French Muslims were quick to condemn the tragic attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday, saying the shooters — who witnesses said shouted Muslim chants while killing at least 12 police officers and magazine staff — were not representative of Islam. Still, many, such as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed fears that the incident could trigger widespread backlash against French followers of Islam — particularly as anti-Islam sentiment is seeing a revival across Europe.
“With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts,” he said.
Today, it would appear that the commissioner’s fears were well-founded: less than 48 hours after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, there are already several reports of attacks on French Mosques.
Three incidents have been reported so far:
- Shots were fired at a Muslim prayer hall in Port-la-Nouvelle, a region in southern France, on Wednesday evening.
- Several percussion grenades were thrown at a mosque in Le Mans, west of Paris, on Wednesday night, one of which exploded. Officials also reportedly found a bullet hole in one of the worship hall’s windows.
- An explosion was reported on Thursday morning at a kebab shop near a mosque in Villefranche-sur-Saone, a town in Eastern France. The restaurant regularly serves as a gathering place for people attending the mosque. A local official told the AFP that the bombing was “a criminal act,” and the town’s mayor was quoted expressing fears that the attack was in connection with the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
No one was harmed in any of the incidents.
While the motivation for the attacks on mosques is unclear, it is notable that Muslims were also victims of Charlie Hebdo shootings. One of the police officers killed by the gunmen — seen here begging for his life before being shot in the head — was Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim.