Last updated: 8 January, 2015

Mideast media fear growing Islamophobia after France attack

Newspapers in the Middle East warned Thursday that the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo could trigger a backlash against Muslims in the West.

“Muslims will find themselves in a fix because extremist groups in Europe will exploit this incident to fuel Islamophobia,” said the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq.

Tunisian newspaper El Watan said Muslims in France and other Western nations could be the target of hate crimes like those that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

“All eyes will be on the Muslim communities of France and most of the Western world,” it said.

Prosecutors in France reported that Muslim places of worship in two French towns were fired upon overnight after Wednesday’s carnage in Paris.

Middle East newspaper expressed shock and indignation at the attack on Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, describing it as an act of “terrorism” brought on by the brutal rise of radical Islam.

“Terrorism has no religion,” said the front-page headline of Morocco’s Arab-language newspaper Ahdath Al-Maghribiya. “It is a crime that kills us all and that cannot be justified.”

Tunisia’s Assabah newspaper said “terrorism butchers freedom of expression and stabs Islam”.

Lebanon’s French-language L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper published an editorial entitled “I am Charlie” and denounced “perverse acts aimed at radicalising the most moderate”.

Newspapers in Lebanon, one of the most liberal countries in the region where journalists have also been targeted for their opinions for decades, mourned the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists killed in Wednesday’s attack.

Pro-Syrian regime daily Al-Akhbar dedicated five pages to the Paris tragedy, including profiles of the slain cartoonists.

Leftist newspaper As-Safir, known for its criticism of the West and its policies, warned that jihadist “lone wolves” and “Qaeda-type sleeper cells (in Paris) may have awoken”.

– ‘War of civilisations’ –

The killings have been condemned by governments across the region, where many have said their “warnings” that Islamic radicals were on the rise and ready to attack have fallen on deaf ears.

Such was the message from the Islamic Republic of Iran, where newspapers linked the attack to French support for Syria’s armed opposition and its participation in the war on the Islamic State jihadist group.

The reformist newspaper Ebtekar said the rise of IS “which appears to be the result of the military actions of Western governments in Islamic countries, has given birth to the bloodiest terrorist operations.”

The reformist Shargh newspaper called on the United States and Europe “to review as quickly as possible their policies towards the Middle East and the Islamic world”.

Shargh said it was possible that cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo in 2006, which triggered violent protests in Muslim countries, “can give an excuse for terrorists to carry out horrific acts on the behalf of Islam”.

Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq denounced “extremists who pretended to avenge the Prophet Mohammed” because of those cartoons, and urged a “serious dialogue between East and West to tackle extremism.”

In Morocco, the flagship French-language weekly magazine TelQuel denounced the attack and voiced its “shock and indignation.”

TelQuel also re-published a 2012 interview it conducted with Stephane Charbonnier, Charlie Hebdo’s slain editor-in-chief, in which he said: “I am an atheist, not an Islamophobe.”

In Israel, Sever Plocker wrote in the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper that it would be a mistake to treat the incident as an attack on freedom of the press.

“This is a war of civilisations and not just another intimidation campaign by a gang.”