French newspaper for children and teens explains the Paris attacks, asks Muslim children how they are affected
For many parents it has been difficult to speak with their children about the Paris assassinations during which 130 people perished, and it has been especially difficult for Muslim families. A French daily written for children has, therefore, devoted an issue to young Muslim readers.
My classmates treated me like a terrorist
"When we came to school last Monday, some of my friends treated me like a terrorist," nine-year-old Ayman told the reporter. "I told the teacher. She explained to my classmates that just because someone is Muslim does not mean he is a terrorist."
"I was in shock. I talked about it with Mom. I was afraid, I was afraid they [the terrorists] would come to my town too," said nine-year-old Mohamed.
Both boys spoke with the French newspaper Le Petit Quotidien, which is designed for children between six and 10. After the assassinations, this paper and its sister publication intended for older children, Mon Quotidien a L'Actu, focused on explaining what happened and on answering readers' questions for four days.
"Parents and teachers told us, 'We really needed your words to be able to explain the inexplicable to our children'," said editor François Dufour, who also received dozens of letters that did not express thanks. "[Those letters] were from Muslim parents," he said.
"They wrote me: 'You can't print that those guys [the terrorists] are Muslims, because they are not Muslims, they are just exploiting Islam. Some of us believe in an exact interpretation of Islam, but that does not make us terrorists," Dufour said.
He then called on Muslim readers to share their emotions and their recent experiences with the paper. "It was not easy to convince them to speak up," he said.
"Those who were brave enough told us they are disgusted, frightened and shocked - all the more so because they are Muslim. It disgusted them that some guys have abused their faith to kill," Dufour said.
"The children were also in enormous shock because some of the terrorists were French. Basically French people killed French people, and that was terribly strange to them," Dufour said.
Everything I know about tolerance I learned from the Quran
The young Muslims shared not just their horrible experiences with the journalists, but also their enjoyable experiences with Islam. "I learned that we must not harm anyone or steal," Shaima said.
"For me, Islam means giving food and money to the poor, building hospitals to aid the sick, giving your coat to someone who needs it," Alicia-Rim wrote. The older the children are, the more they condemn the attacks and the more able they are to describe the unpleasant emotions they are experiencing in greater detail.
"The attitude toward us changed after 13 November," 13-year-old Abdelkader wrote. "On Monday I was travelling by metro with Mom, who wears a headscarf. When we stepped into the car, I heard a lady say 'This can't be'. Neither I or Mom said anything, but it angered me."
Azziz has a similar story. "You could say everybody believes we are terrorists. On the street they look at us strangely, then they feel unpleasant and avert their gazes. I can feel that they are afraid of us. They believe we might do something similar, just because we look like Arabs, like Muslims," he said.
The commentaries of the older children touch on more complex questions as well. "The French Government does not respect us," 17-year-old Omar said.
"They view us as immigrants, losers, scum. The terrorists should not have killed anybody, but it is the French Government that began bombing Syria. It can't be possible that you just fly into a country and begin bombing it! The attacks by the DAISH movement [the so-called Islamic State] in Paris are an answer to the hatred France is sowing," Omar said.
Many French Muslims, according to 17-year-old Ousmane, live in ghettos that prevent them from integrating, and he warned that "DAISH exploits the hatred people feel and feeds on it. They exploit the racism that exists in France. They exploit the division of society, and they exploit Islamophobia."
"Terrorists do not represent Islam. They have no religion, their only religion is terror," said 19-year-old Anissa.
"They cite the Quran, but they take the citations about times of war out of context. They forget about the verses that support tolerance. Everything I know about tolerance I learned from the Quran," she said.
Dado (age 7) was clear in his response: "The terrorists are very bad. They are to blame for people being afraid and that's not good, because if someone were to do the same to them, they wouldn't like it. When the terrorists kill someone, then that person can't enjoy things like birthdays or the tooth fairy."
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