PARIS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The attack on a Paris magazine will likely complicate European leaders' efforts to deal with anti-Muslim sentiment on the continent.
Leaders uniformly condemned the attack Wednesday in which 12 people were killed by three gunmen apparently angered by the magazine Charlie Hebdo's cartoon depictions of Islam, but the incident provokes the challenge in maintaining civil liberties and national security on a continent embroiled in conflict over immigration, largely from the Middle East, and threats from terrorists.
Anti-Islam protests in Germany, centered in the city of Dresden and drawing up to 18,000 demonstrators, are at odds with Chancellor Angela Merkel's adamant requests for racial and religious tolerance. The protest organizers, known by the acronym Pergida, said on their Facebook page after the shootings, "Islamists...have shown today in France that they are not capable of democracy, but seek solutions via violence and death. But our politicians want us to think the opposite." Disquiet over immigration has given rise to new political parties across Europe. Sweden has recently seen suspected arson attacks on five mosques, although Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofben, speaking of the Paris tragedy Wednesday, said, "This is a horrible attack on the foundations of democracy. It underlines our responsibility to always stand up for freedom of expression and freedom of the press." The government of Belgium, where four people were shot by a gunman last year at Brussels' Jewish Museum, stressed its solidarity with France and reinforced surveillance measures for a number of unspecified organizations and agencies.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday, "What has happened in Paris is an appalling terrorist outrage, and I know that everyone in Britain will want to stand with the French government and with the French people at this time. We must never allow the values that we hold dear, of democracy, of freedom of speech, to be damaged by these terrorists."
The Arab League, Pope Francis, European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Barack Obama also publicly condemned the attack. Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Paris Mosque, said, ""The times have changed. We are entering a new period in this confrontation. We are horrified by the brutality and savagery that took place in the Charlie Hebdo office."