We Hold Up Our Pens in Hope not Hate

je suis charlie pensYesterday’s terrible events in Paris, when 12 people lost their lives at the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, have caused outrage and sadness across the world.

Earlier today (Thursday), Nick Lowles, from the campaigning organisation, HOPE not hate, released a statement expressing thoughts and sentiments which many of us share, but are struggling to put into words. Understandably, he fears a backlash from those who seek to sow division in our societies. But he is also defiant, calling on us to ‘re-double our efforts to stand up for equality, tolerance, democracy and respect’. It’s a call we must heed.

This is what he wrote.

“We have been left shocked and revolted by the brutality of the attack. The 12 victims, along with many others wounded, were seemingly slaughtered by zealots who shared the fanaticism of groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda.

“It is such hate groups that we at HOPE not hate seek to expose, just as we do the far-right racists and white supremacists who profit from their suffering …

“Charlie Hebdo was well-known for its satirical cartoons and articles, a few of which caused deep offence to some. Yet as one British Muslim tweeted today, those who kill for mere reason of offence have done far more to damage their faith and community relations, than anyone with a pen or cartoonist’s brush.

“So today we hang our heads and mourn, and offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed. Tomorrow, I want to ask you to stand with us as we move to expose the people and ideologies behind militant jihadism, as well those who would seek to harm Muslims in response.

“Yet let us not fool ourselves: a new page has been turned and things could get very difficult in the coming days and weeks.

“Anti-Muslim protests are likely to gather pace across Europe, community relations will be tested to their limits and violent attacks could well increase. Under the guise of free speech, it’s likely that the haters will emerge – from both sides – seeking to drag us all down into the quagmire of their hatred and a world which they would happily turn to ash.

“Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

“Just as importantly, we must call out and expose the actions of those Islamist extremists who actively or indirectly provide support for the brutal ideology of the militant jihadists. We must expose the very ideology itself and provide no tolerance for those who call for the murder of gays, non-believers, and apostates.

“None of this will be easy and there will be many calling for harsh measures and simple black-and-white solutions. But now more than ever it’s vital to defend the notion of a society where we ALL fit, where the language of hate, exclusion and zealotry finds no hold.

“So let us remember those who lost their lives in Paris by promising to re-double our efforts to stand up for equality, tolerance, democracy and respect.”