Two Wrongs Leading to One Atrocity
French forensics officers arrive at the site of the knife attack in Nice on October 29. (Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images)

Two Wrongs Leading to One Atrocity

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, November 1

The biography of Ibrahim Al-Owaisawi, the murderer who carried out the Nice attack last week, could be applied to millions of people in the Arab and Muslim world: a young kid coming from a poor family, who was unemployed, had addiction problems, and saw no future for himself. For many of these miserable people, Islam helps endure the hardships and sorrows of life and find the strength to build better lives for themselves. But for Al-Owaisawi, Islam is what pushed him to travel from Italy to France, bathe and change his clothes at the local train station, head to a nearby church, and slaughter three innocent people he encountered there – including an African mother who worked at the church. If every young Muslim in need would resort to Al-Owaisawi’s gruesome choice, there would be no one left on this planet. Those who take advantage of delusion and weak individuals like Al-Owaisawi – who plant radical beliefs in their heads under the banner of Islam – are the real infidels in this world. Al-Owaisawi may have thought that he is avenging what he viewed as an offense to the prophet, but in reality, it was his actions that served as the biggest and most heinous offense. There is no mercy or forgiveness in Islam for his actions. Al-Owaisawi vilified millions of French Muslims and turned them all into terrorists in the eyes of their compatriots. Needless to say, the vast majority of these men and women have nothing to do with this extremist ideology. Ramming pedestrians with a truck or slitting the throats of innocent passersby on the streets are heinous crimes in their eyes. The cartoon of the prophet ignited a war over two issues that are far more important than the actual caricature itself. The first is the French freedom of speech can continue to exist even without publishing – and then republishing – an offensive caricature that insults the feelings of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The second is that a young Muslim teenager who seeks to find meaning and solace in Islam must not find his way under the auspices of extremists who claim to speak for our religion. The whole world lives in turmoil, fear, tension, anxiety, and despair. And our fragility is common; shared by all humans around the world. When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a toxic speech last week, he may not have realized that the same earthquake that struck the Muslim city of Izmir also rattled the Christian island of Samos in Greece at the exact same moment. Human destiny is one. The poisonous climate that Erdoğan seeks to spread around the world leads to two dangers: The first encourages the publishing of an offensive caricature that offends an entire religion, while the second seeks to ignite a war that will bring us back to the Middle Ages. Amid this dreadful division between two vicious worlds, it is the responsibility of the silent moderate majority to speak up. The publishing of the despicable Charlie Hebdo cartoons and the radicalization of youth under the banner of Islam are two wrongs leading to one atrocity. – Samir Atallah (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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