Muslims among victims of Paris attacks

Friday 27/11/2015
Minute of silence at the Assalam Mosque of Nantes, France

PARIS - “Killing any human is killing all mankind. Saving any human is saving all mankind,” a group of French Muslims, who joined mourners at the Place de la Republique in Paris, chanted in the wake of the Islamic State’s brutal attack on the French capital.

“Unite against brutality. Unite for humanity,” they chanted, shoulder to shoulder with French nationals of all religions, just as French Mus­lims died alongside their country­men of other religions in ISIS’s in­discriminate November 13th attack.

Among the 130 killed in the at­tack were two sisters celebrating a birthday, a young architect, a tal­ented violinist, a receptionist and a shop assistant.

What did they have in common?

They were all Muslims. ISIS’s bul­lets and suicide bombs do not take religion into account. ISIS, its gun­men and suicide bombers, engage in wholesale slaughter.

Although Muslims were a mi­nority of those killed in Paris, his­torically Muslims are the greatest number of victims of jihadist at­tacks perpetrated by groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. These takfiri groups view Muslims who belong to different sects — such as Shias or Sufis — or even those who follow a different interpretation of Sunni Is­lam as heretics.

“ISIS has been killing Muslims by the thousands for years in Af­rica and the Middle East,” Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collec­tive against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), told Reuters.

“Now they’re killing Muslims here in France. The world ‘Islamic’ in their name is only a pretext for their ideology. Look at the series of attacks they’ve made. There’s no end,” he said.

There are approximately 5 million Muslims in France — about 7.5% of the population. That is close to the same proportion of Muslims killed in the Paris attacks based on iden­tification by family and friends, as well as the surnames of those on the official list of victims.

Halima and Houda Saadi, two French-born sisters of Tunisian origin, were celebrating a friend’s birthday at La Belle Equipe café. Houda, 35, had recently been pro­moted as the café’s manager, and her sister Halima, 37, was on a short visit.

Seated outside on the terrace, they were among 19 victims killed when an ISIS gunman indiscrimi­nately sprayed bullets in their di­rection. Paris is known for its café culture, with bars and restaurants boasting outdoor terraces for pa­trons.

“We’re just citizens like everyone else, who love our family and peo­ple,” their brother Abdallah Saadi said in the wake of the attack.

“We are all inhabitants of this planet and we need to fight for each other and help each other.”

Amine Ibnolmobarak, 29, grew up in Morocco and went to Paris to study architecture. He was a teach­er at Paris’s ENSA Paris-Malaquais architecture school — the same institution from which he gradu­ated and, inspired by his religion, conducted graduate studies on the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. He was killed as he sat on the terrace of the Carillo bar. His wife Maya suf­fered critical wounds.

“Amine was the quintessential young Muslim intellectual. He was concerned with spreading the peaceful values of his religion,” his former professor Jean Attali wrote on Facebook.

The list goes on: Elif Dogan, daughter of a Turkish shop-owner in Belgium, only moved to Paris four months ago. “We worried something like this could happen in Turkey, [but] we lost our daughter in one of the leading cities of the world,” her father Kemal Dogan la­mented to Turkey’s Hurriyet news­paper. She lived on the same street as the Bataclan concert, where doz­ens were killed.

Musician Kheireddine Sahbi, 29, grew up in Algiers. He moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. He was walking home in Paris’s 10th arrondissement when he was caught up in the ISIS attack. A vio­linist, he was known for his love of traditional Algerian music, sharing this at every opportunity with his new friends in Paris.

There were others: French-Ma­lian Asta Diakite, Egyptian Salah Emad Al-Jabali, Djamila Houd — the daughter of Algerian immigrants and wife of the Jewish owner of La Belle Equippe.

In the end, those who were mur­dered in the ISIS attacks on the 10th and 11th arrondissements in Paris died as they lived — side by side with neighbours of different reli­gious and ethnic backgrounds.

In the piles of flowers and candles left in tribute outside La Belle Equi­pe one fluttering message reads: “We are Muslims. You are terrorists and imposters.”