The day after terrorists stormed the offices of a French satire magazine and killed 12 people, other upstanding French citizens have taken to retaliating by attacking mosques throughout the country. The answer to horrible violence, they seem to say, is more of the same.
One of the attacks took place in Port La Nouvelle, in southern France, where an unknown assailant fired shots at a prayer room at a local mosque. Another mosque, in Le Mans, was attacked with grenades, while a restaurant near yet another one was bombed in Villefrance-sur-Saone.
France is home to one of Europe’s largest Muslim populations, a legacy of its colonial involvement in the Middle East and North Africa, and these incidents bring fears of anti-Muslim escalation by the country’s prominent right wing to the forefront. The French-Muslim population is frequently targeted by the country’s laïcité laws, which, among other things, ban head coverings worn by some Muslim women in public places. Many told Al Jazeera they fear the agression will escalate. “Before the shootings, it was normal for us to be attacked by people who don’t like Muslims, but now it will be much worse,” 22-year-old finance student Rashid Abdulrahim told the network.
While rallies in France on Wednesday focused on solidarity with the cartoonists and freedom of speech, gatherings elsewhere in Europe this week — notably in Germany — made no effort to hide their Islamophobic leanings.