On March 11, 2004, during the morning rush hour, several bombs ripped through four commuter trains in the Spanish capital, Madrid. The simultaneous, coordinated blasts killed more than 190 people and injured almost 2,000.
The Madrid bombings were the first in a string of violent attacks on European soil in recent years – from London, Paris, Brussels and Nice to Manchester, Barcelona and Berlin.
These attacks were claimed to be carried out in the name of Islam, which has created an association between the Islamic faith and armed violence. As a result, many Muslims in Europe are facing heightened Islamophobia, hatred and ostracism.
“Before March 11, some were discriminated against for being named Mohamed, for having a different religion, or for eating different foods,” says Mohamed Azahaf who was working in social services at Madrid town hall and assisted victims of the attacks. “But after March 11, the discrimination followed a different line: ‘Are you going to plant a bomb?’ or ‘What kind of belt is that, does it have explosives?’ The discrimination was linked to terrorism.”
But in every attack, there were also Muslim victims.
French-Moroccan activist and writer Hanane Charrihi is the daughter of the first victim killed in the 2016 Nice truck attack, which claimed the lives of 86 people.
Her mother was wearing a hijab, so “they really showed they weren’t Muslim because the first person they killed was Muslim. For me, that just confirms their ignorance … [there’s a] difference between the van driver and my mother … One is a true Muslim and the other talks about Islam, but that’s not it,” says Charrihi.
“I don’t want to have to choose between my nationality and my religion. Both are part of my identity.”
So, what is behind the term “Islamic terrorism”? Do the attackers distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims? How have the attacks affected the lives of European Muslims? And what does it mean to be Muslim in Europe today?
Filmmaker Paula Palacios goes on a journey across Europe to uncover the stories of Muslims who lost loved ones in armed attacks and to find out how these attacks continue to affect the lives of Muslim communities.
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