In response to the horrors in Paris and Beirut, the Messiah College’s French Club co-hosted a talkback with the American Enterprise Institute (A.E.I.) Executive Council.
ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, stands behind the shootings and bombings in both of these cities. Recently, the French have been referring to the terrorist group by the Arabic phonetic, Daech (or Da’ish).
“It’s come out in the press recently because Francois Hollande [President of France] referred to ISIS as Daech. Depending on how you conjugate it, it could either mean ‘to trample down and crush’ or it could mean ‘religious bigot,'” says hostess Rebekah Glick, a member of the Executive Council of the A.E.I and Co-President of the French Club.
The term is beginning to spread when referencing the terrorist group. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, also used Daech to refer to ISIS. It is reported that ISIS is infuriated by the name because it diminishes their self-proclaimed legitimacy as a state.
“It’s the power with words. They’re [the French] taking power away by saying ‘you don’t have a state. You don’t have land,’” explains Professor Heather Dravk, Senior Lecturer of French.
The destruction by the hands of ISIS this past weekend has left hundreds devastated and is continuing to terrorize people not only in the West but within the Middle East. There has been widespread support shown through social media these past few days. People are posting their outrage and grief, changing their profile picture to the French flag, using hashtags; #prayforhumanity, #prayforBeirut, and #prayforParis.
Dravk has many French friends currently in France. They express deep sadness and fear to her, “kind of like when we had 9/11,” says Dravk. “They are also very aware of the support from the world. Putting the flag on our profile pictures may seem so silly, and I’ve seen people complaining, but they [the French] see that support. They’re aware of that,” she continues.
The conversation shifted to the thoughts of a few panelists at the event. Juniors Benjamin Talbot and Rahel Schlogl are international students, both European and with insight on Muslim communities. Their pain was evident in their voices as Talbot and Schlgol simultaneously expressed deep and convicting forgiveness.
“As Christians it is important to remember, Muslims are not terrorists; these words are not the same,” says Talbot.
Over 23% of the world’s population is Muslim. Talbot reasons that not all Muslims are terrorists, yet it is the radical Muslims who create chaos not just for the West but also for Muslims all over the globe who try to live in peace.
Schlogl echoes Talbot, stressing that ISIS does not define Muslims. Growing up in the Middle East, Schlogl explains that Muslims do not believe that God speaks to them directly, only through the Imam (our equivalent to a priest). The exception is through dreams and visions.
“Something the church should know is how much God is moving in the Muslim world,” shares Schlogl. “There are pockets everywhere amongst the Muslim nations of people having these dreams of a man in white saying, ‘I am the way the truth and the light.’ Jesus Himself is hungering for their hearts. Not even the ISIS terrorists are beyond His reach.”
These tragic events over the years, fueled by the weekend’s violence can create widespread Islamophobia and only enhances ISIS’ message to Muslims saying the West hates them. Now is a time to dismantle that weapon, to pray for peace, and seek it through God with our minds set on forgiveness, understanding, and compassion.