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Islamic Center of Bloomington "condemns" Paris attacks


By Andy Wittry



What began as a lunchtime editorial meeting in the offices of French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday turned into a harrowing, calculated assault that ended two days later in a pair of standoffs on the outskirts of Paris.

It was a three-day reign of terror by masked gunmen Saïd and Chérif Kouachi that left 20 dead and 21 injured.

More than 4,000 miles and six time zones away, the Islamic Center of Bloomington has spoken out in the aftermath, denoucing ?the attacks.

The Center released a statement Wednesday condemning in the “strongest possible terms” the brutality of the men who stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices and were shown on video shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo.”

The Muslim Alliance of Indiana and the Council of Indiana Muslim Organizations released similar statements Monday that supported education and freedom of expression and condemned recent terrorist attacks worldwide.

The attack in Paris was seemingly in response to the newspaper’s depictions of the prophet Muhammad.

The Islamic Center of Bloomington’s president, Mohammad Syifa Amin Widigdo, said the majority of Muslims take offense to depictions of Muhammad, although depictions intended to honor Muhammad are allowed in some parts of ?the world.

According to the Center’s statement, the violent reaction to a critical opinion and satirical cartoon is not one of the teachings of ?Muhammad.

Instead, Muslims are urged to “show forgiveness, enjoin in what is good and turn away from the ignorant” when receiving critical comments or hateful speech.

Abdulkader Sinno, an associate professor of political science and Middle Eastern studies at IU, said via email that some people, if uneducated, tend to hold all Muslims responsible for the action of a few and might retaliate with hate crimes against those they perceive as Muslim.

“Even though this is not logical, Muslim organizations have to issue repeated statements condemning violence to avoid hostility and to dissuade anyone of Muslim background from thinking that violence is a legitimate way to deal with grievances,” Sinno said.

Widigdo said he believes there could be an issue of integration between French-born citizens and French immigrants.

“Oftentimes, the immigrants feel deprived, they feel that they are not really French yet, and this was like a crisis of identity,” he said. “If their only identity that they have as Muslims is deprived, then they want to show something, they want to rebel or something ?like that.”

But the terrorist attack in Paris can by no means be justified, Widigdo said.

“You cannot use my religion, you cannot use our religion to justify whatever action that you performed there,” he said of the attack. “If you use the name of the religion that’s the religion of millions of people, you cannot use that. That’s basically our general feeling, and we are very upset with what happened.”

Sinno said it’s very troubling that such violence was done in the name of Islam.

He said he believes the answer as to why there were alienated individuals willing to go to such extremes has little to do with Islam and more to do with how French society discriminates against Muslims in education, employment and law enforcement.

“French Muslims are also constantly humiliated on the streets, by the police, in schools and in the media, including by mainstream politicians,” Sinno said.

Sinno discussed a study from French organization SOS Racisme shows that a job applicant with a Muslim-sounding name has 50 times less of a chance of getting interviewed for a job as an equally qualified applicant with a French name.

“Policies that focus on increasing respect and inclusion are necessary to stop violence. This is a time for everyone to act wisely to reduce divisions.”

Engagement, service to society and education are the best ways to combat prejudice, Sinno said. His research and that of others indicate knowing a member of a minority reduces the likelihood of someone having negative views of that minority.

As someone who practices Islam and lives in a Western nation, Widigdo said Muslims may be prone to receiving suspicious looks or questions, but he said he doesn’t face many challenges as an individual in a religious minority.

“Especially in Bloomington,” he said, “we have wonderful religious ?communities.”

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