My little sister’s best friend is Muslim. They met freshman year of high school and the two have been close for a little over a year now. Within their friendship, they have learned to ignore the stares of onlookers that solely see two black girls – one apparently ordinary and one that isn’t, solely because she wears a Hijab. For the ones that know my sister personally, their eyes pop out even wider because she’s a Christian and apparently, Christians and Muslims don’t mix.
No, extremists in society don’t mix. On January 7, 2015, two gunmen brothers ambushed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, murdering 12 people in the name of Prophet Mohammed because of their “blasphemous” illustrations. When my little sister asked her friend if she heard of what happened in Paris, she simply replied with a guarded “Yeah.” And when asked, my sister told me she didn’t want to push it because it would’ve been “awkward.” Regardless of the fact that my sister’s friend is the first Muslim I have come to know, I understood completely.
Was I shocked when I found out that the perpetrators were Muslim? Honestly… and stereotypically, no. From September 11 to Boko Haram to ISIS to Je Suis Charlie, Muslims have proven to carry the most extreme extremists. Charlie Hebdo has made fun of plenty of causes and religions, including Christianity, but there were no Christians showing up to their headquarters killing in the name of Jesus. I’m not saying that Christian extremists have not terrorized but there have been so many irrevocable instances that have put Muslims in the harsh spotlight. It made me question why Muslims – excuse me, Muslim extremists – keep kidnapping and shooting and bombing if their religion preaches peace. I mean, Christianity and Islam both do.
Initially, I was going to title this piece “Why Are Muslims So Violent?” But that wouldn’t be fair to the believers who don’t believe that blasphemy should be handled with destructive actions based on malice and defense. I reconsidered the title after a quick breath of fear slightly rippled through my mind as I wondered, “What if something bad happens if I even post this somewhere?” This anxiety shouldn’t have to exist for me, for those remaining at Charlie Hebdo, not for anybody.
It’s sad actually. Muslims seem to never get a break. The public doesn’t see them for their good acts but for all of the terror. What’s unfortunate with society is that we don’t separate the “good” Muslim and the “bad” Muslim – the “good” Christian and the “bad” Christian. We see them as a whole. If you’re a Muslim, then we have to condemn you because your people are violent. If you’re a Christian, then we have to condemn you too because you all are just as judgmental.
It warms my heart that 1.5 million people gathered for the peaceful march for unity in France. But I wish I could say that the leaders marching in the front row weren’t there for good press, ironically most of their own governments don’t stand for free speech or free press in their homelands. I wish I could say that they whole heartedly supported France. I wish I could say that they truly haven’t any hidden agenda in appearing front row, hand in hand with President François Hollande.
I wish the commonality between Islam and Christianity wasn’t the public’s shared disapproval for both.
Instead of holding up posters and wearing shirts claiming “Je Suis Charlie”, how about we work on a lasting change that stems off from the tragedy? We don’t have to take on anyone’s practice, no. And we especially don’t take anyone’s life. But we can treat all human beings respectively with the right to express.
If two young girls can agree to that, why can’t we?