It was just 10 months ago, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Casher supermarket in Paris, that we said "enough." One drop too many. Today, it's a torrent. A torrent of tears, but also a torrent of blood that has come to power the mill of hatred and intolerance. In these tragic times, it's difficult to concentrate, to think. To understand what has just happened isn't just complicated, it's nearly impossible. It's nearly impossible to understand that approximately 130 people just like you and me are dead, and that any one of us could have joined them. It's hard to realize that the bloodshed took place in Paris, and not some distant city.
"It's not just France, but Islam and Muslims too, that these phantoms are trying to break."
"Tomorrow at dawn, at a time when the countryside whitens / I will leave," wrote Victor Hugo in Les Contemplations. Today there are many of us who would like to find salvation in these words and escape from this world. We've suffered a harsh blow. It's not just the victims themselves, and everyone who's been wounded and mutilated, that's been hurt. We've lost our hope for a better world where everyone, regardless of religion or color, can live in peace. But the most frightening thing, to go back to Hugo's poem, is that we cannot predict the future. In these moments, we are stuck in an eternal present.
I don't usually define myself according to my religion. I consider myself primarily to be French. But today, I want to express myself as a young Muslim. Why? Because, as a Muslim Frenchman I was completely shocked by these attacks, and because it's not just France, but Islam and Muslims too, that these phantoms are trying to break. That's why today, I am both tired and afraid.
I'm tired of seeing my country attacked. Tired of seeing it attacked for its core values. In its literature, ISIS has described Paris as the "capital of abominations." And on Friday, November 13, the group attacked the joy of life, the simple pleasure of going to a concert, having a glass of wine, or enjoying a soccer match. That's what they abhor: our freedom, our pride.
I'm tired of being targeted for the fundamental values that make us who we are. Tired of telling myself that they could strike at any moment; we will not stop living for them, for that would give them more reason to fight. Every generation vows that it will change the world, but not ours. I'm tired of having to fight to prevent society, social relations and our world from eventually falling apart. This is the challenge before us. Today we are all like Atlas, carrying the world on our frail shoulders.
"So read the Quran, instead of staining your hands with blood. I'm tired of seeing you misrepresent my religion."
And you ISIS, and you terrorists, I'm tired of your actions that defile the Muslim religion-- a religion which teaches its followers that killing a man is like killing all of humanity. Tired of having to repeat, because of you, that Islam does not require Muslims to kill people who love life. Tired of seeing you murder global citizens of all origins and all faiths. Tired of seeing you force Muslims to fight and die for your perverted version of religion. Tired of learning about Adel, a young Lebanese man who sacrificed himself on Saturday to prevent one of your suicide bombers from blowing up a mosque in Beirut. Tired of hearing you shout "Allahu Akbar" every time you commit a crime.
You say that God is great, and I agree with you. But if he is as great as you believe, do you really think he needs you, a band of vermin, to proclaim his greatness?
"And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know." (Surah 63, verse 8).
That's what the Quran says. So read the Quran, instead of staining your hands with blood. I'm tired of seeing you misrepresent my religion, because, as Camus wrote brilliantly in his Letters to a German Friend, "what makes us suffer the most is to see the thing we love turned to travesty."
Since Friday night, I have felt afraid. But do not rejoice too quickly, ISIS. It is not you I'm afraid of. I'm afraid that your unspeakable acts will manage to divide my country. I'm afraid that you will achieve the ultimate goal behind your attacks, behind the murders of innocents: to cast a shadow on Muslims in the West, so that they might all be regarded as potential terrorists.
In fact, what I fear the most is that you'll lead the world into a Manichaeistic struggle, to force the world into one giant struggle between you and them. I fear retaliation. I fear that the cycle of violence has been launched, and that radicals of all stripes will permeate our society. Because ultimately, what ISIS seeks to destroy, the social bonds and French society, we will destroy ourselves: much like in Romain Gary's The Roots of Heaven:
"I wanted to escape all of the things you have learned from us and which sooner or later you will inoculate into the soul of Africa-- achieving this will require a level of oppression and cruelty that will make colonialism look like rosewater, one that only Stalin knew how to achieve, but I trust you with this: You will do your best, and you will achieve for the West the final conquest of Africa."
I'm worried about the reactionaries and extremists who are bound to pop up. And I'm just as afraid of the idiotic answers they'll receive from extremists on the other side. I fear that my country will yield to the sirens of hatred. I worry that my fellow citizens will let France ignore its morality and respond to hatred with hatred. I fear that we would meet fire with fire, bullets with bullets, and that we would abandon all intelligence, all reason. I'm afraid that the sword will respond to the sword regardless of the spirit, even though the spirit and the sword together are invincible.
"I'm tired and I am afraid, but I have not lost hope. Those who have not known fear cannot be courageous."
I'm afraid that my country will be transformed into a place of Manichaeistic dualities, that the lens of goodness will be replaced with the gaze of suspicion. Lest we forget that "the barbarian is first one who believes in barbarism," in the words of Levi-Strauss. I am afraid that we will forget the values we have inherited from our history.
I'm tired and I am afraid, but I have not lost hope. Those who have not known fear cannot be courageous. Today, I feel surrounded by a multitude of similar people who were also deeply affected by these attacks. United, we are invincible. United, humanity will win against these deadly ideologues. "Courage," said the great Jaurès, "is to seek the truth and say: it is not to submit to the law of the triumphant lie, and to not let echo in our hearts and minds the cheering of fanatics and fools." My friends, let us be brave. We need it now more than ever.
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