I worry that the unspeakable acts of a few will drown out the sincere protestations of the many that this kind of horror doesn’t speak in our name.
Former French justice minister Robert Badinter — no particular friend of the Muslim community — has warned his fellow citizens not to fall into the extremist trap of letting barbaric violence divide French society, of which nearly 10 percent is Muslim. But tensions are running high.
Yet beyond the social polarization — manifested by both senseless Islamist violence and the cheap Islamophobia of opportunistic politicians and media — lies a more interesting and nuanced reality: signs of hope and progress.
Long before this attack, French people were showing what it means to coexist in a multi-ethnic and pluralistic society.
Among the many good works he will be remembered for, cartoonist Georges Wolinski — who was among the cartoonists assassinated in cold blood in the name of wounded religious pride — once came to the rescue of Menouar Merabtene, the Algerian cartoonist best known as Slim, a close friend of mine who was fleeing from persecution in his native country.
Throughout the 1990s, a bloody civil war raged between Islamist militants and the autocratic Algerian government. Many artists and intellectuals opposed to the Islamist agenda were systematically assassinated in that conflict.
Out of simple human solidarity, Wolinski — a Jewish cartoonist from France — spontaneously intervened to secure a job for the beleaguered Muslim-Algerian Slim at the Paris newspaper L’Humanité.
Similarly, thousands of French people are mourning and praising slain Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet. He died pursuing men suspected of perpetrating the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Like the stories of North African Muslims standing in solidarity with their Jewish brethren against the Vichy government’s hunt for North African Jews during World War II, these simple stories tend to get lost in the din of terrorist mayhem.
But in the end, bullets and bombs can never silence the voices of laughter and friendship.