On the evening of November 13, the world was stunned when the French capital Paris, often called “La Ville-Lumière” (The Light City), plunged into darkness with a series of coordinated terrorist attacks. More than 130 people were killed and scores injured in this heinous act of terror the responsibility for which was claimed by the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh). The French President François Hollande was too quick to issue the verdict that this was “an act of war organized from abroad by Daesh with internal help.” However, what caught the world’s attention was Pope Francis’ statement whereby he ‘warned’ the world that thinks this and other global horrors, are part of a kind of “third world war,” being fought “piecemeal.” It is difficult to understand why the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church made such a statement that may fan hatred between the Muslims and the Christians.

Immediately after the attack, the Western media started broadcasting images of terrorists carrying Muslims’ holy book, al-Quran, in their hands; forgetting altogether that Islam is against any sort of terrorism as reiterated recently by Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz during his Hajj sermon. Making an explicit reference to Daesh, the Grand Mufti said, “Today, when the Ummah is being cheated, oppressed and facing a testing time, the believers must wage jihad against tyranny and injustice and against those who are tarnishing the image of Islam in the pretext of religion.”

Pope’s statement further reinforced the doubts that a smearing campaign against the Muslims is in the offing. And, it did happen when the lives and properties of the Muslims living in France or anywhere else in Europe came under threat. The Pope, knowingly or unknowingly, has tried to resurrect the dead notion of “Clash of Civilizations” — a theory by Samuel P. Huntington which state that “the principal conflicts of global politics [in future] will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.”

The statement is mind-boggling given the fact that whenever there is an attack in a European country or the US, a sense of déjà vu permeates the world. When the 9/11 attacks took place, the then US President, George W. Bush, without any investigation into the matter, declared: “The American people are beginning to understand. This ‘crusade,’ this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” What happened, then? Muslim World came under brutal attacks by the US and Nato forces; Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded on false pretexts — former British Premier Tony Blair has already admitted this — and tanks, bombs, missiles, and what not, were used to annihilate the Muslims. History bears testimony that Muslims have been subjected to tyranny and injustice around the world. Palestine, Kashmir, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan were sent virtually to the Stone Age but still Muslims never resorted to terrorism; rather they took up arms only when they were being exterminated, only to defend their right to live. Muslim peoples and political and religious leadership abhor terrorism and the terrorists. But, still, they are being portrayed as the patrons of terrorism.

Here the question arises that if Muslims and non-Muslims condemn terrorism in unison, then why the Pope has declared the Paris attacks as the beginning of the Third World War? Islam invited the non-Muslims to live in peace and harmony with Muslims through verse 64 of Surah Al-e-Imran which says, “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you.” The world of Christianity should pay heed to this call and, instead of ruthlessly killing Muslims and blaming only them for the world miseries, should engage in an international inter-faith dialogue to sort out the problems amicably.

Since, it is a universally acknowledged phenomenon that terrorism has no religion, therefore, the Western media should shun its glass half-empty outlook that is the reason they profess a Muslim is equal to a terrorist. It should highlight the acts of bravery by Muslims like that by Faisal, a fireman of Algerian origin who helped evacuate thousands from the Stade de France during the Paris attacks. Even he was compelled to say that “If you have a Muslim name, they stop seeing you as a French person and they start to see you as an Arab, a potential terrorist.”

The world has seen numerous bloodbaths in recent years. The spilling of blood would stop only if the Western policymakers stop taking Islam as an enemy to Christianity. The dream of a peaceful world can be achieved only by cultivating forbearance and harmony among various religions and societies. The world would be safe only when an environment of coexistence will prevail all around. And, for achieving this, people or any other letter will have to abstain from such statements as well as actions.

SAIMA RIASAT,

Lahore, December 10.