I awoke today to texts, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages of the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo. The stabbing pain of innocent life lost resonated through my heart. These are volatile times, and this volatile situation only adds to the fire.
As one of some 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, the additional inescapable thought crossed my mind: “Please don’t let the culprits be Muslim.”
Early reports indicate, however, that ISIS apologists may be behind this atrocity.
No shortage of condemnations from Muslims of all sects and nationalities exist to rebuke this horrific atrocity. With that in mind, as a human family we must consider more than mere condemnation. Here are five things to remember.
1. Do not forget to respond with peace, patience, and justice
Violence begets violence. Emotions are high — as anyone would expect — and so are fears. At such times it is critical to maintain order, peace, and let the government get to work. Responding or retaliating against individual citizens will only perpetuate fear, distrust, and violence. Maintaining calm will allow the government to divert its full resources to capturing and bringing the culprits responsible to justice.
We are better than the culprits and must rise above their intolerance with our peace, patience, and justice.
2. Do not forget to mourn and pray with those who have lost loved ones
Dozens of families are mourning the loss of their loved ones. No good will come by forgetting their suffering and ignoring their needs. Mourn and pray with those who are suffering because they, more than anyone, are experiencing a particularly horrific time in their lives. With constant media and many unanswered questions, it is likewise critical to respect the privacy of those families who lost loved ones.
3. Don’t forget that Muslims in France, and worldwide, are just as pained
Muslims in fact condemn this attack. So don’t sit waiting for Muslims to condemn this attack before you believe that they too are hurting. French Muslims and Muslims worldwide are as pained by this attack as any time innocent lives are lost.
Muslims are not the culprits — they are just as much the victim of this attack because our fellow human beings at Charlie Hebdo lost their lives. Terrorism impacts us all, and we must all remain united in its condemnation and eradication.
4. Do not forget that blaming Islam or Prophet Muhammad does more harm than good
Separate the criminal act from Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Nothing in Islam justifies this horrific attack. Nothing in Prophet Muhammad’s example justifies this horrific attack. The Qur’an declares, “to kill one innocent life . . is to kill all humanity” (5:33). Likewise Prophet Muhammad declared, “A Muslim is one from whose hand and tongue, all others are safe.” The greatest insult to Islam and Muhammad are not these cartoons.
In fact, nothing in the Qur’an or hadith permits any form of worldly punishment for mockery or blasphemy. Such a right is strictly in God’s domain, and no human being has the authority to infringe. Thus, in performing this attack, the culprits violate both their duty to serve humanity and their duty to not infringe on God’s domain. The greatest insults to Islam and Muhammad are the barbaric acts of violence purportedly committed in their name.
5. Do not forget that now, more than ever, we must maintain dialogue
Horrible incidents like the Charlie Hebdo attack reemphasize the dire need for ongoing dialogue and understanding. Rather than learning about each other from news media or from extremists, let’s learn from each other about one another. This requires stepping out of our comfort zones and struggling through the narratives that wish to divide us. This is not easy, but it is necessary and effective. People do not go to war because they maintained too much dialogue or respect for one another. Let us rise above the intolerance and terrorism these culprits wish to push on us and use compassion and education to unite against extremism.
The ISIS menace is a plague upon humanity. The antidote is education, compassion, and dialogue. I’m part of an international “Stop The CrISIS” campaign, which delivers lectures and promotes dialogue at universities, libraries, and houses of worship to counter ISIS terrorism. Join our conversation at #StopTheCrISIS, connect with fellow Muslims, and let’s continue to work together to unify humanity against all forms of extremism.