Published On:16 April 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Muslims in France Waiting for the Backlash

By Souad Mekhennet

Paris: The attacks in France committed by Mohammed Merah, a French-born Muslim whose parents migrated from Algeria, have millions of Muslims living in the West worried about the potential consequences. In particular, women worry that they will become the focus of campaign politics.

Many friends who wear the hijab and live in Europe reported getting angry looks after the attacks, said Malika, 29, a German of Moroccan background who works in a bank and declined to have her last name published.

Mr. Merah, 23, had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan and claimed affiliation with Al Qaeda. He killed seven people, three of them children.

“It is terrible what he has done, and there is nothing in Islam that justifies the killing of innocents, especially children,” said Naima, 26, who also spoke on the condition that her full identity be withheld.

“But will we Muslims, and especially Muslim women, have to pay the price now?”

Naima cited the debate in France over where Mr. Merah was to be buried — in the end, Algeria refused his body, and he was buried in Toulouse — as evidence of double standards about who is embraced as French and who remains firmly Muslim.

“When someone is like Zidane, a great sportsman, they say he’s French, and when one like Merah, who is a child of this society, runs nuts and kills people, they say he’s not one of us,” she said.

Naima’s parents, like Mr. Merha’s, came from Algeria. She grew up in the suburbs of Paris.
Naima and many other Muslims in Europe wonder whether they are caught in a vicious cycle in which increasing xenophobia helps radicalize a generation of Muslims born in France, and they ask whether attacks like Mr. Merah’s will further increase Islamophobia.

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American lawyer living in Los Angeles and the author of the book “My Guantánamo Diary,” asserted that “French politics have generated anti-Islamic sentiment,” but that clearly Mr. Merah “needed his head checked.”

“Nothing justifies his heinous attacks,” she said.

Mr. Merah also stated that France had become increasingly anti-Muslim, citing the ban of the niqab, the veil over women’s faces.

“I don’t wear the veil, nor do I want to wear it, but I know other women think differently,” said Naima, expressing surprise that “so-called jihadists care about women so much.”

In fact, for some time Al Qaeda and the Taliban have threatened Western countries because of laws banning niqabs and over imprisonment of Muslim women. Password-protected forums used by Al Qaeda and its affiliates are full of comments about female Muslim prisoners.

Recently Al Qaeda’s North African branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, asked for the release of Feliz Gelowicz, the wife of the leader of a group that had planned attacks against U.S. facilities in Germany. They threatened to kill a German hostage if Ms. Gelowicz was not released.

For months, jihadists have also sought the release of Malika El Aroud, a Belgian of Moroccan decent, who is serving a jail sentence in Belgium.

The case garnering the most attention over the years in the forums is that of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who had lived in the United States, where she received a doctorate in neuroscience and was married with three children. The F.B.I. suspected her of having links to key Qaeda operatives.

She traveled in 2003 to Pakistan, where she and her children disappeared for five years. Mrs. Khan, the lawyer in Los Angeles, asserted that Ms. Siddiqui has been held in secret U.S. detention facilities for years. Mrs. Khan and Yvonne Ridley, a journalist based in London and vice president of the European Muslim League, have researched the case and said it had generated intense anger among Muslims.

Mrs. Ridley knows how it feels to be detained. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she went to Afghanistan as a journalist for a British newspaper and was held by the Taliban. She said that she was treated with respect and converted to Islam after her release.

In many statements made in password-protected Internet forums, members say that the jailing of women and campaigns against the full veil turn Muslims against the West.

The Muslim women interviewed for this article stressed that such policies in no way justify what happened in Toulouse, and more closely compare with Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Norwegian who last July killed 77 people, most of them teenagers.

Yet all the women also fear that Western governments are not probing the causes for anger among young Muslims. All three cite increasing Islamophobia and failed foreign policy with regard to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories as sources for that ire.

“Between having entire families massacred in Kandahar by a sociopath U.S. soldier, drones wiping out entire families or bombs dropping on weddings,” Mrs. Khan said, “there are multiple sources to anger toward Western countries.”

Mrs. Ridley said: “Western governments must start to take responsibility for their actions abroad, and these actions are not usually with the consent or in the agreement of their own citizens who elected them.”

(Courtesy: The New York Times)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on April 16, 2012. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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