Muslims and Christians in French Town Pray Old Bonds Survive Priest’s Murder

french muslims

ST.-ÉTIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France — It was the first time since a childhood school trip that Anissa Latroche had set foot in a church.

 Ms. Latroche, a sociology student who is Muslim, came to Mass in the Rouen Cathedral on Sunday to pay tribute to the Rev. Jacques Hamel, the priest who was killed last week by two young men acting in the name of the Islamic State.

“They welcomed us very nicely, me and my friend,” said Ms. Latroche, who was wearing a pale blue veil as she entered the church with a mixture of respect and shyness.

 She said she was shocked about what had happened to the priest, and even more so by the age of one of the killers, Adel Kermiche: 19, just like her.

“I have not even started my life yet, and he basically ruined his and so many others’,” Ms. Latroche said. “I don’t get it.”

In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike.

 But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance.

For people in this part of Normandy, the exchange served as a reminder that long before Father Hamel was killed, he and many others from both faiths had worked together to build bonds. In fact, the only mosque in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray was built on land adjacent to one of the town’s churches after the church sold it for a symbolic price of one euro.



Muslims attend church across France in solidarity after priest attack

160731-muslim-france-church-1316_43793c514b44c9437c9459ad4f31fc70.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000PARIS – In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on Sunday attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and beyond.

Reporters on the scene said that between 100 and 200 Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed by two teenage attackers on Tuesday.

Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: “Love for all. Hate for none.”

Similar interfaith gatherings were repeated elsewhere in France, as well as in neighboring Italy.

The church attackers have been identified as 19-year-olds Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean and Adel Kermiche. Both were from the Normandy region of France, where the attack took place, and had tried at some point to go to Syria to fight alongside extremists. The attack was claimed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which released a video allegedly showing Kermiche and his accomplice clasping hands and pledging allegiance to the group.

At Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, said repeatedly that Muslims want to live in peace.

“The situation is serious,” he told BFMTV. “Time has come to come together so as not to be divided.”


What’s it like to be Muslim in America, post Paris


DECEMBER 19, 2015 – FREDERICKSBURG, VA – Sanaa Soliman, sits in the living room of her home in Fredericksburg, Va. Soliman’s children bought her pepper spray to protect herself in public after they heard about something called the hijad challenge where someone will try to rip off muslim womens’ head scarves.

For the first time in her life, Yazmin Ali is afraid to leave her house. Unlike most neighbors in her family’s cookie-cutter subdivision outside Fredericksburg, VA—where homes have Christmas wreathes on the front doors and cars have American flag vanity plates—she’s Muslim, and she wears a hijab.

It doesn’t matter that Ali, 34, was born and raised in Florida, that her mother is an evangelical Christian Cuban-American, that she a masters degree from Auburn, or that she only learned Arabic through a State Department scholarship in Jordan—when it was raining at her kids’ bus stop recently and she offered to let other parents shelter in her car while they wait, she says, they said no.

Dirty looks are nothing new—she’s been tripped before at the mall—but events in the last month have taken a sobering turn. Four days after the ISIS attacks in Paris, her mosque, the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg, held a long-planned meeting to share plans for its new building with the community. A protestor started shouting, “Every Muslim is a terrorist!” Soon after, ICF hosted a coat drive for Syrian refugees with a neighboring church, and a man with a confederate flag showed up with a sign, “No refugees in VA.” After the San Bernardino shooting, Ali started disguising her hijab under a winter hat and scarf. “I had a really long, good cry,” she says. “Because I have kids, I’m fearful of something happening to me.”


Anti-Muslim Sentiment Is a Serious Threat to American Security

AP_361091485059-620-620x360The incredible barbarism perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, too often dissuades those in the West from any meaningful assessment of the group’s strategy and tactics. From beheading or burning alive captives to slaughtering entire minority populations and gunning down innocent civilians in previously quiet streets, the violence is incomprehensible and thus can appear devoid of reason or planning. That is far from the truth. ISIS has been very clear about its objectives. It uses violence to achieve its goals, including to spread fear and induce governments and publics to make choices they otherwise would not; to mobilize its supporters with demonstrations of its capabilities; and, most importantly, to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash to help it attract new followers and prepare for a clash of civilizations. The ignorance of most in Western society to ISIS’s clear and openly described objectives is providing the necessary fuel for their continued growth and momentum.

The reaction in the United States to the attacks in Paris has been a mixture of solidarity with the victims and a growing anxiety about the threat ISIS poses to the American homeland. This fear is understandable even though the ability of the U.S. government to detect and prevent terrorist attacks has never been stronger. The United States should not be complacent, however, and the Center for American Progress has proposed a series of steps the United States should take to defeat ISIS. We can never completely eliminate the risk of terrorist attacks. But in times such as these, it is incumbent upon political leaders to reassure the American people that they are taking all of the appropriate steps to keep them safe now and in the long term.


US Christian groups plead for compassion for Muslim refugees

jesus-paintingSince the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13, governors of more than half of the US’s 50 states have said they will not welcome Syrian refugees—defying President Barack Obama’s September announcement that the US would take 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. While many arecalling their remarks Islamophobic and politically motivated, Christian church groups have been particularly outspoken about the governors’ lack of compassion.

A number of these church groups and church-affiliated missions have a long tradition of working with the federal government to place refugees in local communities; some have been resettling refugees in the US since World War II.

The governors’ statements don’t necessarily carry legal weight—the Federal government has the power to decide where refugees resettle in the US—but their remarks still seem to be having an impact. Twenty Syrian refugees were supposed to arrive in the “Quad cities,” four adjoining counties in Iowa and Illinois, via World Relief, a non-profit started by a national coalition of evangelical churches during WWII. But after Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said they would block any efforts to resettle Syrians in their states, those plans are on hold, World Relief said.

This isn’t exactly Christian, said World Relief. “Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors,” Amy Rowell, director of the Moline, Illinois officetold local news. “The parable of the good Samaritan comes to mind, making it absolutely clear that our neighbors cannot be limited to those of our same ethnicity or religious traditions.”


Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim deaths than western victims

tribute-islam-gettyMultiple attacks perpetrated by Isis across the French capital on Friday night have so far claimed the lives of 129 people, with more than 340 injured and many remaining in critical condition.

While many have showed solidarity with France, there has also been an immediate backlash against refugees fleeing war-ravaged parts of the Middle East.

One journalist has pointed out the terror organisation – also known as the Islamic State – has killed far more Muslims than Christians, Westerners, or minorities during its existence.

A year ago, a report released by the United Nations carefully documented known instances of Islamic State barbarity against Muslims, noting in the first eight months of 2014 Isis was the “primary actor” responsible for the deaths of 9,347 civilians in Iraq.

Most recently, just days before the Paris atrocities, the group launched a co-ordinated suicide attack in Beirut, killing 43 people – the majority of who were Sunni Muslims.


Thoughtful views on Islam needed, not simplicity

i-am-a-muslim-please-dont-hate-me_189680600Re: “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam,” by Carol Swain, Jan. 16.

No one doubts the awfulness of the attacks onCharlie Hebdo and their consequences for France and other countries, for Muslims and non-Muslims, above all for the ideals that we treasure and have often suffered for.

The terrorists have achieved too much success. Others will certainly try to imitate them. We have to stand firm and overcome.

But overcome what? We have all seen what results from attacking the wrong enemy: Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs in American blood and treasure, and in Iraqi and Afghan blood and treasure, derive from tendentious information, dishonest leadership and destructive reaction.

Thoughtful, informed policy is at a premium. Our leaders have to marry our real needs and entitlements as free people with the equally real needs of security in the internet age. Simplistic nostrums such as that offered by Dr Swain are not the answer.