Charlie Hebdo and the Muslim Community

I’m frustrated. I wish this past week were one I could expunge from the collection of weeks that will make up this year.  The tragedy in Paris is enough to make anyone’s blood boil and heart break. What kind of person thinks it’s okay to kill someone with whom they disagree? That is simply insane, truly. To attribute these actions to a whole, healthy, reasonable person is unquestionably a mistake. Only shattered, eroded, violent souls could commit such atrocities. I believe it is incorrect to label these events anything other that what they are. Egregious, despicable acts of hatred that are an assault not only to the people of Paris, but to all humankind. These acts of terror do not seek to protect the sacred, they seek to use fear and bullets as weapons to claim power. I refuse to accept a radical political group’s vain religiosity as an authentic expression of faith.

Obviously I believe we must vehemently condemn the actions of these criminals, but I also believe we must be exceedingly mindful not to condemn, shame, or cast out an entire community of co-victims in a frenzy of generalities. The Muslim community is one that has a dear place in my heart, as I believe it should for all Christians. To blame Muslims, or even accept the actions of the murderers as valid expressions of Islamic faith, is preposterous.  Those bullets were not fired for the love of God, they were fired for political power. To unleash a rain of crippling words, or even bullets, against Muslims in response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy is horrible. Muslims are not prone towards violence, Islam is not an ideology of terror, and Allah is not a bloodthirsty demon. Frankly, if that is your misperception of my Abrahamic sisters and brothers…you’re stupid.

I am particularly fond of the Muslim community for many reasons. The beauty of their piety, their reverence for the sacred, the gorgeous calligraphy of written Arabic and the  soul-clenching tone of spoken Arabic. But none of these are the primary reason I find it so dear. From what I understand, the Islamic faith traces it lineage to a promise God made. Christians also have a  faith lineage of a promise made.Christians trace that promise from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob through to Jesus. However, Muslims trace their faith back to a different son of Abraham, Ishmael the son of Hagar. From what I understand as a non-Muslim, Muslims believe that God made his promise to Ishmael not Isaac. Christian Scripture does have some commentary on this affair. In Genesis 17 God says, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac,“. We have two brothers, two faiths, one God. We most definitely can argue about the promise made to Abraham and any number of other things, but we do it as family.

In one of the articles I read, a Muslim women who lives in Paris told of when she  went to pick up her daughter from swim practice while wearing a hijab. She overheard some of the other mothers talking about the events of the tragedy, only to hear them mutter some detestable comments about Muslims in France (presumably immigrants). The part of her statement that devastated me was when she said, “They knew I was listening,’’ she recalled. “But I was alone, and I couldn’t do or say anything. So I left.” This incident encapsulates so much of my frustration. Not only is she subjected to the same senseless violence of terrorism as other residence of Paris, but she is also subjected to unwarranted ridicule for her theological beliefs, of which non-Muslims feel free to make grotesque assumptions. On top of this, I feel the need to point out that most of those being killed by radical Islam are non-radical Muslims. She may have felt too alone to speak up, but I refuse to let her, or any others of my Abrahamic tribe, remain alone in silence. I am speaking and standing with Muslims around the world as they condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack.

When Muslims speak about Muhammad, they frequently follow the utterance of his name with the phrase “Peace be upon him” or PBUH.  I don’t think more needs to be said about the tragic irony of committing violence in defense of this same peaceful figure.


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