There were so many awful things about last week in Paris: the killings; the apparent ethnic and religious targeting of Jews in a country with a long history of Anti-Semitism; the exclusion of the French right because of their speech from a “unity march” supposedly in defense of free speech; the sensational press coverage so often wrong; and the dawning realization that Je Suis Charlie is the next #bringbackourgirls media event. An event devoid of lasting meaning or generating effective action.
It was heartening in a very sad way to see the sacrifice of one French Muslim police officer and the heroic act of a Muslim employee of the kosher grocery in hiding some of the hostages. But the bottom line is that the Muslim neighbors of the killers discovered their weapons cache, suspected their criminal enterprise, and decided to do nothing. The killers’ mosque heard their objections to participation in French life and decided to “respect their opinions”. Decided it was too dangerous to report these convicted criminals to the police. Decided to take the benefits of French citizenship, but not its responsibilities.
That was the best opportunity to change the outcome and to prevent the brutal death of seventeen people. And carrying signs in a march saying “I am a Jew” or or “Not In My Name” while laudable sentiment is not effective action.
I do not understand why it is so hard to say:
- the problem is within the Muslim community;
- the weapons and funding are coming from within the Muslim community; and
- they aren’t doing enough to deal with it.
Certainly, Islam as a whole is not responsible, we should not respond by discrimination or intolerance, but this constant message from some that we should not look to the Muslim community is contributing to the brutal killings. The West cannot solve this problem – it has to be the Muslim community and it is long past time for them to stand up, acknowledge the problem, and do a lot more than show up to march, hold up signs, send tweets, etc.
So what should the Muslim community do? First, it should denounce not only killers, but anyone within their community that decides it is enough to “stand idly by”. And importantly Muslims must stop saying that criminals killing people, while shouting “Allahu Akbar” and spewing religious dogma are somehow not Muslims – somehow not the Muslim community’s problem.
Fortunately, there is some gathering sentiment in Europe that Muslims have a special burden. As reported in the London Times, Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary in the British government, was blunt:
Whether we like it or not, these terrorists call themselves Muslims. It is no good for people to say they are not Muslims, that is what they call themselves. You can’t get away from the fact these people are using Islam, they are taking a great religion, a peaceful religion of a billion people around the world, taking this religion and using it as their tool to carry out their horrible activities.
That special burden must begin with reporting Jihadis to the police. Imans must preach without any excuse that Jihadis must be turned into the police. And it also might help if outside every Western military recruiting office a line of young Muslim men and women were photographed volunteering to fight. No ISIS/ISIL or Al Qaeda fighter was scared of a crowd in Paris, but they might be of a photograph of thousands of Muslims signing up to fight against them.
Because if the Muslim community does not stop talking and start acting, I fear for its future in the West. Standing idly by is not only contributing to the killing, but is providing the narrative boosting the extreme right in Europe. And we know from history all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men and women to stand idly by.