Two criminal fires targeting mosques in the Lyon urban area were reported. Fortunately, the damage remains material and there have been no human victims as both places were empty. However, such attacks contribute to create a climate of anxiety among French Muslims, who have denounced the lack of reaction from public authorities.
During the night from the 13th of August to the 14th of August, a criminal fire has targeted the prayer room Essalem in the city centre of Lyon. Only six days ago, an other place of worship has undergone a similar attack , as the Omar Mosque in Bron – a neighbouring municipality from Lyon – has also been set to fire. In both cases, the criminal trail is favoured and a juridical investigation has been opened.
Despite support from local politicians and the reaction of the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, who condemned such aggressions and expressed his determination to “protect the freedom of worship”, a concern and apprehension aare on the rise among Muslims. Local Muslim leaders like the rector of the Central Mosque of Lyon (“la Grande Mosquée de Lyon”) Kamel Kabtane said that the French Muslim community was afraid for its safety – and called for significant measures and national reactions before similar incidents happen again . Kamel Kabtane also asked for the “protection of places of worship” . Both mosques were not protected (they had no security camera): most of the time small places of worship cannot afford such expensive surveillance systems. Only significant mosques can do. The recurrence of the attacks – two arson attempts within a week – led local leaders to wonder whether these were isolated acts or organized acts of intimidation. Several other local Muslim leaders explicitly pointed at extreme right activists, who are very virulent on social media and accused them of terrorizing Muslims.
At the national level, Muslim Federations expressed support to the members of the two mosques and asked the public authorities for guarantees about the safety of Muslim worshipers. A similar concern c was expressed in the statement of Les Musulmans, which urged President Emmanuel Macron and Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin take to fight the heightened climate of defiance surrounding Islam in France and French Muslims. In their views, some media use the freedom of expression to explicitly develop hate speeches based on falsehoods, leading to an increase of anti-Muslim acts.