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After Paris Attacks, Some Fear Backlash Against Muslim Communities

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After Paris Attacks, Some Fear Backlash Against Muslim Communities

Europe

After Paris Attacks, Some Fear Backlash Against Muslim Communities

After Paris Attacks, Some Fear Backlash Against Muslim Communities

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NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Samia Hathroubi, European director of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, about what conversations in Muslim Parisian communities may sound like in the coming days.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now let's turn the conversation today into the different communities or towards different communities in Paris, especially in the wake of an attack by violent Islamists on the city. Samia Hathroubi is on the line. She's European director of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Samia Hathroubi, forgive me for mispronouncing your name. Thank you so much for being with us.

SAMIA HATHROUBI: That's perfect. Thank you for invitation.

SIMON: You work with a lot of religious communities in France. Are you worried today about a backlash?

HATHROUBI: I'm going to be very honest. So we haven't slept a lot, to be honest with you. We have been talking. And we had the whole crisis hotline for - from the very beginning of the - of the terrorist attacks since we heard it was terrorist attack. And we are afraid. I mean, we knew during Charlie Hebdo we were very, very afraid about the impact in the community - in the social - in the social community. But now this is even worse. We had 250 people wounded, 128 people who died. And this is only temporary - temporary consequences of the - of the - of the terrorist attack. Of course we're horrified. We condemn this blind violence that has touched the French society without any distinct one - distinction. They killed everyone that was in front of them in a very crowded places. And this is unprecedented in our whole history. So of course we are very worried.

SIMON: And remind us please what happened in Paris and a few spots elsewhere in the country following the - the Charlie Hebdo attacks 'cause there were - there were backlashes, if I might put it that way, against Muslims and Jews.

HATHROUBI: Exactly. So we have fears that after Charlie Hebdo - they sent us the first letter of terror. And we respond by being together, even if we have seen and we have witnessed the rise of anti-Muslim acts, of Islamophobia. We have seen and I have seen in my daily work mistrust between Muslim and Jewish communities. This is my daily work. But I've - I have also seen a rise of awareness, a rise of people willing to act on a daily basis, to be the light in their society, to be the light in the community, to lead a better change. And - and we need to continue. They sent us a letter of terror to try to divide us.

SIMON: Yeah.

HATHROUBI: But we shouldn't - we shouldn't let them win. They have won yesterday. They have won a great battle in this clash. Not of humanization, but a clash between humanity and brotherhood against inhumanity and blind violence. And we should stick together. We are launching - we had help crisis line. But we have also meeting from tomorrow. Today we can't even go out. We are on our phone. We are on Skype to try to organize how to help with all the communities...

SIMON: Yeah.

HATHROUBI: ...And all the individuals who feel that they need to do something.

SIMON: Are - may I ask, are their people you work with who, Muslims and Jews and others, who are - who are afraid to go out at least for the next few days because they might be - they might be identified...

HATHROUBI: Yeah.

SIMON: ...By their - by their belief?

HATHROUBI: Exactly.

SIMON: Yes. Really? What do you tell them?

HATHROUBI: So I was - just after Charlie Hebdo I had calls from friends who wear veils - Muslim friends. And they - they told me that they were afraid because people were looking at the way - in a very aggressive way. But I can't even imagine today. Today we are all afraid - not only Muslims, not only Jews, but all of us. Each one of us can be a victim of this bind violence and we are - we are not only - as Muslims we are not only victims because they can kill us. And we have seen - we will have the name of people who were killed and we will see that there will be Muslims within it.

SIMON: Yes.

HATHROUBI: But we can also be victims of this backlash, which is even more terrible because it will be a way for them to win and to divide us and to put - and ostracize the Muslim community.

SIMON: Samia Hathroubi is European director of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding speaking with us from Paris. Thank you very much for being with us.

HATHROUBI: Thank you so much. Thanks.

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Correction Nov. 14, 2015

In a previous version, the Web summary for this piece referred to the Foundation for Ethical Understanding. The organization is actually called the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.