Fighting Back Together

A few days after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and the kosher grocery store that bloodied Paris in January, the French cartoonist Joann Sfar portrayed a little bird with the caption, "Jews are like the little canary that is carried by the firefighters when searching for a leak. If the canary dies, the leak exists, and the house may collapse. This is undoubtedly the role played by my fellow Jews. When we begin to be targeted, it means that the rest of the country will soon be attacked." Over the past ten years, many Jewish "canaries" have been killed while the rest of the country carried on apathetically. How many people stood up after the murder of Ilan Halimi, after the attacks in Toulouse, after the murders at the Jewish museum in Brussels? But enough brutal attacks on other French people have occurred -- including the recent murder and decapitation recorded by the executioner on his selfie -- to make France realize that radical Islamists are not just making war on Jews, but on all of us. To fight this battle effectively, we must understand the objectives of our enemies. Mustafa Sethmariam Nasar -- better known as Abu Musar Al Suri -- is the brain behind this new Islamist terrorism. As he explains in a 1,600-page manual, his strategy calls for individuals or small terrorist units that can arm themselves and act independently. The goal is to start a civil war by creating divisions between Muslims and the rest of society. By the repetition of these attacks, the terrorists rely on anti-Muslim reaction, which creates anti-Muslim feeling, singles out the Muslim community, and serves radicalization.

It endorses two types of operations:

• Targeting Muslims who in their eyes have betrayed their faith, for example those who wear the uniform of western armies. This is why French Muslim soldiers were targeted by Mohammad Merah, and why Ahmed Merabet, the police officer responsible for the safety of Charlie Hebdo, was most certainly murdered. The French Jihadist websites rejoice in the murder of their fellow Muslims. • Killings that, according to Al-Suri, would attract the sympathies of the Muslim community, for example murdering Jews "in retaliation for the death of Palestinian children killed by the Israeli army," or targeting "blasphemers" such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who dared to publish images of Mohammad. To prove these Islamists wrong we have to avoid falling into their trap and adopting simplistic and extremist positions. That is what the extreme right is doing. Ironically, the extremes on both sides have the same goal: reducing the republican, pluralistic space and undermining our democratic values. To my Muslim friends, I want to say that I understand their dilemmas. I understand their fear of speaking out against the extremists because they might be judged as traitors to their faith, as apostates, who might suffer the consequences. How can they not be scared when jihadists murder French Muslim soldiers and French Muslim police because they consider them apostates?

The jihadists want to separate all Muslims from the rest of society. By turning them into permanent victims, the extremists seek to stir up hatred from everywhere.

I want to tell my Muslim friends not to listen to those who, like the CCIF (the French collective against Islamophobia) play into the hands of the Islamists, and depict France as an inherently racist country where they are unwelcome.

I understand that they are tired of being singled out again and again, told to justify themselves or dissociate themselves from these actions. But they have a responsibility as citizens of France, as democrats and republicans and yes, even as Muslims. At times of mass communications -- used extremely well by ISIS -- whether the vast majority of French Muslims is moderate, democratic and republican, does not matter if it remains silent.

In other countries there are Muslim leaders -- such as Ahmad Mansour, Irshad Manji, Malala Yousafzai, and Maajid Nawaz -- who have had the courage to vigorously denounce fundamentalism. In France, too such voices are beginning to be heard, reminding us that the major threat is the persistence of hangings, stonings, mass killings, and suicide bombings in the name of Islam. To my Jewish friends, I want to say that I understand and share their fear and pain of seeing their country, France, stained again by anti-Semitism. Who would have believed that 70 years after World War II Jews would still be murdered in our country because they are Jewish?

I certainly understand the growing number of French Jews who ask themselves if they should leave. I know that they are tired of being tired. Tired that the main topic of conversation in their families is the question of whether or not to stay in a country where anti-Semitism is killing Jewish children.

I know the schizophrenia of those who get up in the morning saying that it is no longer bearable to live in a country where demonstrators can shout, with impunity, "Death to Jews," and where rooms full of people cheer a comedian who denies the Holocaust. And yet in this schizophrenia those same Jews often go to bed the same day thinking that they belong to France, and want to stay and fight to roll back the poison of hatred. To all, we must fight against Islamic radicals, anti-Semites from the extreme right and the extreme left, the populists, those who exploit our fear and wish to undermine our society and our values. It is not the time to "live together," but rather to "work together," to "fight back together," to oppose clearly and unambiguously this barbarity and all those who try to exploit it. We can't afford to waste any more time.