PARIS - Muslim leaders in the French city of Lyon said on Monday they feared a surge in attacks on mosques in the style of one averted last week in which a soldier was arrested on suspicion of planning a shooting during an Islamic feast holiday.
Anti-Muslim incidents have risen steadily in recent years in France, home to Europe's largest Islamic minority, according to the Committee against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), which blames anti-Muslim rhetoric by far-right politicians.A far-right activist said such violence had been provoked by government efforts to suppress "nationalist movements" that provided a legitimate outlet for discontent.
Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, called on local Muslims to gather for a show of solidarity at the suburban Minguettes Mosque, which police said the soldier arrested on Saturday planned to shoot at on the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.
The 23-year-old, from an air force base near Lyon, was placed under formal investigation on Monday, accused of "possessing category 4 ammunition in relation to a terrorist undertaking". Described by the interior ministry as holding extreme right-wing views, he was also accused of lobbing a Molotov cocktail at a mosque near Bordeaux last year.
"There is a clear will today to hurt the Muslim community," Kabtane said, adding that two minor acts had been carried out against mosques in southeastern France over the weekend.
"These are no longer isolated acts. It feels like there is a whole organisation being put in place," he said.