Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Charlie......
Today is a sad day for France, Europe, freedom of speech and all of us who in our own little way are trying to influence public opinion, or simply entertain it; cartoonists, bloggers, journalists. All of us constantly with our eyes on current affairs, informing, analyzing, satirizing.

If only somebody who disagrees or gets offended by what we do, storms in our offices, our homes or  work environment and kill us in cold blood.

Such attitudes do not belong in a free and democratic society, and those who commit such crimes should not call themselves civilized human beings. If they want to be part of an open society or a democracy and avail of all the benefits that they bring, then there is one simple rule: you respect another person's opinion even if you disagree with it.

Of course I am referring to today's incomprehensible, sad and outrageous events that took place in France's capital, Paris. Three young men stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that often hosted cartoons that were lampooning Islam and other religions, and killed 12 people. 

Three young men that should be looking at creating a life for themselves, that they had their whole lives ahead of them, living in one of the most privileged countries in the world, chose instead to become terrorists. They killed in the name of their religion, 12 innocent and creative individuals, accomplished and with so much more to offer.

Killing in the name of a religion, in this day and age, is one of the most daft, tragic and outrageous reasons I can imagine. There is no way to explain it. 

Their actions could have very serious consequences for France and Europe in extend, but also for all European Muslims. In a period where France is experiencing an increasing shift to the far-right, with the National Front's Marine Le Pen being tipped to be one of the two major contestants of the next French Presidential Elections in 2017, this could not come at a worse time.

Mrs Le Pen leads the polls at the moment and her major rival, former French President Mr. Sarkozy, will have to make huge concessions to the rising nationalism among the French voters, in order to have a chance to win. If the Far Right wins the election in France, it will inevitably mean more hard times for Europe.

From now until 2017, we will have the Greek elections by the end of this month, the British EU membership referendum and the French elections, where "radical", "anti-EU" parties have gained significantly ground. How will Europe be able to cope under their pressure?

It could also mean that the whole Muslim community across Europe, could face further pressure and discrimination. Just this week we had a march of around 18,000 in Dresden, Germany, against the "Islamization of Europe".

It is clear now that the European Muslims must reject all radical elements in their circles and cooperate with the authorities to isolate them. Simply announcing a statement of condemnation, won't be enough, if incidents such as this are blown out of proportion. 

The young men who did this despicable act today, were French citizens of Arab origin, raised in France. They allegedly have recently returned from Syria, where they have been radicalized. That issue is not anything new. Thousands of European born Muslims have joined the ranks of radical fighters in Middle East.

If the Muslim communities want to avoid any unfair back-clash, then themselves should reject such elements from their communities.  They should stand in solidarity with Christian, Jewish, other religion followers and secular elements in their communities, for the good of our communities and countries. 

But above all, to make a statement both towards the Europeans but especially towards these radicalized individuals, that these acts are not welcome or accepted by anyone in our continent.

Europeans on the other hand must all stand in solidarity and do not scapegoat the whole Muslim community for the acts of a few. These people do not represent a whole religion, but sadly their actions speak louder than the peaceful coexistence of the majority of the Muslim community among us.

Our tolerance, faith, patience and values will be tested. But we should not give into their pressure and entering the chaos of bigotry, hatred, xenophobia and Islamophobia. 

I wish to offer my sincere condolences to the families of the victims and I would also proudly state: I AM ALSO CHARLIE!  Rest in Peace brothers.

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