Paris Attack: French Muslims Complain of Assaults

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Paris: A Muslim group that tracks Islamophobia in France has reported a fresh spite of hate crimes since the Paris attacks. Although not as prolific as that which followed the slaughter in January of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo and the shoppers at a kosher grocery in Paris that left 17 dead.

The southern port city of Marseille saw both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic violence after the latest attacks, with a veiled woman was punched and slashed with a box cutter as she left a subway and a teacher at a Jewish school assaulted by three knife-wielding attackers, the Interior Ministry said.

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Attacks have also been reported on Muslim meeting places and shops elsewhere in France. Ahmed El Mziouzi, a Moroccan says he’s seen people staring at Muslims like him “a bit bizarrely” since attackers claiming to be acting in the name of Islam massacred 130 people, traumatizing the city.

These are tough times for France’s Muslims. Muslims were among both the dead and the hundreds of wounded in the Paris attacks. Muslims across Paris and the world also reacted with shock, horror and anger at the indiscriminate slaughter. In the French capital, Muslims have visited the makeshift shrines with flowers and candles outside the Bataclan concert hall and the cafes where the attackers mowed down victims in cold blood.

And all Parisians of every religion have to adjust with a whole new post-attacks atmosphere of heightened angst and suspicion. Armed police in thick bulletproof vests cordoned off roads around the Grand Mosque in Paris for Friday prayers and patted down worshippers, scanning them with metal detectors in the cold, driving rain. Soldiers wearing camouflage gear and cradling automatic rifles also patrolled.

Some Muslims also feel the additional burden of having to justify and defend themselves and their community and point out Islam bears no relation to the act of the violent zealots. They worry that some non-Muslims can’t see the difference between them and Islamic State killers.

“Out on the streets, we’re scared,” Soraya Moumen, a Muslim woman in her twenties, said on her way to prayers at the Grand Mosque. “We feel people are adding one and one to make three, thinking that all Muslims are terrorists.”

Anti-Muslim graffiti has also shown up in many places. In Evreux in northern France, the town hall and other buildings were daubed with graffiti saying “Death to Muslims” and “(with a) suitcase or (in a) coffin” – a reference to how the protesters wanted Muslims to leave town.

Since France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Western Europe, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence are not recent phenomenon in the country. For almost two decades, the advent of Neo-Nazis haunted France. Some Muslims say they understand that the latest killing spree claimed by the Islamic State group has made some of their fellow citizens wary. Still, that doesn’t make their cold shoulders easier to bear.

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