The Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, led to numerous hate actions against Muslims. Mosques in Western countries were vandalized. Muslims were openly threatened in the streets. Hateful comments flooded the internet.
There was even a store in the US called Isis, obviously unrelated to the Islamic terrorist group, that was targeted by people against Islam.
Haidy El Desouky, 25, is an Egyptian Muslim woman. She responded to the hate online, clarifying that she and the people of Egypt in no way support the attacks. I reached out in search for a deeper understanding of what Muslims may feel and experience after events like the terror attacks in Paris. As it turns out, her fear of how she would be treated in what we can call the West is as strong as what many in the West feel towards Islam. In fact, she fears police brutality and Western extremists and racists.
Regardless of your own view point, if you’re Christian or Muslim or neither, hopefully this interview can bring you closer to people from a different religious background.
Read an Interview: There’s a lot of talk on social media about Islam and what it means to be Muslim, in the aftermath of the attacks. Do you ever feel personally blamed?
Haidy El Desouky: Yes, I always feel blamed when after any terrorist attack they point their fingers at Muslims. I feel so sad that they look at us as terrorists and are in doubt. I know that Isis helps create this image but you must know that they don’t represent Islam. You see them as terrorists. So do we.
RAI: Is this your general view of what Western countries think of Muslims?
HED: I know that they hate Muslims. They can’t trust us easily. This is why we think a lot of times before we decide to move to Western countries. We know that they are going to treat us badly.
“You see them as terrorists. So do we.”
RAI: Who are “they”, more specifically?
HED: The people who live in Western countries. And let me add that we don’t blame Germans for Hitler, and we don’t blame Christians for KKK, so why are you still blaming us for Isis?
RAI: Have you personally ever considered moving to a Western country? Would you feel safe if you did?
HED: No, I haven’t. And I wouldn’t be safe because even if living there would be much better in a lot of ways, like education and career, I would feel that they wouldn’t love me because I’m
Muslim. I wouldn’t feel safe because when any terrorist attacks happen there the police may attack me or at least question me on the reasons that I’m Muslim.
RAI: Other than Isis, who’s to blame for any misconceptions?
HED: I can’t blame specific people but I can say that a big part of the bad image of Islam is due to the media of the Western countries. Extremists and racism plays a role in how all Muslims are treated.
“The police may attack me or at least question me on the reasons that I’m Muslim.”
RAI: There are Christian extremists too, at least historically, but they don’t seem to get mentioned a lot… are Christians or even atheists blind to the truth?
HED: Most of the governments in these countries are Christian and downright do not see themselves in terrorism. Why do we not think of how and where terrorism began in the beginning?I mean, why are they not looking at Germans or Christians as terrorists because of Hitler and KKK? There are a lot of terrorists all over the world and they started terrorism thousands of years ago, but they only mention Muslims as terrorists.
RAI: Hitler and KKK was some time ago though. Isis is right now…
HED: I know, but do you think that if Isis disappeared they would stop blaming us? I don’t think so.
RAI: What is the view of Christianity in Egyptian media?
HED: We are trying to be fair and spread equality in Egypt. We never mention Muslims or Christians. We say Egyptians.
RAI: You are a journalist yourself. How, if at all, does that affect your own personal views in this matter? In general, would your views differ from other Egyptians of different occupations or educational levels?
HED: Sure, because I read a lot and am aware of what is happening all around the world. I see reality. Of course the mind and thinking and personal views differ from one person to another in the same field, but is also affected by education and community and standards of living.
“As I am Muslim, I know that there’s some distortion in the previous holy books because if not we would all be Muslims.”
RAI: What is your personal view of Christianity?
HED: It’s a religion, such as the three religions that we have that take the inspiration from God [Islam, Christianity and Judaism]. As I am Muslim, I know that there’s some distortion in the previous holy books because if not we would all be Muslims.
RAI: Forgive me if I’m not fully familiar with the subject. Which previous books, and which religions believe in them?
HED: I mean Gospel and the Torah and the Christians and the Jewish who believe in God and his books.
RAI: So, you argue that the Koran is the only true scripture, correct?
HED: Yes, the only one that isn’t distorted.
RAI: Why do you believe in the Koran?
HED: Because that in the Holy Koran all the verses are correct. Also it precedes time even though it has existed for thousands of years. It has many scientific facts discovered by scientists day after day. And there are verses in it that say that we as Muslims are going to face many persecutions, which is what is happening right now.
“In the Holy Koran all the verses are correct.”
RAI: What’s your favorite verse from the Koran?
HED: “Now await in patience the command of thy Lord: for verily thou art in Our eyes,” which means to wait because God is protecting you in what you are battling for in your life. When I’m upset I read it and feel good. I feel that God is near and protecting me.
RAI: Let’s go back to the Paris attacks. A lot of people put French flags on their Facebook profile pictures, including yourself. A great way to show support! But what about similar attacks in Beirut, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and even the plane that got shot down in Egypt? Doesn’t supporting the French flag send a message that what happened there is more important than what happens elsewhere?
HED: When I put the French flag I wanted to send a message to the world that we are against what is happening and has not and will not support terrorism in any country. Not Arabs only. Those other countries know that we fully support them without doubting. But France doubt our support against terrorism, and all I want to do is change that image.
RAI: That’s a great way to do that! What can people of Western countries do to help change the image of Muslims in their own countries?
HED: Don’t close Mosques, read about Islam, love the Muslims and show that you don’t avoid Muslims and Arabs.
“We never mention Muslims or Christians. We say Egyptians.”
RAI: What other misconceptions not yet mentioned are there towards you and other Muslims?
HED: That all Muslims are religious fanatics and do not know moderation in religion.
RAI: What would you like to say to anyone who currently blames Islam for the Paris attacks, or any similar attacks?
HED: I want to tell them to read about Islam and about the tolerance of Islam, about the centrist Islam and the Prophet Mohammed and Islams treatment method, and that all the extremists do not represent Islam at all. We are obliged by God not to turn to militancy and to show tolerance towards others. And I want to tell them that terrorism does not represent religion. It represents only individuals. And finally I want to blame them on the way they treat Muslims and the closing of mosques and prevent them from performing their religious rites as punishment for an offense they have not made.
Thank you Haidy El Desouky for your time!