On Jan. 7th, 2015, three Islamic extremists stormed the Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters in Paris and carried out a planned massacre that took the lives of 12 people. Five more were slain in the ensuing manhunt following the horrific episode. The terrorist attack prompted a massive response from around the world, which manifested in a march for freedom of speech in Paris where 3.7 million people, including many foreign dignitaries, participated.

On that day, the solidarity against the seemingly prevailing evil was strong. On that day, almost everyone was Charlie.

But while many united to demonstrate their staunch support and belief in freedom of speech, and to show their perseverance and positive attitude after a series of tragedies, some could not refrain from pointing fingers and igniting a new wave of baseless Islamophobia.

Rupert Murdoch, the infamous Australian billionaire media mogul, tweeted the following to his 5.5 million followers: “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” The religious fundamentalists are indeed giving Muslims a bad name, but that does not render the entire religion harmful, just as cancer cells do not render cancer patients useless and malicious.

In a more stunning show of hypocrisy, Murdoch held the entire religion of Islam and all of its followers as culprits for the bloody attacks carried out by a few extremists; yet, when appeared before a committee investigating into a series of phone-hackings by News Corporation (in which he is the CEO), Murdoch denied all allegations that he should also be held responsible for the massive eavesdropping.

It seems no matter how hard the true, honest, and peace-loving Muslims condemn and denounce the actions of a few, it is not enough. While major Muslim leaders around the world have already voiced their objections and condemnation to the recent bloodsheds and senseless killings, they somehow carry no weight. The majority of Muslims are still seen by many as accomplices to the extremists.

Another episode of Islamophobia took place on a U.S. university campus. Duke University initially planned to allow the Muslim Student Association to broadcast a Muslim adhan (a call to prayer) from the chapel’s bell tower for about three minutes. However, the decision sparked backlash from the Christian community and the administration gave in, canceling the adhan  and citing security concerns.

Among the defenders of this action, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse Reverend Franklin Graham stood out as he took the issue to social media. “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” Graham said. In another Facebook post, Reverend Graham took to the issue that the adhan included the phrase “allahu akbar,” stating that the Paris terrorists were heard shouting this phrase during their heinous act, thus implying “allahu akabar” was a trademark terrorist expression.

Despite his many commendable efforts to promote peace and bring about charity in North Carolina and around the world, Reverend Graham’s comments towards the Muslim adhan at Duke University demonstrate a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of the Arabic language and Islam. The phrase “allahu akbar” merely means, “God is greater” or “God is the greatest,” and is used on a daily basis by Arabic speaking countries and people. It is also a form of general approval and regularly appears in Muslim masses and prayers. “Allahu akbar” is roughly equivalent to “hallelujah” (or “praise the Lord”) in Christianity and is in no shape or form a rare and exclusive phrase. So since when is Jeff Buckley, famous for his cover of “Hallelujah,” a terrorist?

Reverend Graham also brought up the point that since Christianity is not allowed at certain places, especially in Muslim countries, then by the same logic, Muslims in the United States should be stopped from entering a seemingly traditional Christian chapel (which in the Duke case belongs, in fact, to a secular research university). In his act of retribution, Reverend Graham stooped himself down to the level of extremists and conveniently forgot about the Holy Bible’s teaching of love, generosity, and tolerance. He forgot about being the better man.

In the face of evil, it is easy to disregard reasons, to succumb to xenophobia, and to generalize about things we have little knowledge or do not fully understand. But as we speak, it is also heartwarming to know that things like #Illridewithyou exist.

My only hope is that my fellow Hoyas know better.

Duy Mai is a freshman in School of Foreign Service. The Worldernist appears every other Thursday on thehoya.com. 

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