SHAFAQNA – As tens of thousands gathered to honor Paris victims in solidarity rally, French Muslims and Jews stressed they will not allow fear or religious differences to divide them, vowing to unite against terrorism.
The march is “a real sign of how strong France is. It shows that France is strong when she is united against these people,” Lassina Traore, a 34-year-old French-born Muslim from the Ivory Coast, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday, January 11.
The Muslim woman was among a group of joggers who stopped to pay tribute and light candles in support of the victims during their morning run ahead of the unity rally.
Rallying in the same streets at the same time, Parisian Muslims and Jews shared a message of unity and coexistence.
“We can live together,” Daniel Benisty, a 30-year-old Jew, said.
“It’s the idea of living together because we share the same values, liberty, fraternity, equality, to live in peace and respect each other despite our differences.”
“Exactly!” Riad, the 60-year-old shopkeeper, interjected.
“I think people have woken up.”
For Riad, last week’s attacks remind him of the dark days of the Algerian war.
“How can this happen in 2015? I don’t recognize these Islamists, they’re not Muslims,” he said.
Daniel agreed: “Religion is fine as long as it is not used to hide problems.”
Monday’s peace rally drew nearly 4 million people who were joined by dozens of world leaders to show solidarity with the victims’ of last week’s attacks.
Attendants included Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan.
Moreover, leaders of Spain, Italy, the European Union, Turkey and Tunisia will also be attending the march.
Sunday’s march started at Place de la Republique, and finished at the Place de la Nation, located less than a mile from the kosher grocery where four hostages were killed.
Despite repeated condemnation by Muslims leaders, the attacks made French Muslims more fearful of becoming more vulnerable to Islamophobia.
“I didn’t want to leave the house, I was mostly scared of retaliation,” Mohamed, a father of three who is married to a French Christian, said.
“One must not confuse Muslims with terrorists.”
His nine-year-old daughter burst into tears watching the news this week, asking if “the bad men are coming to our house,” Isabelle Dahmani, Mohamed’s wife, said.
In order to dispel fear among their three children, aged 11, 9 and 4, Dahmani and Mohamed have accompanied them the rally.
“We are in a free country. We want to stop this terrorism. We want them to see and understand Republican values,” Isabelle said.
“But we are kind of anxious, you never know what can happen,” she said, highlighting that fear is still acute in the French capital.
Several attacks were reported last Wednesday and Thursday on Muslim mosques and facilities across France.
The attacks have resulted in no arrests by police, but the area has been cordoned off by its forces.
The anti-Muslim attacks followed a blood-soaked week that left 17 people killed in a terror spree.
The Muslim heavy participation in the rally follows huge condemnations from leaders of Muslim countries and organizations of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam.
Check OnIslam.net special coverage on the most prominent reactions from Muslims worldwide. Check also reactions from eminent Muslim scholars on this barbaric incident.