To fight ISIS, France should integrate its Muslim population – OpEd

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SHAFAQNA – In the coming days, I will mourn with the nation of France as they bury their loved ones after brutal attacks in different locations in Paris left more than a hundred people dead. This incident — less than a year after the brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo — is a reminder of how precarious and tumultuous our world has become.

After ISIS issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, France is expected to move forward with a bold tactic against terrorism in the coming days. While I support France in its fight against ISIS, I hope that the government recognizes the importance of bridging the gap between the Muslim community and the rest of the nation. I firmly believe that it is through the mutual cooperation of both the French Muslims and other citizens that we can put an end to these acts of barbarity once and for all.

French Muslims, who face unemployment and discrimination, are an easy target for insurgent groups like ISIS who are looking for every opportunity to misguide this vulnerable segment of the population. Through social media, ISIS has gained thousands of supporters from the Western world in the past year. The attack in Paris is a wake up call not just for France but for other countries in Europe to try to integrate the Muslim population.

At the same time, even while facing marginalization, the actions of Muslims who resort to violence can never be justified. Our faith teaches us to be compassionate and just toward other people. The Quran says killing one innocent person is like killing the entire mankind (5:32). Islam is very clear and precise about its message. Muslims who distort the Islamic teachings to fit their own dogmas are seeking to achieve personal motives that have nothing to do with Islam. Rather, they are extremely misguided and ignorant of the true teachings of the Quran — a book that, God says, is supposed to be a mercy and healing for mankind (17:82). Judging from the actions of these so-called Muslims who carried out the attacks, it is clear that they don’t recognize the depth of the Quranic teachings.

But those Muslims who truly want to bridge the gap between themselves and other citizens should be recognized and encouraged. These Muslims should have leadership roles within their communities so they can become the role models for the younger generation. There should be a very strong support system for the youth within each mosque and its community, where young people can confide without feeling apprehensive or judged. As Muslim communities build these internal support systems, the French government should also provide external support in the shape of financial stability and initiatives to end racism against the Muslim population.

As a child, my father always told me a story of a man who had many sons. When the man reached old age, he called his sons and asked them to cut a pile of wood. Because of the sheer volume of the pile, the sons could only make small incisions in the wood with their ax. The man told them to separate the wood and then cut the pieces. The sons succeeded in chopping up the wood pieces easily. The man said, “As long as you are together, no one can tear you apart. But the moment you separate, it would become easy to chop you up.”

Now more than ever, the French nation needs to stay united against any threat of terrorism. Their strength lies in sticking together, not apart. The Paris attacks are vile and they will create deep wounds. But the French people have shown resilience throughout history and I have no doubt that they will overcome this act of barbarity. My only hope is that they overcome their grief through reason and compassion — not aggression.

By Huma Munir. She is a writer for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association.

The views expressed here are the author’s own.

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