When the attackers from the Paris massacre, claimed that they were 'avenging' the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad, I was both shocked and appalled. No, No, No! Not again! This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the religion of Islam has been hijacked again by terrorists, who have no religion, faith or humanity. They are simply put, cold-blooded murders. The brother of Ahmed Merabet, who was the first police officer at the scene of the Charlie Hebdo attack, and was killed by the attackers, couldn't have put it better. He said that: 'Islam is a religion of love. My brother was killed by terrorists, by false Muslims.' Indeed, this love is evidenced, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who was not only mocked, but had rubbish, garbage and rotting animal intestines thrown at him, but he never responded with violence. Never!!!
Instead, he spread a message of peace and love. Indeed, Islam is a religion which promotes social justice and order, community cohesion, freedom, equality, morality, and mutual understanding and respect. Indeed, the word "Islam" means "submission" or "surrender", and derives from the Arabic root term "Salaama", which means 'peace and 'safety'. This means that, however much you may be offended by what someone says or does, Islam promotes a message of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This is what we call tolerance and such affirmations of justice and equality are sacrosanct within the Muslim diaspora.
As world leaders locked arm in arms in the French capital city, this was a true reflection of solidarity and unity and reflected the absolute outrage and anger we all felt. Whilst, the hashtag, #Killallmuslims, may have been trending on Twitter, it was also a sense of relief to see a counter-narrative, with millions of people tweeting messages of hope and solidarity. The hashtag #jesuischarlie ("I am Charlie") was one of the world's top trending hashtags with 2.8m tweets reported. Indeed, the #jusuisahmed ("I am Ahmed") tweets used to remember Ahmed Merabet again was a fitting tribute to the French Muslim police officer killed in the attack.
In Birmingham, whilst Fox News and it's 'terror expert' were claiming the city as a 'Muslim only area', the city like others across the world, were holding vigils to remember the victims. Hundreds of people including myself, gathered in Birmingham, in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks. With the banner #JeSuisCharlie, this was our way of remembering the victims, but also getting communities to come and unite together. Sadly, whilst many of us continue to work to create community cohesion, there are thousands of people gathering in Dresden, Germany to exploit this tragic incident to fuel more hatred and less tolerance after the Paris attacks.
All this does is create further fanaticism and racism and allows the far-right to whip up more fear, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. This is a time we should be uniting and getting all communities to work together not creating further divisions and hatred. My research with Muslim communities has shown that after incidents such as Woolwich there was a feeling of demonisation and discrimination against Muslims. To date, we have already witnessed a backlash against Muslims with places of worship being targeted and reports of people being attacked. I believe we should be rallying for respect and human dignity and not for opportunistic gains which only helps feed into the terrorist narrative that creates a 'them vs us' mentality. From this tragedy this sense of solidarity is something we should be proud of. We must unite in the face of terrorism and work together, because we believe in democracy and a society that promotes freedom of speech and freedom of expression.