CAIRO - Amid rising sentiments against the sizable minority, fears of backlash are hunting Muslim women following a spate of killings by an Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman in southern France.
"It is terrible what he has done," Naima, a 26-year-old French Muslim of Algerian origin, told The New York Times on Wednesday, April 11.
"And there is nothing in Islam that justifies the killing of innocents, especially children.
"But will we Muslims, and especially Muslim women, have to pay the price now?"
France's Muslims, estimated at six million, came under scrutiny after a gunman of Algerian origin killed seven people, including three Muslim soldiers and three Jewish children in Toulouse last month.
Muslim leaders have distanced themselves from the killing, saying the murders run counter to the Islamic teachings.
Many Muslims complain of rising sentiments against their minority sine the killings.
Malika, a 29-year-old German of Moroccan background, says many friends who wear hijab and live in Europe reported getting angry looks after the attacks.
Islam and immigration have been a main theme in the electoral rallies of presidential candidates in the April-May election.
Following the massacre, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who seeks re-election, has ordered a crackdown on preachers he says promote hatred in France.
France has banned the entry of several Muslim scholars to attend the Muslim conference and expelled a number of imams of claims of preaching hatred.
France has already taken a series of measures to restrict the freedom of Muslim women to wear their religious outfits.
In 2004, Franc banned the wearing of hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public schools. Several countries followed the French example.
France has also banned the wearing of face-veil in public.
Muslim women criticized France's double-standards in dealing with the Muslim minority.
"When someone is like (Zinedine) Zidane, a great sportsman, they say he's French, and when one like Merah, who is a child of this society, runs nuts and kills people, they say he's not one of us," Naima said, referring to the Algerian-born superstar footballer.
The Muslim woman cited a recent controversy over the burial of the gunman Mohammed Merah.
France has called for burying the gunman in his native country Algeria, but the Arab country refused the body. The gunman was finally buried in Toulouse.
French politics have generated anti-Islamic sentiment, said Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American lawyer living in Los Angeles.
The author of the book "My Guantanamo Diary," asserts, however, that nothing justifies the killing.
"Nothing justifies his heinous attacks."
Muslim women opine that Western governments are failing to tackle the root causes that fuel militancy.
"Between having entire families massacred in Kandahar by a sociopath US soldier, drones wiping out entire families or bombs dropping on weddings, there are multiple sources to anger toward Western countries," Khan said, referring to the killing of scores of Afghan civilians by a rogue US soldiers and NATO raids in Afghanistan.
Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and vice president of the European Muslim League, agrees.
"Western governments must start to take responsibility for their actions abroad," said Ridley, who was detained by the Taliban and reverted to Islam after her release."And these actions are not usually with the consent or in the agreement of their own citizens who elected them."