Saturday, November 14, 2015

Reactions to Reactions to the Attacks in Paris – Erich

Like everyone, I am horrified to learn of the attacks that occurred in Paris yesterday. And, I'm sure I am not alone in that these attacks make me reflect on September 11, 2001. More so because my friends Bryan and Ami and their two girls are living in Paris at the moment. On September 11, Alrica and I could not get back to our home in Jersey City. The trains were not running and we were stuck in Manhattan. Ami opened up her home to us, and we walked 80 blocks uptown to stay at her place that night. Bryan was out of town, and I'm sure Ami didn't mind the company. But she was so generous to take us in. I'm thankful now that their family is safe in Paris. And I'm sad for the people of Paris who were hurt or killed. But there's more.

I've been watching the reactions to this attack. I don't mean the reactions by governments or even media. But the reactions of some of my connections in social media. There is a lot of sympathy. Some natural human anger and desire to act and not just watch. But there is also some terrifying rhetoric going on.

ISIL has now taken credit for the attack and there is an outpouring of hatred for this group. But where it upsets me is when the hatred of extremists becomes a hatred of all Muslims or all inhabitants of the Middle East.

Do Americans (even some that I know) honestly believe all Muslims want only jihad and death? Do Americans honestly believe that the Koran tells them to kill Christians and Jews? Have any of them read the Koran? Because I would like to know where that passage is. In fact, Muhammad called Christians and Jews fellow people of the book, because they worshiped the same god as he did. The problems between Islam and Judaism developed in the 20th century, more or less along with the development of Israel as a country.

One post I saw on Facebook showed a map of Asia Minor with a huge circle of ocean where Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia should be. In the middle it read “Ground Zero”. And the caption read “Problem solved.” Really? Who would propose killing millions of completely innocent civilians as fair recompense for the work of extremists? Wouldn't that make us just as vicious a group of killers of innocent people as them?

A couple of days ago, similar attacks were carried out in Beirut. Why didn't that attack get as much press? Why didn't I see any similar reactions on social media? Is it because the victims of those attacks were brown, or because they were Muslims, or most likely, both?

What about the millions of Muslims and others who have been forced out of their homes in Syria and the nearby region? They are making dangerous journeys to get away from extremism. They are sleeping in tents, if they're lucky enough to have tents. They are walking away from everything they had to find a safer life for themselves and their families. Are they to blame? Or aren't they victims just like those in Paris?

I don't believe that all Muslims want our way of life to end. I don't believe that any broad group of people is evil or inherently bad. Our family is traveling the world for the next two years exactly for this reason, so that we can learn about other cultures, see how they live, understand their way of life. Because it is just as wrong for us to to want their way of life to end as it would be for them to feel that way.

Muslims are just like you and me. They want to leave a better world for their children than they had themselves. They want to be able to go to and from work and worship and leisure in safety. They want to be able to practice their religion with the same freedom that the rest of us enjoy.

Yes, there are extremists. And they do hideous things. There are Muslim extremists. There are Christian extremists. There are Jewish extremists. There are even extremists who have no religious affiliation at all. And extremists are dangerous. Let's fight the conditions that foment extremism. And when we have to, let's fight the already existing extremists. But let's not apply that wrath to entire groups based on their color, religion, or geographical location.

Not even in our rhetoric.


  1. Thanks Erich. I have been reading your blog a lot, I really think it is amazing with what you are doing with your family. We are having a similar experience to yours but on a more limited scope. It was great that you and Alrica kept Ami company on 9/11. In Paris there was a movement called #PorteOuverte, or open door. Slightly funny as many doors in Paris actually have a voice that says "la porte est ouverte" when you open the door.
    I think your comments about the reaction are also very well stated. It truly is very sad when those think the reaction to this is simply to hate or attack Muslims. I have really studied this a lot, including the negative fallout from the Arab Spring. I think that while we need to focus on the extremists, and make sure not to isolate the larger, peaceful and productive Muslim community; there is a very dangerous in between, that is not dangerous in its own right, but creates an environment that brings forth these extrmemists. Closing on that point the anti-Muslim rhetoric does in fact feed this in-between.

    1. I agree Bryan. I think we do need to stop the rhetoric or we are only adding ingredients for more extremism. But the rhetoric won't stop if people keep honestly believing that Islam is a religion of war on the infidel rather than a religion of peace.

  2. It is interesting how much more open South Africans are to Muslims, despite the similar statistics to the States, than the US is. Far less intentional and unintentional discrimination.