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PARIS TERROR ATTACK

TERRORISM

France on high alert as Muslims fear backlash

France was on high alert on Thursday the day after a terror attack on a satirical magazine left 12 dead. Muslim leaders have condemned the shootings, but fear there may be a backlash.

France on high alert as Muslims fear backlash
650 extra soldies and 2,000 more police will patrol the streets of Paris on Thursday. Photo: AFP

The French government has placed the country on the highest state of terror alert after an attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead, including two police.

Extra security forces were drafted in to secure mosques, synagogues, department stores, shopping centres, train stations and airports, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. 

Paris announced that an extra 650 soldiers and 2,000 more police officers will patrol the streets of the capital on Thursday.

The cabinet held an emergency meeting to come up with a response to the deadly attack, while President François Hollande, who has called for "national unity", planned a nationally televised address. 

Hollande said that "several terrorist attacks had been foiled in recent weeks".

France last year beefed up its anti-terrorism laws and was already on high alert after repeated calls from Muslim extremists to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.

Fears of a wave of attacks were heightened in the run-up to the Christmas holiday period after three separate attacks across France – all involving men shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great)  – left one dead and several injured.

Thursday’s gun attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, which had already been firebombed in 2012 after it published satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed, came as politicians in France and other European countries warned that their countries could suffer from fallout from the wars in Iraq and Syria.

Around 1,000 French nationals and hundreds of other European citizens have gone to the Middle East to wage jihad alongside the radical Islamic State group, and many worry some of them will return to carry out attacks in their home countries.

Muslim community fears a backlash

The Charlie Hebdo attack has also raised fears of a backlash against Muslims in France, which has the largest Muslim community in western Europe.

It also comes at a time when there anti-Islam sentiment is growing across Europe and the question of Muslim immigration in France is once again bubbling away.

Wednesday's shooting coincided with the release of a new novel by France's most famous polemicist Michel Houllebecq, who once described Islam as a cretinous religion.

His novel "Submission" projects a future France under Islamic rule and has been blasted by critics as Islamophobic.

Wednesdays shooting will have many in the Muslim community on edge.

"After the victims of this attack, the next victim will certainly be a Muslim," Samy Debah, president of the president of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), told The Local. 

"Muslims in France have nothing to do with these attackers. We are not responsible, neither individually or collectively,” he said, adding that he condemned the latest attack, one of the deadliest in France in decades.

Other leaders of the Muslim community firmly condemned the attack and echoed Hollande's calls for unity. 

The imam of one of France's major cities, Bordeaux, urged Muslims to take to the streets in protest at Wednesday's deadly attack in Paris by Islamist gunmen, calling it "almost an act of war".

Imam Tareq Oubrou, a supporter of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, said after meeting Pope Francis that the attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people died, was "tantamount to what September 11 meant to America."

"With this drama we are seeing almost an act of war," Oubrou told reporters.

The current rector of the Grande Mosque in Paris Dalil Boubakeur said: "This attack is against all our values. We are absolutely horrified and stupified by this crime. We are entering an extremely dangerous situation in Paris when violence is becoming a part of daily life," he said.

The Imam of Drancy, Hassan Chalgoumi, added: "I am very angry. We must avoid at all costs equating these barbarians with the majority of Muslims. 

"If you don't agree with Charlie Hebdo cartoons then you should respond with your own cartoons, not with blood and hatred.”

 

 

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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