Monday, January 12, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie: My Thoughts on the Attack

This post is long and nothing like my others, but I feel that it's important to discuss my experience in France relative to the terrorist attacks that happened last week. By now, you know about the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, the hostage situation by those same killers in the outskirts of Paris, and the hostage situation--and deaths--effectuated by an accomplice at a kosher market in Paris.

Pens symbolizing freedom of the press.
Like the rest of the world, I was shocked by the initial terrorist attack. I absolutely understand how Charlie Hebdo's cartoons and articles are offensive, but the issue at hand is that of free speech, a fundamental French principle.

The mood has been quiet following the attacks. All flags have been flown at half mast, but those that are not affixed to poles are tied with black ribbon. I can't leave my apartment without seeing these flags, struggling to escape their ties as the wind furiously blows about. At first, I thought the flags' struggle paralleled that of the nation. But I quickly realized that, no, France is not struggling to uphold its rights and freedoms. Rather, it's putting up one of its strongest fights in history.

The first hostage situation, frankly, didn't really surprise me. We knew that the two brothers who committed the murders were on the loose, and that they probably weren't going to stop there. What left me speechless was the second hostage situation, which took place at a kosher grocery store in a Jewish area of Paris. This is modern anti-Semitism at its height. As a Jewish resident of France, it left me sick to my stomach.

While my heart is with the French Jewish community--after all, these are my brothers and sisters--my heart is especially with France's Muslim community. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the difference between true Islam and Islamic extremism, which has led to a heightened Islamophobia and even attacks against French Muslims. My whole being aches for them. I just want to slap the world upside its head to make sure that everybody knows how wonderful, peaceful, and special a religion Islam is. I was really happy to read this article about the Muslim man who saved some Jews at the kosher supermarket, though it's sad that the media must state that he is Muslim in the title. As I wrote on Facebook, this goes to show how love conquers hate. For every bad person in this world, there are thousands of good ones, like this hero. Let us all learn to love and embrace each other, and hopefully one day we can eradicate the ignorance that leads to hate--and, sometimes, extremism.

A sign affixed in an elementary-school window in Déols.
Even though I'm not Muslim, it also angers me that these men are the primary representation of Islam in today's media. The Prophet preached nothing but peace, and never sought retaliation or revenge. And I can almost guarantee that these same "Muslims" (i.e., extremists) who are "avenging the Prophet" are the ones who are engaging in pre-marital sex and alcohol consumption. Did Mohammed engage in those activities? Didn't think so.

Basically, the world would be so much better if there was no religious ignorance or extremism. (And it's not just Islam that has extremists--it's every religion.) But, I digress. These attacks are a wake-up call to France, and the entire world for that matter. I stopped calling the Islamic State "ISIS" long ago--they aim to reach the entire world, not just Iraq and Syria. And with the Islamic State taking responsibility, these attacks show just how serious the terrorist organization is about achieving its aims. Following this week, I look forward to seeing how the U.S., France, and the rest of the world adjust their counterterrorism programs accordingly.

Candles spelling out Charlie outside of l'Hôtel de Ville de Châteauroux.


  1. Really good thoughts. I agree that its become a sad stereotype that all Islamic people are extremists, especially when many of them are looking at France with the same heartache as the rest of the world.
    I read your friend Sarah's post as well. Enjoyed reading her perspective as well.

  2. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Dani. And just read your reply to my comment about befriending the students--interesting!

  3. Very powerful post - I have yet to be able to express my thoughts on this. It absolutely shocked me last week when I got home from work and saw this all over the news.

  4. Wow. Thank you for your measured thoughts and response. As a Muslim, I am tired of feeling defensive when these terrorists do terrible attacks in the name of my beautiful religion.

    You are a wonderful soul.

  5. I cannot express how much this comment means to me. Thank you.


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