Terrorism struck in the heart of Paris on Wednesday, Jan. 7, when three masked gunmen killed 12 people at the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Media reports rushed to describe the crime as “an apparent militant Islamist attack” because the paper had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohamad, even though the suspects, who fled the scene of the massacre, were still at large.
Suspects were later identified as self-proclaimed Muslims with extremist leanings.
Regardless of the identity and motives of the perpetrators, this barbaric crime is despicable and we should condemn it collectively as a community. At The Arab American News, we feel painful sympathy for the victims, most of whom practiced our craft.
If the attack was a response to publishing the offensive cartoons, as most media outlets are claiming, then it is a crime against all Muslims, especially in the West and the Prophet Mohamad himself, who preached tolerance and urged his followers to refrain from the revenge mentality.
The attackers do not represent Islam.
We do not condone insulting religious symbols, whether comically or in a serious manner. But speech should be addressed only with speech. Terrorism sparks fear but does not affect the realm of ideas. Words and images are impactful, but bullets are never an appropriate answer to speech.
The terrorists murdered Ahmed Merabet, a French Muslim policeman, while attacking Charlie Hebdo’s office on Wednesday. He was the first victim of the attack. Merabet, not his killers, is representative of Islam. The officer died in the line of duty, defending the newspaper, but the international media had little interest in him.
The Paris attack does not earn Muslims respect; it rather perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions about the religion and its followers and prophet. If the crime was carried out by extremists who proclaim themselves as Muslim, it will only harm the image of Muslims and their religion, which fundamentally rejects murder.
Zealot thinking grows the seed for extremism, which leads to irrational violence that does not adhere to logic, ethics or religion.
As much as we condemn the cowardly attack on Wednesday, we reject retaliation against ordinary Muslims who have nothing to do with the violent extremists who carried it.
On Thursday, a shooting and a firebomb targeted two mosques around Paris. These assaults are driven by the same hate-filled mentality as that of terrorists.
We reject any violence that is being committed in the name of Islam— a religion of peace, dialogue and understanding.
In the aftermath of the attack, Charlie Hebdo’s website displayed a message that read, “Je suis Charlie”, “I am Charlie” in French. The message became a trend on social media to show solidarity with the slain employees of the newspaper, who included four prominent cartoonists and an editor.
Human empathy transcends religions, cultures and ideology. Today, We Are All Charlie.