Friday night, tragedy struck. An ordinary night in an extraordinary city turned into a bloodbath that shook the world to its core. A bombing took place at The Bataclan concert hall during a rock concert, a mass shooting occurred in a restaurant and a bar, and another bombing took place in the Stade de France stadium in the suburb of Saint-Denis during a football match between France and Germany. Terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
As of Monday, there have been an estimated 137 deaths and 352 injuries according to The Guardian.
In a matter of hours, millions were reminded that the violence of extremism is not confined by the borders of the Middle East.
While the horror and heartache brought on by the terrorist attacks in Paris may tempt us to seek retribution against those responsible, we must resist, and indeed denounce, the urge to turn our anger against groups that have no part in terrorism’s ever-rising death toll.
In the hours following the attacks, social media was set ablaze with the kind of Islamophobic rhetoric that has become an all-too common response to acts of extremism. Facebook users posted disgusting, hateful comments such as “If pigs ate muslim they would get sick!” and “If eating bacon means it’s fuck islam day [then] EVERY day in my house is fuck islam day. Oh wait it already was…”
It is far past time we collectively recognize that the Muslim faith is not to blame for the existence and actions of ISIS. Islam is a religion with more than 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, according to Pew Research Center. Claiming that all Muslims are somehow proponents or executors of terrorism is not only gravely illogical, but also reflects a disturbing generalization that is used to justify hate crimes.
Following the last major act of terrorism to strike Paris, the Charlie Hebdo shootings on Jan. 7 of this year, Al Jazeera America reported that “128 anti-Muslim threats or actions were recorded in France” in the two weeks following the shooting.
Condemning deadly acts of terrorism is well within reason, but threatening or committing violence against individuals because of their religion or national origin is absolutely inexcusable. Terrorism is borne of hate and the desire to cultivate fear and animosity among the “enemy groups.” Responding to ISIS’ attacks — in Paris, Beirut or elsewhere — by targeting all Muslims only serves to ensure that more innocent people suffer.
What we may forget is that many Muslims in Europe are refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, where ISIS is committing the kind of atrocities seen in Paris on a regular basis. They are fleeing the fear and torment brought on by the same violence that was for them a daily reality, yet we in the West are quick to cast blame on them, too, when those we consider our allies are targeted.
The reality is that this reaction is playing right into the hands of the group that is actually to blame.
In its own publication, Dabiq, ISIS railed against what it calls the “grey zone,” or the overlapping of Western and Muslim cultures. It seeks to “bring division to the world and destroy the grey zone” according to excerpts of the publication quoted in The Guardian.
Placing hatred for the violence of extremism on all Muslims only serves to create the division that ISIS is aiming for. Proposing to close national borders to any and all further refugees only serves to trap those refugees in the grips of fear and violence, and effectively makes other countries enablers of the exact forces they seek to keep out of their own borders.
When tragedy strikes, as it did in Paris on Friday, and in Beirut on Thursday, and in countless other cities before that, we have a responsibility to stand with those who have been affected. Hate, however, has no place in international solidarity. We must not only stand with Paris, we must stand with the Muslims being targeted by hate speech and the refugees fleeing strife in their homelands.
As President Obama stated in his address following the attacks, “… it’s an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share … the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.”
If we want to truly claim that these values — liberty, equality and brotherhood — are values that we stand for, we must actively condemn not only acts of extremism but also individual acts of hate. In order to combat the global scourge of terrorism, we must replace the urge to divide ourselves with the knowledge that, in these times of fear and uncertainty, only uniting across barriers of religion can give us the strength to move toward a safer world.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.