Amid controversy over the government’s stance towards Muslims, Islamophobic attacks in France shot up by over half in 2020, the head of a monitoring group said Friday.

There were 235 attacks on Muslims in France in 2020, up from 154 the previous year, a 53% jump, Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, said in a statement.

Most of the attacks took place in the Ile-de-France (greater Paris), Rhones-Alpes, and Paca regions of the country, Zekri said.

Attacks on mosques jumped 35% in the same year, Zekri said.

Stating that 70 threatening letters were sent to the headquarters of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) or its administrators last year, Zekri raised the alarm over the spread of lies about Islam and Muslims as well as e-mails that incite hatred against Muslims.

Muslims in France are worried about negative views some members of the French public have about Islam, he said.

He said there are no links between Islam and terrorism, and Muslims in France should be able to practice their religion freely like members of other faiths.

The French government has been criticized for its moves and rhetoric on Islam and Muslims, including President Emmanuel Macron’s October claim that Islam is “in crisis,” raids on mosques and Islamic foundations, and a proposed “anti-separatism” law that would slap wide-ranging restrictions on the Muslim community.

The bill, which is set for a vote in the French parliament, would interfere with mosques and their administrators as well as control the finances of associations and NGOs belonging to Muslims.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe at around 6 million, mostly from North Africa.