A Muslim Man's Moving Fight Against Islamophobia

Following the six terrorist attacks in Paris which killed 129 people last week, there were fears that the violence claimed by ISIS would spur anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe. In response to the perpetuation of stereotypes, one Muslim man's moving demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris helped bring citizens together. The man stood in the Place de la République square with outstretched arms, blindfolded by a keffiyeh (a Middle Eastern headdress). Two cardboard signs lay at his feet that, translated from French, read: "I am Muslim, and I'm told that I'm a terrorist. I trust you, do you trust me? If yes, hug me." In a sign of solidarity, many Parisians embraced him in a hug.

The powerful demonstration sent the message that most Muslims are not terrorists, and the positive response showed that there are Parisians who don't hold all Muslims responsible for the attacks. Speaking after the display, the unnamed man said: "I would like to thank every one of you for giving me a hug. I did this to send a message to everyone. I am a Muslim, but that doesn't make me a terrorist. I never killed anybody. I want to tell you that 'Muslim' doesn't necessarily mean 'terrorist.' A terrorist is a terrorist, someone willing to kill another human being over nothing. A Muslim would never do that. Our religion forbids it."

As The New York Times noted, France's response after Friday's attacks was very different from that which followed the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, which included marches asking Parisians not to confuse Islam with violence. A 17-year-old Muslim girl, Latetia Syed, told The New York Times: "We're already feeling the backlash. It started right away. There was a flood of violent language on Facebook to kill Muslims." Parisian Muslims condemned the deadly attacks last week, but this man's demonstration highlights the fears that the bombings and shootings will defame Islam as a whole.

Friday's attacks were a combination of six separate assaults at a concert hall, soccer stadium, and restaurants throughout Paris which ISIS claimed responsibility for. Seven attackers died at the scenes, while an eighth suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is still at large, as is a possible ninth suspect. The French authorities raided an apartment in the Paris suburb of St.-Denis Wednesday morning in search of two men who orchestrated the attacks, including the Belgian militant believed to be the ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Two people died in the raid — a woman who blew herself up and a man — and seven were arrested, but the authorities are unsure whether Abaaoud was killed.

Image: In The NOW (1)