A Message to My Muslim Friends: You Are Your Brother’s Keeper
In Marseilles, a teacher — Benjamin Amsellem — is attacked by a young Muslim who, in the name of the Islamic State, slashes him with a machete because he’s a Jew.
Emotions are running high. It’s the fourth antisemitic attack in a month in a city where Jews have lived since Roman times, 2,000 years ago. Immediately, the president of the Marseille Israelite Consistory, Zvi Ammar, advised the 70,000 members of his community to remove their yarmulkes in order not to expose themselves to antisemitic violence. Unheard of: Under the threat of jihad, one of the most glorious Jewish communities in the world sneaks away on tiptoes.
And he, the nice young Muslim of Turkish origin, what was he seeking in attacking a yarmulke-wearing stranger? An adventure. An adventure that no one but he proposed, except ISIS. A totalitarian ideology that is omnipresent on social media and that brought him closer to God — like thousands of other young people in the eyes of whom he became a hero.
They all have an example: Salah Abdeslam, whose face fills our screens, the young man who planned, in the name of Allah, the murder of innocents and who still taunts the European police.
So here we are, caught in a trap. Trapped by the freedom of expression and information. Should France attempt to control the spread of this or that religion because some people use it to impose their laws? Should it bar the media from showing the faces of fanatics who, in the name of their God, threaten our lives, out of fear of making them popular?
Must we oppose terror with terror, fear with fear? In this game, we risk becoming losers. These murderers have no fear of dying; their paradise awaits them. We must therefore not merely appeal to the state to protect us. As secular as we are, we should not fear appealing to religion in our struggle. Because Allah is with us, and these murderers know it.
“He who kills a person, it is as though he has killed all mankind,” says the Koran. “And he who saves a life, it is as though he saved all mankind.”
“Why do we have to justify ourselves?”
Those who save lives are thus also examples. Why not place them in opposition to those who kill? Why not profile, in the media, cases devoted to good adventures? For example, the people who rushed to protect the Jewish teacher in Marseilles also lived an adventure. “Those who pillage or usurp or incite pillaging,” said the Prophet, “are not considered like the others.” Quoting the founder of Islam is not a hindrance to our secularism, it’s a response to those who believe that killing is carrying out his word.
How I would love to have come across an Internet site called “Muslims Talk to Muslims.” Writers and religious Muslims able to combat the Islamists do exist. Artists of Muslim origin can, in Arabic and with the extraordinary humor for which they are known, respond to jihadist propaganda. It is easy to show that Allah is not with the killers but with those who advocate reconciliation. The revealed text attests to as much.
How I would have loved to be able to join a march of Muslims against ISIS, a demonstration like the 1983 March for Equality and against Racism, greeted by applause at the Place de la Republique in Paris.
“Why do we have to justify ourselves?” ask my Muslim friends. “Are we not French, like you?” Because in killing in the name of Islam, ISIS involves all of us in its murders. When, in 1994, in the name of his faith, a certain Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians next to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, he involved all Jews, myself included. And I scream in rage. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” asked Cain after killing Abel. Yes, my Muslim friends, yes. A thousand times yes.
Translated by Barbara Karni.