In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Montrouge hostage situation, something new seems to be happening, both here and elsewhere. It’s as if, in the wake of a horrific storm, the wind has shifted, away from the stale and toxic recriminations of the past, and a fresh breeze is lifting solidarity and a firm resolve to do things differently. Yesterday’s Le Monde featured a full page ad signed by hundreds of Parisian Muslims denouncing the violence and declaring a resolve to stand with their country in a time of crisis. Their country.
For the first time in my memory, Muslim leaders from around the world, including Iran, Palestine, Hezbollah, and others, have denounced the attacks as anti-Islamic, one leader going so far as to say the murderers have done immeasurably more harm to Islam than the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo ever could.
In spite of concerns aired early on that these events might bolster the positions of the anti-immigrant right wing in Europe, the response from the non-Muslim population has been equally encouraging.. Statements by a host of spokesmen from various religions and institutions have been unanimous in their insistence on separating the actions of the terrorists from the Islamic population at large. All around Paris, the air of numb shock of yesterday has been replaced by one of firm resolve, not only to not give in to the terrorists, but to reexamine the policies and attitudes on all sides that might have contributed to the atmosphere which gave birth to the tragic events.
What has shocked people most is that the perpetrators spoke perfect, unaccented Parisian French. They were French citizens, born and raised here, educated with all the egalitarian principles so cherished by the French. For once, the city center and the banlieu, the troubled suburbs, seem to be speaking with one voice. We are Paris, they seem to be saying, and we have been attacked, and we will stand together and defend ourselves.
We, all of us, and not just the French, have been given an unexpected gift in a moment of deep crisis: the opportunity for a real reexamination of the road we have been following, and a chance to correct our course.
Is that the sun, breaking through the dark clouds? I certainly hope s0.