Several attacks on French mosques following Wednesday's brutal Charlie Hebdo shooting have added to the fear of retaliation against the country's Muslim population.
At least 12 people were shot and killed and more than a dozen others wounded in what is being called a terror attack against the French satirical newspaper on Wednesday. The publication faced threats prior to the shooting and was firebombed in 2011 for publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Two Muslim places of worship and a restaurant affiliated to another mosque were attacked Wednesday evening and Thursday morning local time. Three grenades were thrown at a mosque in Le Mans, west of Paris, and a bullet hole was found in one of the mosque's windows, AFP reported.
A Muslim prayer hall in the Port-la-Nouvelle district in southern France also received shots shortly after evening prayers, while a blast erupted at L’Imperial, a restaurant affiliated to a mosque in the French village of Villefranche-sur-Saone. No casualties were reported at any of the attacks.
"I am afraid that is linked to the dramatic event that occurred on Wednesday," Villefranche mayor Perrut Bernard told Le Progress on Thursday, referring to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Several prominent voices, ranging from Wallerand de Saint-Just of France's far-right National Front party to atheist author Richard Dawkins, took the opportunity to blame Islam in its entirety for promoting violence.
With such rhetoric circling, Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, argued that Muslims will likely suffer most from backlash. Speaking to The New York Times, Neumann said:
“Large parts of the European public are latently anti-Muslim, and increasing mobilization of these forces is now reaching into the center of society. If we see more of these incidents, and I think we will, we will see a further polarization of these European societies in the years to come.”
Muslims around the world condemned Wednesday's attack, rejecting the extremists' distortion of Islam for a violent agenda. Many urged the public not to conflate the religion with these isolated attacks, which will further fan the flames of antagonism.
CORRECTION: This article previously misidentified Dawkins as American; he is British.
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