I stand with Muslim Paris in the face of terrorism

Kyra Kruger

This past Friday, senseless and tragic acts of terrorism and murder took place in Paris, allegedly carried out by ISIS sympathizers.  Over the weekend, people all over the world have announced their support for the French people with the #PrayforParis and blue, white and red tinted profile pictures.  Obama announced that an attack of this kind is not only an attack on France, but also “an attack on the civilized world.”  

Obviously what happened on Friday was an abhorrent and terrible tragedy, and the outpouring of support for Paris is sign that we as a global community will not stand for this kind of behavior.  But, as usual, there is another side to every story, and we should remember to send our support to all citizens of Paris.  

As a French major, I have spent most of this semester studying French culture, and more specifically, the political climate surrounding topics such as immigration, multiculturalism, and racism.  France has a long and controversial history of Middle Eastern and Muslim immigration.  The French government has long been split on the topic of immigration itself, as some major parties such as the Front National claim immigration, particularly non-European immigration, as a threat to French culture and life.  France’s white, Catholic background fuels much of this bias against Muslim citizens, although to many people today, Catholicism is more of a cultural identifier rather than a religious one.  

This fear of what is different has lead to widespread racism against Middle Eastern and Muslim people, French citizens or not.  Immigrants are forced to live in the neglected, low-income housing on the outskirts of cities, permission to build mosques is incredibly difficult to acquire, and Muslim burial grounds are almost non-existent in many places. Due to the French concept of Laïcité (the separation of church and state) the wearing of hijabs and burkas in a public space was made illegal, restricting Muslim women’s right to practice their faith.  All of this screams to the French Muslim community: we don’t want you, and we don’t respect you.  

A government and society that belittles, restricts and discredits a person’s belief system and way of life is not one where a person can thrive, grow and become a contributing member of society.  It only creates feelings of resentment, hopelessness, suffocation and isolation.  

In the U.S. we have seen this kind of apathetic racism and its effects in the outrage caused by the events in Ferguson.  Some of this outrage was constructive, and yet some materialized in the form of riots and destruction. Institutionalized prejudice is present in many countries other than our own, and when an international tragedy such as this one occurs, we must take the time to think about what might drive a person to the extreme.

I fear that although the attacks on Paris were carried out by minority extremists, there will be a backlash of increased racism against the innocent, law-abiding Muslim community.  Inclusion rather than exclusion, and sympathy rather than prejudice will be able to heal France.  And so I appeal to you, when you pray for Paris, pray for all of Paris. Pray for the Catholics and the Muslims, pray for the misled and misguided, the abused and forgotten, pray for the ignorant and the wise, pray for the angry and the apathetic, pray for the ones no one else will.  When we let hate brew more hate, there is no room left for peace.