PARIS, Dec. 24 (JTA) — Brigitte Bardot, France’s former screen icon who now devotes her life to animals’ rights, is facing charges in court of inciting racial hatred for writing that Muslim immigrants are polluting French society. In an opinion piece in the daily Le Figaro last April in which she harshly condemned the ritual slaughter of sheep for the Muslim festival of Id al-Khebir, Bardot wrote that the French were being forced to “submit against our will to a Muslim overflow.” In a rare public appearance, the 62-year-old former actress was in court last week to deny the accusations leveled by three anti-racist groups. She told the court that her editorial, “My Cry of Anger,” was an attempt to convince French authorities to bring a halt to the “barbarity of this bloody festival.” On Id al-Khebir, which falls in the spring, the head of each Muslim family slits the jugular of a sheep and bleeds it to death to celebrate Abraham’s sacrifice of a sheep, rather than his son, to honor God. “I’ve watched from afar. I even cried in front of [Muslims] and begged them to knock the animals unconscious first so that it will be more humane,” said Bardot, who retired from acting in 1972 to become France’s most outspoken animal rights campaigner. She was accompanied in court by her husband Bernard d’Ormale, a member of the National Front party, which advocates expelling France’s four million immigrants, most of whom come from its former colonies in North Africa. She also told the court that kosher slaughtering entailed suffering for animals. Although Bardot denied she was racist, her language in court was similar to that used in the column, and at times resembled the anti-immigrant rhetoric of National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. “There are more and more Muslims in France. These people come to live here and they don’t respect our laws,” she said. “I am only saying out loud what every one thinks quietly.” Le Pen, who frequently makes anti-Semitic statements in public, won 15 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election. Philippe Coen, a lawyer for the one of the plaintiffs, the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, said Bardot was “surfing on the wave of intolerance that is sweeping across our society.” If found guilty, she faces up to one year in prison and a $60,000 fine. In her editorial, a longer version of which was published in the Front’s weekly newspaper National Hebdo, Bardot directly attacked North African immigrants. “We see mosques blossom across France while our church bells fall silent because of a lack of priests,” she wrote. “Could I be forced in the near future to flee my country which has turned into a bloody and violent country?” The court is slated to render its verdict Jan. 23.