Activists eye backlash after Charlie Hebdo attack

Activists eye backlash after Charlie Hebdo attack
3 min read
08 January, 2015
French Muslims, Arabs and immigrants are the ones who will likely suffer the next consequences of the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.
This Muslim-owned kebab shop was targeted in the backlash [AFP]

Selma is an anti-racist activist in Paris.

"There is a feeling that nothing will be the same again," she said. "This is the French September 11."

A day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Muslims and other Arabs in France fear the ramifications of the attack.

The murder of 12 people, including many journalists, was soon followed by a spat of attacks on Muslim institutions and symbols across France.

On Thursday, an explosion hit a kebab restaurant near a mosque in Villefranche-Sure-Saone, in the northern outskirts of Lyon. Some 10 percent of French residents are thought to be Muslims.

On Wednesday evening, with the identity of the perpetrators of the attack still a mystery, French police reported attacks on several mosques - and grenades thrown into a courtyard of a mosque in Le Mans.

"Many Muslims around me are scared," Selma said.

"People are scared to go out because they appear to be Muslim, further increasing their marginalisation in French society."

     People are scared to go out because they appear to be Muslim, further increasing their marginalisation in French society.
-Selma, anti-racist activist

French Muslims have been facing a rising tide of racism and prejudice even before this attack said Mouhammed Garbi, a human rights activist.

"This is a blow to Muslims, Arabs and other minorities who have been suffering from prejudice and racism that is now see spreading across Europe," he said.

In May 2014, the far-right French National Front garnered 25 percent of the vote in the European Parliamentary elections, sending shock waves across Europe's political scene.

The party will "capitalise on this incident to further incite against Muslims, Arabs and immigrants whom they blame for the economic crisis and lack of jobs", said Garbi.

Islam Awad, from the Active Citizenship NGO, warned that those who hold Islamophobic views would be strengthened and galvanised by the attack and right-wing reaction to it.

Awad urged French politicians "to act sensibly and maintain solidarity between people".

But French President Francois Hollande's recent invitation of politicians - including Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front - to the presidential palace is seen as a "legitimisation of her party's anti-Muslim views", said Awad.

To confront anticipated anger against Muslims, Awad called for dialogue, to avoid a situation "where violence becomes the only means of expressing ourselves".

Garbi said that the French public must see that not all Muslims support the actions of the three perpetrators, by "taking to the streets and joining the demonstrations organised for Saturday".

Selma, meanwhile, says the pressure put on Muslims to apologise for an act committed by three individuals is "racist".

The call for Muslims to apologise for the attack on Charlie Hebdo "means we as Muslims committed an act that we should be ashamed of, but there is no relationship between Islam and what these people did", she said.

What is becoming clear is that it is French Muslims, Arabs and immigrants who will most likely bare the brunt of the backlash from this attack.