In the wake of Friday's coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, the French people — and supporters around the world — have been grieving. More than 120 people died in explosions and gunfire when well-coordinated teams of assailants struck at least six sites across the city.
Many Parisians have been traveling to the sites of the attacks to honor the dead. And for some mourners, there is concern as well as sorrow — worry that the attacks will lead to a backlash against Muslims in France.
'It Should Not Be Complicated'
In the trendy Canal St. Martin neighborhood, in the 10th arrondissement, gunmen opened fire on several packed restaurants and bars on Friday night. The next day, a steady throng of young Parisians arrived to pay their respects.
Among those huddling and holding hands, staring at the growing pile of flowers in front of the establishments' shattered windows, was 18-year-old Ryan Abeichou, a third-generation French Muslim whose grandparents came to Paris from Tunisia.
The informatics engineering major said he worries the latest attacks may turn a growing segment of French society against its Muslim citizens — including secular ones like himself — even though they are just as horrified and hurt by what happened, Abeichou said.
"It's going to be difficult for Muslims in France because some people will say it's their fault," he said, adding: "But I think it should not be complicated, because making that connection is wrong."
His 17-year-old friend Mathilde, who is a pre-med student, said that isn't keeping people from doing just that even at these impromptu memorial gatherings. She was visibly upset as she recounted the scene a short while earlier in front of the Bataclan Concert Hall, which saw the worst bloodshed in Friday night's attacks.
"It's shameful what they were saying, calling Muslims terrorists," she said, her hands shaking as she pulled a cigarette out of her purse.
'They're Trying To Scare The World'
In the 11th arrondissement, outside a pizza place where five people were gunned down in the attacks, Javier Valdeperez was laying flowers and lighting candles.
Valdeperez, whose parents are originally from Spain, said that unlike the Paris attacks in January, which targeted the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as well as shoppers at a Jewish supermarket, these attacks seemed aimed at a diverse group of civilians with nothing in common with one another — except that they were enjoying themselves at a concert, a restaurant or a soccer game on a Friday night.
"[The attackers purposely] chose Friday night, and they chose this place full of young French people," Valdeperez said, gesturing toward the pizza place where people were killed. "When they attack and kill people, they're trying to scare the world. It's hard to prevent these kind of attacks."
He, too, said he fears the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, and worries that France's far-right parties will try to capitalize on the attacks.
"This kind of act enables hate against people coming from Syria. [The far-right parties] are going to come out saying that there's no way to host people from these countries. It's going to be a surge of hate!" Valdeperez said. "We have to be careful of that. It doesn't represent Islam or the Muslims. It's just a bunch of psychopaths."