has defended the protest.
"The two Imams were in the process of discussing whether or not you should beat your wife," said Shevchenko.
She said there were cries of “dirty whores and kill them,” as the men stormed the stage. Shevchenko, who was at the event later, tweeted: "Femmophobia is illegal, sexism is racism and modern slavery is a crime".
As per The Local, the conference itself was controversial, with a petition to prevent it gaining around 6,000 signatures.
The petition denounced the presence of radical speakers including Nader Abou Anas, who has been accused of trying to legitimise rape within marriage.
Femen's provocative protests have prompted a violent response in the past notably when they disrupted an anti-gay marriage protest in Paris.
With agency inputs