PARIS - The recent arrests of a number of suspected radicals in France have raised the alarm among the Muslim community for fears of tarnishing the peaceful image of the religious minority.
Muslims are not terrorists, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, told TV5's L'invitÃ©, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, October 9.
He said that the arrests of a number of suspected radicals did not represent millions of peaceful Muslims in France.
French police have arrested 12 suspects of charges of radicalization in a series of anti-terror raids across the country.
Police also seized a total of 27,000 euros ($35,000) in cash along with arms, computer files and a list of Jewish organizations.
The arrests followed the killing of a Muslim convert, Jeremie Louis-Sidney in a shootout with police in Strasbourg earlier this week.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls predicted Monday more arrests of what he termed Muslim extremists in France.
"We know that there are dozens, even hundreds of individuals who are capable of organizing themselves like the group that has just been dismantled," he said.
The raids have also raised the alarm among the Jewish community in France over fears of being targeted in retaliation attacks.
But French newspapers were quick to distance the majority of Muslims from the practices of some radicals.
"French Islam is not lacking in major voices to fight anti-Jewish racism," Le Monde newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
"They do it regularly, almost ritually. But the whole country needs to become aware of the problem.
This issue concerns us all, the daily added.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe's largest.
But some rights activists opine that the recent killing of a self-proclaimed Qaeda gunman has caused the spread of radical ideas among some young Muslims.
Contrary to what we believed or said, the violence of Mr. Merah's act caused emulation among some people, Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, was quoted as saying in LibÃ©ration.
Mohamed Merah was killed in a police siege on his flat in Toulouse in southern France in March after attacking a school, in which three Jewish children were killed.
Three Muslim soldiers were also killed in a similar attack in southern France in March.
For some young people, this murderer created empathy, Jakubowicz said.
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a former anti-terrorism judge, echoes a similar opinion.
In this case, the first elements collected seem to show that there is a phenomenon of self-radicalization that expanded in a rather worrisome way, he wrote in Le Figaro.
Many of them haven't traveled to training camps in Afghanistan, he added.
French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
Under Sarkozy, the French government a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
The French government also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.