Parisian Muslims complain of ostracism after terror attacks

Published 22.11.2015 21:26

Riding the Paris Metro to the city's Grand Mosque for prayers, Samia Mahfoudia says people shoot sideways looks at her "almost as if they were saying 'Get off.'"

Ahmed El Mziouzi, a Moroccan who has called France home for 42 years, 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 of 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 are having to adjust to 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. But unlike other French, some Muslims also feel the additional burden of having to justify and defend themselves and their community and point out their Islam bears no relation to that of the violent zealots. They worry that some non-Muslims can't see the difference between them and DAESH killers.

Cold, hard stares and, in rare cases, physical assaults that some Muslims have faced since the bloodshed are reinforcing concerns that some in France are now lumping all Muslims together. "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."

A Muslim group that tracks Islamophobia in France has reported a fresh spike of hate crimes since the attacks, although not as large as that which followed the slaughter in January of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine and shoppers at a kosher grocery in Paris that left 17 victims dead.

The southern port city of Marseille saw both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic violence after the latest attacks, with a veiled woman punched and slashed with a box cutter as she left the subway and a teacher at a Jewish school assaulted by three knife-wielding attackers, the Interior Ministry said. Attacks have also been reported on Muslim meeting places and shops elsewhere in France. Since France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in western Europe, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence are not new in the country. And some Muslims say they understand that the latest killing spree claimed by the DAESH has made some of their fellow citizens wary. Still, that doesn't make their cold shoulders easier to bear. "I understand their pain. The anger," said Mahfoudia, a 64-year-old grandmother. "(But) it's not because I wear a headscarf that I'm going to hurt other people."

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