On behalf of the London Muslim Mosque and Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, we want to express our dismay and distress at the dangerously escalating unrest in France. We are witnessing a state-sanctioned brutal, xenophobic, Islamophobic campaign against Muslims and their Prophet (peace be upon him) – all under the guise of "freedom of speech."
We are also saddened by the recent attacks that took place at Notre Dame Basilica in Nice as well as the attack on two Muslim women at the base of the Eiffel tower. Such criminal acts are totally rejected by Islam, or for that matter, by all faith traditions. We call on the French leadership to avoid inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and focus instead on punishing the perpetrators of these acts without slandering any one particular community.
Initially, the inflammatory response by the French government was due to an unfortunate and unacceptable incident by a lone perpetrator who murdered a teacher after showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to his students. Although Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous and that the showing of the caricatures of the Prophet to be very insensitive and offensive to 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, Islam does not allow individuals to exercise extra-judicial justice.
Unfortunately, the actions of the French government continue to add fuel to the fire by inciting hatred and sowing division. The state reaction of adopting these offensive cartoons of our beloved Prophet in national school curricula, the broadcasting of images that are derogatory and demeaning while making it a criminal act to criticize the publication of such caricatures and the shutting down of many mosques and Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is nothing short of oppression and discrimination. The actions of the French government constitute a double standard and have nothing to do with freedom of speech. Such freedom applies when a minority is able to express its concerns to the majority; when those who are bullied have the freedom to speak out against those who bully them; and when truth is spoken in the face of power.
Let us not forget the lessons we ought to have learned barely a century ago in Germany when fascists and far-right xenophobes gained power. The Jewish minority was brutally stigmatized based on their religion. Hitler blamed society's woes on that minority and propagated the xenophobic claim that if Jews were eradicated, Germany would reach its zenith. He fomented hatred and racism. Let us not allow history to repeat itself.
Hatred can only be defeated when people come together, despite their differences, in a climate of mutual respect. We are reminded in the Quran that we should always repel evil by doing good (Chapter ‘Fussilat’ 41:43).
We encourage you to call upon our Canadian government and your Federal MPs to use all diplomatic channels and options that call for the de-escalation of the volatile situation in France.