The killing of journalists at Charlie Hebdo has thrown us all into shock after what was a relatively a trouble free Christmas period. The targeted killing of individuals on our streets in Europe is yet another signal that we should not take our freedoms for granted. At this time, our thoughts are with those who have suffered the loss of their loved ones in France.
We also wanted to add the following. When such global events take place, there is undoubtedly a rise in anti-Muslim bigotry on-line and we have immediately noticed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments on social media platforms. Sometimes this translates into street based anti-Muslim activity, though we urge all to consider this simple fact. Whether or not Charlie Hebdo published cartoons that were considered to be anti-Muslim, does not warrant violence in any shape or form. If Muslim communities want to ensure that they are not subjected to intolerance or hate, it is imperative that they engage in and be part of a debate of ideas. Time and time again, many Muslims leave this to projects such as TELL MAMA and others, and this, in the long term does not help Muslim communities to develop a sense of confidence in being part of societal discussions and debates. Now is the time to stand up and be part of a peaceful discussion of ideas on a range of matters since Muslims are here to stay in Europe and Europe needs Muslims as much as Muslims need Europe.
Furthermore, the killers involved in the attack have brought destruction to the families of those affected. They also set back race relations, spike anti-Muslim bigotry and build in the minds of some, the thinking that the ‘gulf’ between Muslims and non-Muslims cannot be overcome. This is dangerous and uncritical knee jerk reactionism that leads nowhere apart from more damaged lives and a cycle of hate that will simply continue. This cycle of hate and counter-hate needs breaking and it also means that we all have to work to ensure that extremists, bigots and those who seek to divide, do not succeed in their endeavours.
Together we are stronger, and if anything, the legacy of faith is that it endures based on the good deeds of key people associated with it. So what would Prophet Muhammad have said if he had seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoons? We believe he would have probably smiled, and said – ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ citing Islam’s foundational belief that education liberates the soul. On that point, change can only come on the back of debate and discussion and never by violence. The Charlie Hebdo killings are therefore an affront to all Europeans.