GUEST OPINION: Condemn ignorance, not race or religion

By on January 13, 2015
The new issue of Charlie Hebdo hits newsstands today with an estimated print run of more than three million copies (the paper’s normal run is 60,000). Translated into 16 languages, the ‘survivor issue’ cover features an image of the Prophet Muhammad holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, and the words “Tout est pardonne,” or “All is forgiven.”

The new issue of Charlie Hebdo hits newsstands today with an estimated print run of more than three million copies (the paper’s normal run is 60,000). Translated into 16 languages, the ‘survivor issue’ cover features an image of the Prophet Muhammad holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, and the words “Tout est pardonne,” or “All is forgiven.”

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – In light of recent events that rocked France this past week, I felt compelled to share my thoughts as a non-judgmental French person, open to all religions and all races, an immigrant myself.

French people have been hit right at the core of their beliefs. It was a blow to the nation, no doubt; a nation where freedom of speech and expression ranks high on the value scale that people live by; a nation known for protecting its peoples’ own rights but also for being a defender of human rights in general, regardless of race or religion. For more than a century, France has had its frontiers open to every mistreated human, every oppressed nation, so much that our own people are an mélange of all the races and cultures that we embrace. France and French people have opened their doors, their territory, their schools, their jobs, and their hearts to people of all backgrounds. And this is what they are harvesting in return.

I remember being shocked once while I was with my father in Cannes, the town where I was born. I must have been no more than 7 or 8 years old. We were at the train station visiting one of my father’s friends who had a little shoe repair stall there. I heard a commotion and two young North African men started insulting my father’s friend. My father, being the defender of rights that he was, ran toward the stall ready for battle. A cop was nearby, thank god, and the two young men were escorted outside of the train station. What shocked me more than anything was hearing them say: “It is because we are Arabs!” And they kept on saying it. In my mind I could not understand what being an Arab had to do with being removed from the premises when insulting another human being. Of course it didn’t take me long to understand that this was the biggest excuse leading to the cruelest acts.

After that day, I began noticing the same thing happening over and over again everywhere I went. Things as trivial as telling someone that your restaurant was closed, for example, and being called racist because the person you told was from somewhere else. Eventually anything and everything can be perceived as an act of racism.

Heightened sensitivity, righteousness and intolerance may all lead to the violence we are witnessing today in France. I feel for the families of the victims. I also feel for all Muslim people in France and elsewhere who value life and differences and who are just as shocked as we are by these events, supposedly perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Islam does not preach violence and murder, Islam teaches acceptance and tolerance, the value of life and the evil of greed. It teaches the same values as any other religion. The problem is when man interprets it, twists it and molds it into something that will make him more powerful.

I have been lucky enough to spend seven years of my life with Muslims and they were some of the kindest, most honest people I have had the pleasure to meet. They were not extremists. They were just gentle, tolerant people. I am afraid that these events will fuel the hate for Islam and jeopardize any chance for understanding, cutting off and punishing not just the extremists but everyone else associated with the same religion, too.

Anyone who has studied the latest facts on world religion should be aware of the belief that at the beginning of Islam, the prophets and their followers were the most enlightened and the most tolerant of all religions of the time. They were also the most educated and they invited people from all parts to study in their university. They treated them as equals. Women were encouraged to study and, in fact, the Muslim religion was the first to recognize divorce petitioned by women. Today, however, what we know of Islam is very far removed from its roots.

Of course, religions are not the only responsible entities fostering extremists; the same can be said about politics.

The people who committed these murders need to be punished and have been. But let’s not allow the anger we feel to make us one of them. Let’s not allow the anger we feel to be directed to Muslims as a whole. I am sure most of them are horrified by the atrocity perpetrated in the name of their religion.

War should be fought against ignorance not race, culture or religion.

Cathy Beloeil is the owner of Café Boheme in Jackson.

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About Cathy Beloeil

One Comment

  1. I am Carlos

    January 15, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I’m Carlos.

    Everyone at Charlie Hebdo knew people were out to get Charlie Hebdo. Publishing ‘offensive’ cartoons was like letting your two-year-old play with matches and expecting good things to happen. The 2-year-old could be excused for getting burned, not Charlie Hebdo.

    Why does the World care SO MUCH about a bunch of dead Frenchmen? Why weren’t the World’s leaders marching with Mexicans in Mexico after the death of 43 students?

    And, as was pointed out by the non-offensive cartoon by Nick Anderson in the JHD 91-15), the deaths by Boko Haram in Nigeria get no editorial notices in place like the Planet.

    Hummm.

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