Je ne suis pas Charlie, mais je pleure pour lui

The vicious attacks in Paris are no doubt in many of our minds.

The United States military is drawing down from Afghanistan this very moment. The military already withdrew from Iraq although small numbers are returning in response to ISIL. The United States combat against terrorism, at least on the front page, is dying.

So this attack feels fresh, feels like a strike back when we subconsciously thought the worst was over.

Nothing condones an attack like this at anyone. And nothing justifies the premature violent deaths of these people in Paris. None of those people deserved that.

We all see this as an onslaught to freedom of speech.

Charlie Hedbo depicts an underlying sentiment most people of minority races have experienced: a growing xenophobia in Europe, especially against Muslim immigrant populations. Heck, *I* as an ethnic Asian experienced it. I lost count of the number of times I see people physically relax once I start talking and they realize I am an American, not their assumed perception of “another of those Asian immigrants.” I experienced people’s hostility thawing at that latter discovery. They don’t even hide it.

Europe, especially France, see growing numbers of Muslims in their borders. Look at the reluctance and resistance to admitting Turkey into the EU. Turkey is far more populous, and Muslim, dramatically changing the demographics and shift of majorities in Europe. France’s coping mechanisms, in my opinion, are faulty. The French are famous for their  “if you want to live in France, you are French and act French” integration attitude. But banning the hijab (head coverings for women) is going too far. Sarkozy went as far as to propose legislation banning the burqa. While the bans in schools against the hijab has been at least broadened to include “large” religious items from all religions (large crosses and the Jewish yarmulks), Sarkozy’s proposal specifically targeted Muslims.

Islam is loosing a popularity contest in the modern Western world. There is no question that Islamic radicalism has been a serious threat to the world. But the tendency to lump almost a quarter of the world’s population with the terrorist elements is unfair and simply discriminatory. What a sad turn in history. The Ottoman Empire once exemplified learning, tolerance, and advancement far beyond anything seen in the European Renaissance, with probably the exception of Da Vinci’s genius. The Crusades were arguably Christian attacks on the Muslim world, for the sake of access to symbolic land.

It breaks my heart to see the Muslim community face the vitriol thrown blindly at their direction. All my travels, hands down, I found the Muslim communities to be some of the warmest hosts. Me, a lone female without my male relative to drive me around. I was welcomed into so many humble homes, fed so much delicious food, patted and hen-pecked as if I were on of their own.

Europe is standing tenuously on a tightrope. Peace and tolerance. Or racism and xenophobia. The very secularism France pride themselves in allows for both equality and discrimination.

The attacks are devastating, cruel, and so wrong. As many of us who understand the violation that comes from being attacked- US, UK, Spain, India, Indonesia, Canada- anger is a natural and appropriate reaction. However, the danger of directing that anger towards the closest Muslim in sight threatens a fragile balance of tolerance.  Our countries thrive because we believe in process, justice, and fairness. Letting the anger engulf us and descend to racial and religious hatred sets us backwards, and makes us become the very people that attacked us- vicious, narrow-minded, and driven by hatred.

So I cry for Charlie. The perpetrators must be caught and brought to justice.  Families have lost their loved ones needlessly and they are owed closure. But I am not Charlie. I don’t subscribe to his sense of humor. We need to face the facts. Charlie Hedbo published obscene offensive provocative deliberate cartoons. And the volume of those cartoons of late had been targeted viciously at Islam. This fact does in no way justify the attack. The violence is simply not defensible. Now do I even suggest the victims “earned” it; they are the victims. But this fact needs to be taken into account as we, the public, react and lash back. As the saying goes: with freedom of speech, comes great responsibility. And in this time, I need to rise above, do my part, to endeavor to live what I believe- honor, respect, and tolerance for our fellow mankind. That is what makes our society thrive.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it
~ Evelyn Beatrice Hall, in “Voltaire”

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