Muslims across the globe have come face to face with Islamophobic hate crimes which escalated rapidly after the attack on the controversial Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters in Paris early last year. Following the incident, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged that "Muslims have been the first victims of terrorism."
The head office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, which contains content often deemed as offensive by several religious groups, was attacked on January 7, 2015 by two masked gunmen who stormed the building, killing 12 people including Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet.
Straight after the incident, Muslim communities have witnessed an increase of hate crimes. Several mosques were targeted and hate-filled rhetoric have spread across social media.
Des mosquées ont subi des dégradations. Je veux assurer nos compatriotes musulmans de mon soutien. Chaque Français doit être protégé.
— Manuel Valls (@manuelvalls) 12 Ocak 2015
The National Observatory of Islamophobia recorded an increase of 281 percent in Islamophobic attacks in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same three months of the previous year.
Incidents were reported to have increased even more when a second terror attack was carried out in Paris on November 13, in which 130 people were killed.
Muslims around the world including religious and community leaders condemned the attacks and continued efforts to show that Islam is far off from the concept “terrorists” follow.
"The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence," said Hussam Ayloush, an executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations cited by Reuters.
In the worrying trend of Islamophobic violence, Muslim females have been the prime target as they often wear visible attire representing their faith.
The Committee against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) said in its latest annual report that 73 percent of the Islamophobia victims were female while 27 percent were male.
Physical assaults spiked by 500 percent and verbal assaults by 100 percent in the first six months of 2015, the report stated.
In a recent video which went viral over social media, French police were seen beating a Muslim woman in Paris. Eyewitnesses who captured the footage and uploaded it to social media networks say that the woman was physically abused by authorities when she tried to protect her son from being beaten by officers, who was reportedly taken into custody.
Viewers on social media were outraged and condemned what they saw in the footage.
The attacks, however, are not only limited to France. According to a report published by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, offenses against Muslims have increased so much that it's now creating an “environment of hate” in the United Kingdom.
According to a report prepared by Tell Mama helpline (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attack) seen by The Independent Newspaper Islamophobic, hate crimes in Britain increased more than 300 percent soon after the November attacks in Paris. But this number is believed to be much higher amid a vast number of cases not being reported.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Muslim sentiment is no better in the United States. Fear and insecurity have reached a point where the Muslim community, in particular those living in the west, are at unease while carry on with their day-to-day lives.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported that mosque attack incidents in the US reached a record high in 2015 and that the “most recent cycle of Islamophobia is characterized by its violent tone.”
It has now been a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The magazine marked this by distributing a provocative “special edition” publication.
Similar to the drawings on the Prophet Mohammed, which offended Muslims around the world in early January, the image on the cover of the new issue made fun of God.
The Vatican denounced the magazine cover and slammed the French magazine for failing to "acknowledge or to respect believers' faith in God, regardless of the religion."