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Muslims Fear Backlash After Paris Shooting

People hold a placard which reads "I am Muslim, I am Jewish, I am Catholic, I am Charlie" at a vigil, following the shooting of 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, at the Place de la Republic in Paris, Jan. 8, 2015.

Muslims in Europe are already feeling the backlash from the Paris attack.
The United Nations Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said Friday a “moment of calm” is needed after the Charlie Hebdo newspaper shootings in French capital this week.

At a ceremony in Geneva on Friday, Al-Hussein said Islam was not responsible for the shooting of 12 people.

“We need a moment of calm now, we do not need retaliation. Neither Islam nor multiculturalism in Europe is to blame for the bloody attack two mornings ago, as some right-wing political leaders have already begun to say.”

His comments come as some far right wing groups in Europe have already begun to link the attacks to multiculturalism policies.

FILE - A placard reading 'Peace' is held by a woman during an Islamic peace conference at Wembley Arena in north-west London, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.
FILE - A placard reading 'Peace' is held by a woman during an Islamic peace conference at Wembley Arena in north-west London, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.

In Britain, Nigel Farage, the leader of the right wing political party UKIP, told media outlets that the Paris attack was a result of failed "multiculturalism" or what he called "having a fifth column living within these countries.”

In Germany, the political group PEGIDA, said the attack demonstrated that Islamists are “not capable of democracy."

And in France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, described Islamism as a “murderous ideology.”

Muslim communities across Europe have condemned the attack. Speaking on the streets of Paris, Muslims spoke of their anger and fear.

Osama el-Tablawy, an Egyptian living in France, says those who did this, if they are Muslims, are out of Islam. If someone insults you with a word, he says, insult them back with a word.

Mesoud, a French Algerian, says it is a big fear to be designated as responsible for the attack.

Dr. Carool Kersten, an expert on the Study of Islam and the Muslim World at King’s College London, says there is going to be a backlash against Muslims in Europe. It will go far beyond responses to radicalized elements within the Muslim communities, he says.

“There is definitely a sense of fear and concern at least amongst the Muslim mainstream that the atrocities in Paris will very negatively impact not simply on the image of Muslim communities but their very position in various European societies," Kerstin said.

Some European news sources have monitored extremist websites to assess reactions to the attack.

One Swedish broadcaster accessed a secret Facebook group reportedly used by Swedish jihadists and their supporters. The network said there were a number of messages in support of the attack on Charlie Hebdo's Paris offices.

Kerstin says within the very small group of radicalized Muslims, there is some support for the attacks," Kerstin said. But, he says, even though there is general agreement among radicals that cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad should not be permitted, there is fundamental disagreement over how the problem should be dealt with.

“That does not automatically mean that those who are guilty of defaming the religion should be put to death. Even among radicals there is also groups who advocate legal action or trying to change laws in regards to blasphemy, apostasy, and defamation of religion," he adds.

He says the Paris shootings should trigger a general debate about how to negotiate the “miss-match” of value systems between freedom of expression and demonstrating respect for people’s beliefs.