Eileen Carris new book, Veiled Intentions, was published on December 29th. Thank you, Eileen, for this lovely response to the murders that have occurred in Paris this week.
Nine days after I published Veiled Intentions, a book about a small town erupting into violence and hatred after the arrest of a Muslim teenager for a crime she did not commit, armed terrorists broke into the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and gunned down twelve people. The violence was in response to some cartoons published in the satirical magazine. It wasn’t the first time the magazine had been targeted by Islamic extremists. It was, however, the bloodiest.
The message of my book (not to give too big a spoiler) is that hatred breeds more hatred and that we must combat the forces of intolerance with acceptance and understanding. In the face of what happened in Paris on January 7, that feels incredibly weak and naïve. Is it enough to express outrage? Is it enough to verbally condemn reacting to satire with AK-47s? Would putting flowers in those gun barrels make anyone change their minds?
I don’t know. I don’t know the right way to move forward after an attack like this one. I do know, however, a few things that would be wrong.
It would be wrong to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a small number of Islamic terrorists.
It would be wrong to attack mosques.
It would be wrong to make Muslims feel unsafe on our streets.
It would be wrong to stop talking about these very difficult issues.
There is no doubt that there is a strain of Islam that is breeding extremists who feel justified in killing people who don’t agree with them, in oppressing women, in persecuting people of other religions. It’s imperative to remember that those extremists do not represent the vast majority of Muslims. In fact, the Islamic community is responding to the attack with every ounce of the outrage the rest of the world is with the added heartbreak of knowing that the violence tarnishes a religion in which they believe. Let’s stand with them. Let’s honor their words. Let’s make sure their voices are heard.
One of the cartoons I saw in response to the attacks showed a pencil labeled yesterday, then a broken pencil labeled today and then two pencils made from the one broken one labeled tomorrow. What if the outcome of this attack was more people writing about this difficult and complex issue with compassion and forbearance? What if it was more people trying to promote understanding and tolerance? What if that was really how we could defeat the terrorists?
I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep trying to understand. I’m going to keep trying to accept. I’m going to keep my mind open. I don’t want else to do. #JeSuisCharlie