I wish I could fully put into words how I felt when I heard about the brutal murder of a teacher, 47 year old Samuel Paty, in France on Friday. He was beheaded. An image was then shared online. An 18 year old was killed at the scene and other members of his family arrested and questioned. I felt despair, anger, frustration, upset, let down, disappointment, sick, helpless and more, all flooding in at the same time.
The facts are still emerging and the stories are being pieced together. But from what I have read, around two weeks ago Samuel Paty showed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to his students to help them navigate the ongoing Charlie Hedbo massacre trial. He gave the option for Muslim students to leave the room before he showed the images for the discussion. He was subsequently stalked, threatened, fearing for his safety. Now he is dead.
Today I am of course thinking about the family and friends of Samuel Paty and his teacher colleagues. I am also thinking a lot about the students at that school. The young people in France and around the world watching what happened, Muslims and others. Trying to make sense of it.
I feel let down by so-called ‘leaders’, Muslims and others, who always take moments like these to politicise further, to ‘prove’ their position, to dig their heals in, to spend energy repeating that they shouldn’t have to condemn the actions of one person, one lone terrorist. Causing more division and confusion. Blaming ‘the media’. Blaming everyone else for what has happened. That for me feels incomplete and somewhat of a cop out.
How can an 18 year old have been brought to this part of his life to believe that this brutal action was the right thing to do? What has he been taught? Where did that come from? Such a warped and devastating ideology, so far from what our faith teaches us. But he is not alone. The work against extremism needs to be done. We need to be in communities working with young people in particular, of all backgrounds.
Stop being defensive. Accept there are issues. Get involved and make change. Shape the narrative. Be part of the solution.
In France now, refugees will suffer further discrimination.
Around the world including here, Muslim women like me will be targeted more.
Extremists of all types will use this event to further their own causes and cause more harm.
The name of Islam and Prophet Muhammad will be maligned and misunderstood further by many.
To ever say that this is how we defend our faith and our beloved Prophet makes a complete mockery of everything I have ever been taught. THIS IS NOT THE WAY!
I will never forget a couple of years back a Jewish woman was next to me at a Ramadan Iftar event. Someone did the call to prayer which of course includes the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great). Moved by the beautiful recitation and with tears in her eyes she said ‘how sad it is that we only ever hear those two words in a really negative way”. She is of course so right, so often only heard connected to moments of terror. What will we do to change that?
Today I renew my intention to work together, to raise awareness, to show the love of Prophet Muhammad through my actions and how I treat others, to help educate, so that extremist ideas are not allowed to take root in our communities. I am promising myself not to be paralysed into inaction just because the task feels so huge.
“To save one life is to save all humanity…”
We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to every young person around us. We owe it to the world.
What will you do?