Why I Am Ahmed But Not Charlie

Friday, January 09,2015

NEW DELHI: I am still recovering from the shock of Wednesday’s attack. At the time of writing, a massive chase is on for the suspects involved in the dastardly attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

#JeSuisCharlie -- the world is tweeting in solidarity. I too, want to tweet, shout and scream in solidarity. And I have been. But I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed.

Of the twelve people killed in Wednesday’s attack, one was police officer Ahmed Merabat. "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad," the gunmen shouted as the delivered a bullet to Merabat, sealing his fate.

“I am Ahmed”, in my eyes, captures that sentiment of solidarity far more eloquently than “I am Charlie.”

Why? Because why do I have to be Charlie to condemn what happened on Wednesday? Why do I have to have to succumb to the “this” or “that” pressure? Why can I not support the politics of Charlie Hebdo -- which, in my mind, was racist and discriminatory -- but still defend their right to publish what they wish, and condemn any attack of violence, no matter what the religion of its perpetrators may be?

If you are Charlie, I support you, but you cannot and should not dismiss my desire to not be Charlie. You should not equate my intent of not being Charlie with somehow condoning what happened.

The intent behind the attack was to polarise an already polarised community. You -- I am talking to you who just lambasted me for not tweeting #JeSuisCharlie -- are letting those gunmen win. You are letting them divide us. You are letting them reinstate that it’s either “this” or “that.” That you’re either for “free speech” or with the “terrorists.”

Our society is seeing a terrifying resurgence of this polarisation. By ensuring that there are no shades of grey, you -- yes you who called me an Islamic sympathiser for tweeting #JeNeSuisPasCharlie -- are letting them win.

I am in that grey. I am Ahmed.

As an article by Tasbeeh Herwees says, “This latest episode of violence will only spur another tide of Islamophobia in France, a place that has never been friendly towards Muslims, and, undoubtedly, elsewhere in the world. Already, there have been reprisals against Muslims in Paris for the Charlie Hedbo attacks. Ahmed represents the tensions that within many Muslim communities: Defending ourselves against Islamophobia, we are often forced to enage in narratives that draw divisions between us and the rest of the world. And as a Muslim…, I want a different option.”

Allow for plurality. Allow for debate and discussion. Allow for Charlies, Non-Charlies, and Ahmeds.

And if I haven’t yet convinced you, perhaps others will.



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