The Place de la République is not the place it was a week ago. Since the Paris attacks last Friday night, it’s become the home of mourning and tributes to victims. In spite of an atmosphere dangerously charged with fear and loss, one Muslim man is determined to make it a place for rehabilitation and community.
Blindfolded, the unnamed man lay a handwritten sign on the floor that read: “I’m Muslim, but I’m told that I’m a terrorist. I trust you, do you trust me? If yes, hug me.” Masses of strangers gathered and each took their turn to embrace him. Many were moved to tears, with one woman holding on to him and weeping.
He ended the demonstration by saying: “I would like to thank every one of you for giving me a hug. I did this to send a message to everyone. I am Muslim, but that doesn’t make me a terrorist. I never killed anybody. I can even tell you that last Friday was my birthday, but I didn’t go out. I deeply feel for all the victims’ families. I want to tell you that Muslim doesn’t necessarily mean terrorist. A terrorist is a terrorist, someone willing to kill another human being over nothing. A Muslim would never do that. Our religion forbids it.”
Post-Paris attacks, the concern is that Islamophobia will be on the rise. Even before the attacks, we reported hate crime on female Muslims in the UK is on the rise. Now, police have publicly said that the number of hate crimes committed on Muslims has risen since the terror attacks.