I am angry. No, I am appalled. Right now I really wish I didn’t choose to write in English, because in German my words would flow so much easier. But I will try. Yesterday at work one of my colleagues suddenly stood up and said: There was a terrorist attack in Paris. They killed editors of a satirical magazine. I still can’t believe it today, as I am sitting here and typing this post. I carry around my feelings on this topic for almost two days but just found the time now to sit down and finally get rid of what I’d like to say. It’s this:
Freedom of speech is an inalienable human right. When people are not allowed to express their opinion without fear, there is no freedom. This is my sincere belief. As someone who already works as a journalist, even if this career is still in its infancy, I am shocked by the murder of ten editors of “Charlie Hebdo”. Ten people lost their lives. They didn’t harm anybody, they did their job, they leave families behind. It’s a tragedy.
Are we all to live in fear now? I say we are not allowed to do so. We are allowed to mourn and to hate these murderers. But we should not fear because this fear would be generalizing. It would not be specific because honestly nobody for example in Germany could rationally fear another attack by the two (or three, numbers are still unclear) terrorists who are currently on the run in France. No, this fear would be a fear of Muslims in general. There’s nothing worse we could do. We must not see all Muslims through different eyes now, it’s dangerous. It’s exactly what these terrorists want! Already Muslim institutions in France have been attacked. This is madness and we have to stop it.
I have friends who are Muslims since I was in school. Their religion never mattered to me at all and when I see anti-islamic movements that gain popularity like PEGIDA here in Germany I have to say: These people are racists. PEGIDA is the short form of “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident”. They demonstrate with thousands every Monday, mainly in Dresden, shout things like “We are the people” as if they had righteous motives like the Monday-Demonstrations in the DDR – and they also love the term “Lying Press”. Part of them surely are Nazis and Hooligans, part of them are just – can’t say it more politely – stupid people who let irrational fear lead them to search for a scapegoat. PEGIDA’s arguments have been disproven. Their main thesis of the “Islamization” is bullshit as there are only about 5% Muslims in Germany (according to the article linked above). Still they are demonstrating. So what else are they than racists?
Let’s not become racists. Everybody with a little common sense knows that the acts of a few fanatics are not the acts of a whole religions. We have to stop thinking in categories, we have to stop generalizing. With their attacks, terrorists want to stir hatred. It’s one of the biggest tragedies of our time that after the attacks of 9/11 they were very successful. In general, the only thing we – you and me – can do against this is to use our brains and seek friendship.
At moments like this I love the Social Networks, especially Twitter, for the incredibly quick evolution of solidarity, expressed by hashtags. I remember just a few weeks ago when an Iranian Islamist took hostages in a cafe in Sydney, displaying the Muslim credo. The great people of Australia realized that afterwards, in the collective state of grief and anger, there might be Muslims who feared for their own safety. So they invented the hashtag #IllRideWithYou. Although I am usually against internet hypes, this behaviour gives me hope! I see that PEGIDA faces criticism under #NoPegida and these days we see people expressing their sympathies with Charlie Hebdo using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
Don’t give racism a chance. Don’t be afraid.