Muslim leaders in France and around the world have reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 where 129 people were murdered and dozens injured Six per cent of the 129 people killed in the Daesh terror attacks on four locations near central Paris have been identified by family and friends as Muslims.
Muslim groups also cited the Muslim death toll in Paris and the Middle East to discredit Daesh’s claims of representing Muslims.
Collective against Islamophobia in France spokesman, Yasser Louati, condemning terrorist attacks in Paris, also highlighted the fact that “Daesh has been killing Muslims by the thousands for years in Africa and the Middle East…They’re also killing Muslims here in France.”
In a statement to The Muslim News Louati denounced Daesh’s use of the word ‘Islamic’ in their name, branding it a mere “pretext for their ideology”.
Among those who lost their lives in the mass shootings and suicide bombings in Paris’ northern suburb, Saint-Denis, are Halima, 37, and Hodda Saadi, 35, two sisters of Tunisian origin. Both were celebrating a friend’s birthday at La Belle Equipe cafe.
At around 9.20pm a gunman opened fire on the diners, spraying the café with bullets. Hodda was killed instantly while Halima, who was shot in the head, died later in hospital. Their brother Khaled, who was working at the café, revealed he began giving CPR in an attempt to save his sisters.
Another Muslim victim at the popular café was 41-year-old receptionist Djamila Houd. Her sister said her freedom and personality made her “a symbol these fanatics want to destroy.” She is survived by an eight-month-old daughter.
Also to lose their life was 29 year-old violinist Kheireddine Sahbi, an Algerian who was studying ethnomusicology at Paris’ prestigious Sorbonne University. He was walking home in the 10th Parisian dispirit when he was caught in the terror attack on La Belle Equipe.
Also killed was Mohamed Amine Benmbarek, 29, Moroccan architect, who designed and taught at the Paris-Malaquais Architecture school. He was shot while sitting on the terrace of Le Carillon café with his wife, who survived the attack.
Two Egyptian citizens were also killed, Lamia Mondeguer, 30, was killed at a restaurant on rue de Charonne. Mondeguer. He was a communications manager at a Parisian talent agency.
Fellow Egyptian Salah Emad El-Gebaly, 28, lost his life on the attack on the Bataclan music theater, where hundreds gathered to watch rock band Eagles of Death Metal perform. The theater attackers briefly held the crowd hostage, before opening fire and killing at least 89.
A Muslim woman of Turkish origin was also among the dead. Elif Doğan. A Belgian national, she had been living in Paris for four years with her husband. Relatives of the couple had told police that they had not heard from them for a day when Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, announced that one Belgian citizen was killed and another was missing after the attacks.
Doğan’s father, who lives in Turkey, said he was shocked by the news of his daughter’s death in the terrorist attack. “While we were concerned about possible terrorist acts in Turkey, we lost our daughter in one of the main cities of the world,” Kemal Doğan said.
Asta Diakité was another Muslim who was killed over the course of the violent assaults. She was the cousin of Lassana Diarra – a professional footballer for the French national team, who was playing in the France-Germany match that was interrupted by the bombing near the Stade de France [stadium]. And the person who saved the lives of the footballers in French-Germany game was a Muslim security guard, Zuher, who stopped the would-be terrorist from entering the stadium.
Writing on Facebook before a friendly match against England in Wembley November 16, Diarra described his cousin as his “rock, my supporter, my older sister.”
One eyewitness who was in the Stade de France during the bombings told The Muslim News “I was in the east wing section – I heard the bomb go off I heard the first large bang but I didn’t move I assumed it was fireworks, when the second explosion happened it people started rushing into the field. My friend and I stood still fearing a crush, we talked to a steward but he was none-the wiser. ”
We made our way to the field later and waited to be ushered out. It was only outisde the staidum that we saw police, ambulanes and chaos, it was then that it was confirmed it was a bomb”.
Daesh said the attack was in retaliation for French involvement in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. France had been bombing various targets in the Middle East, including Syria, since October 2015. In the weeks leading up to the attacks, Daesh had claimed responsibility for several attacks, such as twin suicide bombings in Beirut two days earlier, and the crashing of Russian Metrojet Flight on October 31.
French President, François Hollande, declared the attack “an act of war” which he said was “planned in Syria, organised in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” In response, a state of emergency was declared, the first since the 2005 riots, and temporary controls were placed on the country’s borders. French Parliament on November 19, extended the temporary emergency for three months, which was demanded by Hollande, during which time many civil liberties would be suspended.
On November 15, France launched its largest single airstrike of Opération Chammal, its revenge against the Daesh, by striking targets in Al-Raqqah.
Muslim leaders and groups around the world condemned the horrific terror attacks.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) branded the attacks “odious and despicable”. The head of CFCM, Anouar Kbibech, said he has “deep sympathy for the families of the many victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”
“Given the extreme seriousness of the situation, we called the nation to unity and call on all Muslims to pray so that France can face this test in calm and unity.”
Kbibech urged the French people to stay “welded, united”: “Islam says that taking the life of an innocent person is as if you killed all mankind. There, they killed the humanity 129 times.”
Their British counterpart the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also condemned the terrorist attacks by Daesh. Secretary General of the MCB, Shuja Shafi, said; “This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith.”
The MCB went a step further taking out a full page advert in a national newspaper to condemn the Paris attacks – and reaffirm that terrorists do not represent Muslims.
The advert on November 18 denounced Daesh and the “barbaric” attacks in Paris.
The advert, ‘Terror in Paris’ was accompanied by an image of the Eiffel Tower, spelled out that acts of terrorism and murder are not “sanctioned” by Islam.
In Ireland, the Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre and Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, also condemned the Paris attacks.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris and every other place on earth plagued by sick men with weapons and bombs,” Imam Umar Al-Qadri said. “Terrorists have no religion whatsoever. Their religion is intolerance, hatred for Peace.”
Muslim American organisations too condemned the attacks.
“These savage and despicable attacks on civilians, whether they occur in Paris, Beirut or any other city, are outrageous and without justification,” said Council for American Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights umbrella organisation in the US.
Leaders of several Muslim-majority nations also spoke out. Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, called the attacks a “crime against humanity,” Qatari Foreign Minister, Khaled al-Attiyah, described them as “heinous,” and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, declared they were “in violation and contravention of all ethics, morals and religions.”
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body also spoke out, saying “terrorists are not sanctioned by Islam and these acts are contrary to values of mercy it brought to the world.”
* The suspected mastermind of the Paris terror attacks and his female complicit, were killed on November 18, in a dramatic police shoot-out.
Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, is believed to have been the ringleader of the massacres.
He died in a ferocious six-hour gun and grenade battle which saw 5,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the police in the raid in Saint-Denis, northern suburbs of Paris.