Europe's Muslims feel heat of backlash after Paris terror
Firebombs and pig heads thrown into mosques. Veiled women subjected to insults in the street. The Internet awash with threats against Muslims. Europe's Muslims are feeling the heat of a fierce backlash following last week's terror attack against French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
An official who keeps track of Islamophobic attacks in France said there were 60 incidents — attacks and threats — in the six days since that attack.
A climate of fear is taking hold in Europe, stoked by rightist rhetoric equating the millions of peaceful Muslims with the few plotting murder and mayhem.
Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, said that since last Wednesday's massacre at Charlie Hebdo, 26 places of worship around France were attacked by firebombs, gunshots or pig heads, with a mosque in Le Mans hit with four grenades. There were 34 insults and threats.
The three-day terror spree in Paris claimed the lives of 17 victims, and traumatized a continent already brimming with anti-immigrant sentiment. Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi — the al-Qaida-linked suspects in the magazine attack — were killed in a shootout at a printing plant north of Paris; their apparent accomplice Amedy Coulibaly was shot dead in a near-simultaneous raid at a Jewish market, where he had holed himself up with hostages, killing four.
French authorities are warning the nation against linking French Muslims with terrorists.
"The terrorists' religion is not Islam, which they are betraying," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week. "It's barbarity."
To make the point stick, he said he doesn't want the word "Islamist" used to describe the killers.
"I call that terrorists," he said this week on iTele, explaining he doesn't want to link terrorists with those who practice their "religion of peace."
Concerns about a backlash against Muslims were discussed Monday during a counter-terrorism meeting at the Interior Ministry. "We said above all, pretty unanimously, that in France there are 5 or 6 million Muslims. These (terrorist) issues concern 1,000 individuals," said Socialist lawmaker Patrick Mennucci. "We should be careful not to stigmatize anyone."
Coulibaly's mother and daughters, presenting condolences to the victims, issued a plea in a statement delivered to the French press "that there will be no amalgam between these odious acts and the Muslim religion."
Yet Muslims and some experts said that it was inevitable that Muslims would fall under suspicion after the attacks, despite a unity march on Sunday — described as the largest in French history — in which throngs of Muslims participated.
The rising far-right in France and other European countries has been driven by an anti-immigration, anti-Islam message. National Front leader Marine Le Pen seized upon the Charlie Hebdo attack just hours after it happened, suggesting it was a vindication of her party's xenophobic stance. Extreme-right groups across Europe have increasingly been striking a chord with ordinary citizens voicing fears their culture is being uprooted by an alien civilization.