je ne suis pas charlie (I am NOT Charlie)

I’ve been wondering how to write this blog without offending anyone.  And I am aware now that it may.  Before I move forward, I apologize if anyone becomes upset over this blog and I urge them to have a “talk session” with me directly to discuss.

I was telling someone the other day that, in the last year and a half that I’ve been really making an effort in learning Islam, I feel I’ve spent most of my time defending it.  I told my friend that I have not lost faith in Islam, but at times I feel as though I’m losing faith in myself.  It’s important for me to let you know right now that in no way have I forced myself to learn Islam.  I fell in love with it on my own.  In my own time.

What unfolded this week in Paris was a heartbreaking.  Someone’s mother, father, sister, son, husband, etc. has been killed.  As much as we have become desensitized now to the idea of tragedy, it still remains in my heart that this could have been my family or friends.  And if any form of violence ever happened to someone I cared about, I don’t know how I could live the rest of my life.  My heart goes out to the ones that lost their lives.

But I am not Charlie.  I am not Charlie for so many reasons.

I believe that freedom of speech should be valued and should be a blessing and that no one should die for it.  But I also believe that when you poke and prod at people, using your freedom of speech to bully, its only a matter of time before some lunatic comes knocking at your door.  Charlie Hebdo, the company, stood for nothing I have ever believed in and I would rather die than stand by a company who has been built upon years and years of bullying various faiths and various races.  Did anyone deserve to die?  Absolutely not.  But I feel sympathy for the deaths.  Not the company.

I understand that the term “Je Suis Charlie” stands for the idea of being able to practice our freedom of speech without having fear of being killed for it, but it seems to me that the freedom of speech, especially in France, may not mean freedom for all.  Why is it that women wearing hijab are fined in France and even arrested?  Is wearing religious garb not considered an act of freedom?  Recently a women was kicked out of the Opera house in Paris for having her veil on.  In another horrible instance, a woman wearing a headscarf was violently beaten while two men tried to take her scarf off.  She was beaten so badly she lost her unborn child.  These attacks, as well as the attack in Paris this week, are the results of a government dividing its people and a newspaper like Charlie Hebdo egging it on.  Having been to France and having spent some time with locals there, I realized two things.  France is beautiful and, much to the surprise of many, I found the locals very friendly and welcoming.  I hope to visit France again some day.  But France has a clear and strong divide which is noticeable to anyone who chooses to lurk outside of the city and speak to the locals.

Having said all this, I am well aware of the dire situations in Muslim countries.  I cannot flip through a channel without hearing of persecutions of non Muslims and sectarian violence and sexual harassment and so on.  I feel a constant finger in my face the moment I put my scarf on.  I am not in denial and have various discussions about the state of affairs in Muslim countries.  But it pains me that those same media channels that put Muslims in the global spotlight tend to forget that we are also being victimized by other countries.  Perhaps you should do your own research on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Chechnyan Muslims, the Uyugur Muslims in China, and the daily murders that are taking place in Gaza and realize that we are all in this together.  There is no one type of people that is getting away with anything.  We are all in this together.  Neither good nor evil has a skin colour or a religion.

To those who have decided to create defamatory caricatures in the name of Charlie Hebdo:  I urge you, from the bottom of my heart, to stop.  Just stop.  Stop making fun of something that is dear to anyone simply for the reason that it isn’t bringing any good to the world.   Happiness comes from using your talents for the better.

I have nothing to say to lunatics who attack in the name of Islam, or any other religion for that matter.  I would send them the same message I would send a person who’s murdered anyone.  You are evil and we have no place for you in this world. To continue to ask the billion Muslims to keep condemning attacks which they cannot understand themselves is breaking our community.

I know that all I’ve said may seem simplistic.  I also know that I may sound knaive.  I try my best to keep up with current events but what I write doesn’t come from years of research in history and politics, but from my heart.  And frankly, I think that’s what we need to get back to.  Speaking from the heart.

I asked my father once how to help a world that’s filled with violence.  He said to be kind.  I asked him what to do if people don’t listen.  And he said to be kinder.

I am not Charlie.



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