“Not in my name”, says a famous slogan. Today, I am identifying with this slogan more than ever…Whenever there is a terrorist attack, I feel like screaming and making these people understand that Islam is not something that concerns those men with long beards who wear those ridiculous outfits. Islam is not their thing, Islam is ours. It belongs to those of us who believe in peace. Those are mere caricatures, I would like to point out. They dress like that especially to scare you. Let’s wake up: it”s all part of a master plan.
This is why I am saying that they declared a war. Actually, they have declared a war on us.
This attack was not only an attack on freedom of expression. It was also an attack on the democratic values that keep us together. Europe is made up of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Atheist citizens. There are lots of us and we live together.
I find it amazing that, at the end of Ramadan, in the Roman mosque, for Eid, lots of Jews and Catholics celebrate together. And it is nice for me to wish merry Christmas to my Christian friends, and to wish Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish ones. It is nice to laugh with atheist friends, and to laugh abaout everything. You can laugh about anything; you must. That is why today’s attack is so terrifying.”
– Igiaba Scego, Internazionale
A blog about fashion should not deal with current affairs. However, some affairs cannot go unnoticed: how can you talk about fashion when you are so shaken by what is going on around you? How can you talk about fashion when the freedom to have an opinion is being so brutally attacked?
In horror, we have all read about what happened in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper headquarters a few days ago. We all read about how Islamic terrorism decided to murder twelve people, in the name of Allah. In doing so, they struck one of the symbols of democracy: news papers. Democracy is the target of these acts, as is our freedom to choose, to inform ourselves, to express ourselves, via satire if we so choose.
There are not enough words to condemn these gestures; the gestures of people who do not contemplate ideas, ideologies, cultures that are different from their own and to be close to the French people and the families who suffered losses. The words that are available appear to be mere protocol.
What I would really like to comment on, and that saddens me further, is how this ugly story is being exploited by opinionated people, and by various politicians who aim to create even more hatred towards Islam. Hatred towards immigrants and their children. Because there is no use in hiding behind a finger. It is really easy to generalize, and it happens to everyone: even I think about September 11th if there is a woman who is wearing a veil next to me on a plane. And this is not fair. It is what the extremists want you to think, it’s what fanatics who may not even know about Islam want you to think.
Out of all of the things that I have read online, this article really struck me. It was written by Igiaba Scego, whose quotes I inserted at the beginning of this post. I would like to invite you all to read her words, which say a lot about how different Muslims are from the acts that were carried out in Paris.
What extremists want, other than to undermine democracy, is to cause the Western population to hate the Muslim population. Although we cannot bring those who perished in order to express their ideas back to life, we can certainly make sure that this attack was in vain. We can spread the messages of all those who believe Islam to be carrying a peaceful message; we can scorn those who spread Islamophobia. We can and must explain this tale to our children, so that they do not grow up to despise their Muslim school mate.
Nourishing the minds of the youngest was one of Charb’s numerous intents. Charb was the director of Charlie Hebdo, and he was the one who came up with the idea for Quotillon, Mon Quotidien’s mascot. Mon Quotidien is a French newspaper for children. On the day after the attack, it published a special edition to explain to children what had happened.
In an interview, Charb declared: “I am not afraid of retaliations. I have no children, no wife, no car, no debts. It may sound a bit arrogant, but I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”
These are the words of a man for whom being able to express his opinion was way more important than life itself. His statement can be agreed with or disagreed with; either way, dying for freedom of expression cannot be tolerated.
I usually use six thinking hats. I appreciate the choice of some papers, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post to “not publish material that offends religious groups”. I believe that freedom involves not voluntarily “offending” other people’s ideas. However, I also believe that comic strips that are considered to be “offensive” are just a pretext to justify the actions that could have resulted from other motives as well. How about I give you some past examples?
All you need to do is think about Salman Rushdie, the English writer who has been threatened with a death sentence since 1989, all because of an extract of his book, “The Satanic Verses”, which is considered as being offensive to the Islamic religion.
Since then, Rushdie has entered into a British protection programme that is on going; a Japanese translator of the book was murdered, an Italian translator and a Norwegian editor were injured, and Mr Rushdie receives an annual postcard from the Iranian regime, reminding him that it still intends to kill him.
Marek Halter, a French writer and philosopher, and an activist for peace in the Middle East, as well as a friend of two of the deceased cartoonists, states:
“Thirty Thousand fanatics are terrifying seven billion human beings. They can do so, because these seven billion human beings do not hold hands. When it happens to us, the terrorists will vanish in thin air”. – Marek Halter
I believe his words to be true, just as I believe that there are lots of interests that prevent this from happening today. However, I cannot help but recall a journey and a location that I visited years ago: Mount Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.
It is the oldest Christian monastery in existence. It dates back to the 6th century and it has been declared part of UNESCO’s world heritage. This is because it is a sacred place for Christianity, for Islam and for Judaism. It is the only monastery in the world to have an internal church, mosque and synagogue. The guide told us that it was a Frankish place and it was the only place in the world where three major religions learnt to live together. Even on the tip of Mount Sinai, you could breathe this same spirit: people of different nationalities, social classes and religion prayed together, each in their own way, and each to their own God. That experience made me understand that there cannot be but a single truth, and it gave me hope that I still have; hope that a “Frankish” place in which we can learn to live together may actually exist.