MUCH of the world is reacting in shock and grief over the massacre at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, regrettably enough, some are still trying to contextualise the attack by bringing in the larger issue of provocation in matters of faith, extremist Islamists’ demonstrated tendency to resort to violence in such situations, and the marginalisation from the mainstream that Muslims in many countries feel despite being perfectly law-abiding.
Of these people, there is a simple question to be asked: in choosing to adopt such an abhorrent method of voicing their disapproval of the publication’s editorial choices, did the perpetrators of the attack do their religion and its 1.6 billion adherents any sort of positive service? Or have their actions poured yet more fuel on the fires of prejudice and fear that are lighting up in many parts of the West regarding the inherent ‘otherness’ of Muslims?
In the minds of those who are neither Muslim nor immigrants from Muslim countries, did the three gunmen’s decisions do anything to further the fact that the ones responsible are merely a minority of violent extremists, and not the overwhelmingly peaceful majority or the system of belief itself? Obviously, the answer is no.
Once again, Islam and Muslims are in the spotlight, and once again, it is for all the wrong reasons.
That strong denunciations are coming from Muslim sources too is exactly as it should be. It is fitting that the Al-Azhar University in Cairo called the attack “criminal” and reiterated that Islam denounces “any violence”, while the Arab League has also condemned the massacre, echoing Pope Francis who called it “abominable”.
But much more needs to be said and done, particularly given the deep divisions that are springing up between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West.
This latest in a string of atrocities, the perpetrators of which claim refuge in religion, was certainly not the will of the majority, and neither does it reflect their mindset.
Take a look: Fanaticism: From Peshawar to Paris
A large number of commentators and ordinary people across the world are clear enough thinkers to refrain from the temptation — led by fear — of tarring all with the same detestable brush.
Nevertheless, amongst many others, there is unease; there is a growing lack of understanding of the way the religion is being misused and misquoted by fringe extremist elements.
If further evidence were needed, attention only has to be paid to what is happening in Germany, where thousands have participated in anti-immigrant demonstrations. This is the reality that Muslim societies and countries need to recognise, and counter.
The push back can only come from what is within their own purview: inculcating tolerance, clamping down on extremist tendencies, and controlling violence in their own societies, thus giving the signal that assaults such as that in Paris are universally, utterly, indefensible.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2015