Column: Evaluating the true enemy in the Paris shootings

The continuing rise of Islamophobia in our world must be countered.

Terrorism recently became the pressing issue worldwide once again.

On Wednesday, Jan. 7, two gunmen, Cherif and Said Kouachi, entered the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They shot and killed 12 people, including eight journalists, two police officers, a caretaker and a visitor, while yelling, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic. The brothers claimed their reason for the shooting was offensive cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad. They were captured and killed that Friday during a shootout with police.

Meanwhile, another gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris. He was shot dead that same day, and the police freed 15 hostages while finding the bodies of four others. Another gunman in a Parisian suburb also shot and killed a policewoman around this time. It is thought that these two incidents were connected to the magazine shooting.

French officials have begun to crack down on citizens by arresting people who have glorified terrorism or have made racist remarks regarding this event. Response to the event has been very popular in social media with the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) trending around the world. Nearly four million people marched in France in the week after the attacks to condemn terror and defend free speech, according to Radio Free Europe.

It is difficult to discern whether or not the world is protesting for the right reasons. It seems that in trying to explain the reasons for the shooting, many people have blamed the whole religion that the gunmen were acting under. This is not new territory. Islamophobia has been on the rise in the world for years, largely in response to the actions of a few radical Muslims. However, it is extremely irresponsible and demeaning to put the whole faith under scrutiny. Although the gunmen found their inspiration within their religion, their actions do not represent Muslims. As shown by surveys from Pew Research and others, the majority of Muslims around the world are seriously concerned about fundamentalism and also reject al-Qaeda, the Taliban and violence in the name of Islam.

Nevertheless, people make sweeping judgments based on a small minority of the group to explain the inexplicable. According to The Independent, 26 mosques in France have so far been attacked using firebombs, gunfire, pig heads or grenades. Islamophobia has also been on the rise in France, with reports of over 50 incidents since the attacks.

It is extremely judgmental of society to attack innocent people just because they happen to practice the same faith as these terrorists. In fact, the terrorists shot a Muslim policeman, and a Muslim shop assistant hid 15 hostages in the kosher grocery’s freezer. It is quite obvious that the vast majority of Muslims do not subscribe to radical fundamentalists.

The recent shootings in Paris are disappointing and saddening. It is frightening to know that terrorists are still rampant in this world. However, it is also frightening that people feel the need to blame a whole subset of the population because a small minority of their faith reacts in a violent way. Muslims are not the enemy; terrorists are.

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