The killing of at least 12 people at a French newspaper that received threats because of its depiction of Islam stands to exacerbate already burgeoning anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.
The shooting by masked gunmen at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in eastern Paris adds to a tense environment, with an anti-immigrant party dominating in France, mosque burnings in Sweden and thousands marching in Germany decrying the “Islamization” of the west…
Europe’s political establishment, struggling to respond to the region’s sagging economy and near-record unemployment, has been buffeted by insurgent factions that have exploited a rise in sentiment against foreigners and Muslims.
“Europe is in the grip of so much tension over the question of Islam and immigration,” said Shada Islam, director of policy at the Friends of Europe advisory group in Brussels. “There is the danger in the immediate aftermath that this is going to strengthen the anti-immigration campaigns, but you have to have a longer-term strategy when the emotions subside.”
In France, polls show the anti-immigration National Front taking the lead in a first-round vote over established parties. The National Front has gained at least some traction by voicing fear of the spread of Islam. The country is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, with more than 5 million people of the faith out of a population of about 65 million.
World leaders lined up to condemn the shooting, the deadliest attack in France since World War II, with President Francois Hollande calling it an assault of “exceptional barbarity” against journalists and a free press. U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement that “I strongly condemn the horrific shooting.”
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