Egypt NGO warns against Islamophbia ensuing Charlie Hebdo attack   
French soldiers - AFP

CAIRO: The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) called on “enlightened forces” in Europe to realize that combating terrorism should be on an international level, as it is a global phenomenon “with no homeland,” ECFA said in a message sent to European embassies in Cairo Thursday, according to MENA.

ECFA, whose members are predominantly former diplomats, added that terrorism does not exclusively target Islamic or Arab communities. The message was triggered by the Wednesday murder of ten of Charlie Hebdo’s staff and two police officers in Paris.

“The most serious expectation after [the Charlie Hebdo attack] is that it would drive and stir feelings of hostility towards Muslims in general and Muslim immigrant communities in particular,” ECFA said.

The French magazine’s attack and Western reactions to it assert the need for renewing the religious discourse, as recently called for by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, ECFA added.

Sisi, who denounced the murder of the French cartoonists in a letter to his counterpart Francois Hollande, had called on Al-Azhar scholars to carry out a “religious revolution” by revising the centuries-old “sanctified texts and thoughts.”

ECFA’s message warned against fueling Islamphobia in the aftermath of Paris onslaught, and emphasized that Western radical groups should not be given the space to tarnish Islam and its holy figures on the grounds of freedom of expression.

ECFA also raised concerns over the initial reactions to the attack by some think tanks, namely U.S.-based RAND Corporation, saying that the world should be presented with the “true image of Islam”; a religion that promotes “tolerance, moderation and acceptance of others.”

“[The Charlie Hebdo attack] will lend weight to the assertion that Muslims will never assimilate Western values, but will remain violently intolerant. This [is] a societal problem that transcends terrorism,” Brian Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND president said in a Q&A session published by RAND Wednesday.

The danger of the expected Islamophobia is that it “coincides with growing extreme right-wing groups in France and other European societies, who claim that Islam and Muslims are incompatible with the values of tolerance and free thinking,” ECFA said.

Several Islamic targets have been attacked in France in the wake of the magazine’s deadly aggression. Before the Charlie Hebdo shooting, arson attacks on mosques in Sweden and anti-Islam protests in Germany had already occurred, where there have not been terrorist acts committed by Muslims in the recent years.

RAND’s research Jenkis said in the Q&A interview that “[w]ithout endorsing murder, the [Charlie Hebdo attack] will win applause among many in the Muslim community,” Jenkins added.

For its part, ECFA noted that, contrary to RAND’s view, wide-scale condemnations were immediately announced after the murders by Arab political and religious institutions, especially in Egypt, “reflecting the mainstream” of the Egyptian and Arab society.

The National Council for Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the most prestigious religious institution in the Islamic world, have condemned the attack.

Those who murdered the French cartoonists are seen by all religions as “devoid of humanity and Islam is innocent of such attacks,” spokesperson of Dar al-Iftaa Ibrahim Negm told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

Negm called on all Islamic organizations in France to officially condemn this crime and “to explain the Islamic vision regarding the respect of the right to freedom of expression as a basic guarantor for the democratic process in the whole world.”

French Muslim clerics, including Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of the Paris suburb of Drancy slammed the attack in his remarks to the press after a visit to the magazine’s headquarters Thursday. He labeled the assailants “criminals, barbarians, satans.”

Chalghoumi called on the authorities to be “firm” because such assailants have murder lives, rather than freedom.

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