Omar Dakhane is a pro-American, Arab blogger. Writing from his home-country of Algeria, Omar examines the rise of Islamic extremism throughout the Arab-world and the West. This month, Jpost Blogs is featuring a mini-series of Omar''s writing. The first three entries of this series cover the troubling relationship between the far left and Islamists, the problem of anti-West indocrtination in the Arab educational system, and human rights organizations against secular and pro-democracy Muslims.
Once again, the world is shocked at the latest incident of terrorism targeting innocent people; an incident where the victims/targets included innocent children who had nothing to do with any political or religious conflict. These children were victims of hatred and terrorism, which doesn’t differentiate between young or old, politically active or politically inactive, religious or secular.
This cowardly act of terror didn’t surprise me. However, the support that the killer received did surprise me, not only from people in Algeria, but throughout the Muslim world. Many Algerian supporters of this terrorist felt it was their patriotic duty to stand up for Mohammed Merah, since he was of Algerian origin, even though he was born and raised in France and is reported never to have visited Algeria. The attitude of the Algerian press compared to the attitudes of many Algerian individuals was simultaneously bizarre and ironic. While the Algerian press was waging a campaign against the French media for their focus on the Algerian origin of the terrorist, many Algerians were creating fan pages in social media to support the terrorist and his acts of terror because of his Algerian origin. They made supporting him tantamount to a holy obligation of every Algerian, just because he was of Algerian descent. Some of them went so far as to compare him to the heroes of the Algerian revolution and published Photoshopped images of him with the Algerian flag.
There are some who feel that Mohammed Merah’s reasoning of retribution for the death of children in Gaza as justification for his act of terror is a legitimate reason for the murderous rampage on which he embarked, including some in the media. I don’t understand how any person with a shred of humanity could support such criminal acts against innocent and young children, regardless of their religion or race (which are never justifiable reasons to hate, let alone murder).
The second day of the stand off, while the killer was surrounded by the French police, I was at a barbershop getting a haircut. The owner of the barbershop had the television tuned into an Algerian news program that was relaying the latest developments of the stand off. While the television anchor was speaking, one of the barbershop employees said, “He is a hero! Well done!” I couldn’t believe my ears and I couldn’t help exploding. I asked him, “What the hell did you just say?” I didn’t know the guy and I try to keep a low profile at all times, but this time I couldn’t be quiet. I said to him, “They’re kids!” He replied, “They’re Jews!” I said in an angrier voice, “They are (bleep) kids!” How can you use such words to describe someone who did a cowardly terror act like this one against small children?” He said, “Didn’t you see what they did to the kids in Gaza?” (this is something I hear constantly whenever speaking about Middle Eastern politics or violence, even if it’s a subject that has nothing to do with Israel, Israel or the Palestinians will be brought up). I asked, “What kind of an excuse is this? Just because you think they targeted kids, you go and kill kids? Doesn’t this make you just as bad as you claim they are?” He said again, “They’re Jews! They deserve that!” I answered in a very loud and angry voice this time, “They are (bleeping) kids! Are you insane? They probably can’t even tie their shoes yet! How can you support targeting and killing them because of their religion or ethnicity? And in France!” Now I felt like I had fire coming out of my eyes. He didn’t respond and I imagine the potential of me physically assaulting him, which is something I would never do, might have crossed his mind.
When he didn’t say anything, I asked him, “What do you do for the Palestinians that people like you always talk about? You, as a person, what the hell have you ever done for the Palestinians except make their lives harder with all this hate you spread around? If Algeria was in the place of Jordan or Egypt, it would be the first country to sign a peace treaty with Israel!” I added the last sentence because many Algerians always say that if Algeria had borders with Israel, it would attack her and “liberate” Palestine, as if things are that simple, and as if the Algerian people actually get a say in what the government can and can’t do.
To be fair, I have to say that I’ve seen similar examples, on a much smaller scale though, of groups of people who find joy in the death of someone else’s children because they are Arab or African or simply from a different ethnicity. The fact that my goal continues to be fighting terrorism and extremism of those who carry the same national identity and the same background as me is why my focus is on Algerian and Muslim reactions to the Mohammed Merah massacre. These are the people I seek to educate.
The entire time I was screaming in the psychotic barbershop employee’s face, I had the victims’ faces in my head, especially the face of Myriam Monsonego who really touched my heart with her white dress and her angelic look (I even created a page to her memory on Facebook). Those kids and their father did not deserve to die. They were innocent, peaceful people living happy lives, not harming anyone, who were destroyed by terrorism and Islamists’ hatred of everything Jewish, while using “anti-Zionism” as a cover. In fact, it’s all anti-Semitism and any impartial observer can see that very clearly.
The Algerian press analysis of the massacre was upsetting to say the least. Instead of condemning that criminal act without hesitation, they asked questions like, “Why does the world turn upside down every time a Jewish person dies, but nothing happens when Muslims die.” Okay, I will accept the honor of answering that question. I believe that the world turns upside down every time a Jewish person dies because Jewish people value their life and don’t want to see anyone of them die needlessly or prematurely for any reason, while many Arabs and Muslims never stop saying how much they want death, seek death, and wish for death. Many Arabs and Muslims don’t give human life any consideration, whether it’s the lives of fellow Muslims or other people’s lives. I’ve never seen or heard a single Jewish person say that he wishes to die or get killed, or that he doesn’t have a problem with his kids dying, for the sake of “the cause,” while I hear that almost every single day from the Arab and Muslim side. I’ve never seen a Jewish suicide bomber, while the professed number of suicide bombers lying in wait that Hamas and al Qaeda brag about are indeed scary. Jewish people aren’t the ones saying that kids who die are going to heaven, so their deaths shouldn’t be a big deal. Arabs and Muslims say that. Can anyone deny this? Please try, because I have dozens of examples to support my statements.
Another example of how much the Jewish people value life is the Gilad Shalit deal. To save one person’s life, Israel released more than 1,000 of its worst prisoners. One of the released prisoners was a woman who assisted in the Sbarro Pizza suicide bombing. Upon her release, she was interviewed and the interviewer asked her if she knew how many children were killed in the Sbarro attack. She responded with a smile and said three. The interviewer told her it was eight children. Her smile grew larger and she repeated the number, clearly proud of the fact that due to her efforts, eight children were dead.
The response of some French media outlets wasn’t what one would hope regarding a crime of this magnitude. What made the French coverage worse, in my opinion, were the comments from some French officials who are too afraid of being called a racist or Islamophobe to point the finger at the real problem. The French Prime Minister, François Fillon, went so far as to say, “Belonging to a Salafi [ultraconservative Muslim] organization is not unto itself a crime.” Is he seriously unaware of the fact that Salafi ideology is one of the primary reasons for extremism in the Arab and Muslim world and a staggering number of terror groups have a Salafi background? Technically, it may not be a crime, however to downplay the amount of influence the Salafi ideology has on modern-day terrorism was irresponsible in my opinion. Even Salafis who haven’t committed a terrorist act (yet) have a way of thinking that is ripe for terrorism and have no problem justifying terrorism. Examples of their extremism in the Muslim world are never-ending, beginning with Saudi Arabia and spreading throughout the region, including Algeria and Egypt.
This statement by the Prime Minister indicates that there is something wrong with the way France deals with terrorism, and that France has become afraid to deal firmly with the extremists to the extent that they fear the reactions of the supporters of terrorism more than they fear the reactions of the victims of terror families.
Finally, it’s really sad to see people supporting mass murderers anywhere, whether in France, Afghanistan or Norway. Crimes as horrible as this one give people another reason to stand together against terrorism and violence, and gives people who seek peace a reason to unite in order to fight our common enemy: Ignorance!