RIYADH—You faceless killers now have names. Most of you are French and Muslim. In other words, you betrayed your country and your religion. While we know your names, you will never know the names of those whose lives you took in Paris on that night of the 13th of November:
Stella Verry was a 36-year-old doctor who volunteered for emergency services. Suzon Garrigues was a 21-year-old student of literature at the Sorbonne. Kheireddine Sahbi was a 29-year-old Algerian violinist and ethnomusicologist. Valentin Ribet was a 26-year-old lawyer who had studied in London. Juan Alberto González Garrido was a 29-year-old engineer from Madrid. You took the lives of these young, innocent people as they sought to enjoy a normal Friday night out with their friends. You took their lives, and destroyed those of many others, for no reason, for no cause.
Let me tell you a little bit about the history of France, a nation that has fought many centuries for freedom, and helped spread the light of civilization like none other. Liberté, égalité, fraternité are not simple words—they are hard-won principles imprinted in the minds and the lives of every French person and, crucially, they are always a work in progress.
Every one of us owes something to France for showing the way on human rights, on democracy, and on the freedoms many of us enjoy today. The French themselves are constantly fighting to uphold these values, as they did last January, faced with yet another set of horrific terror attacks, or as they do in facing up to the terrible mistakes and million deaths of their not-so-distant colonial past in North Africa. Nor are they afraid to offend their closest friends when they believe them to be wrong, as France did when it expressed opposition to America’s war in Iraq in 2003, sincerely questioning the actions of a kindred country that saved France in two World Wars. The French are ready to defend the values of liberty, equality and fraternity not only for themselves, but for each and every one of us.
Today people come to Paris from around the world to experience the culture, the openness, and the inclusiveness France has to offer. We come to visit the Louvre, to admire the works of Delacroix and Renoir, but also the Mona Lisa and major works of Egyptian and Islamic art. We come to eat in Parisian restaurants and to admire the city’s bustling life and buildings. Paris is a worldwide symbol of beauty, of culture and of joie de vivre. ISIS meanwhile is known for its destruction of ancient artworks and world heritage sites, from Nineveh and Nimrud to Dura Europos and Palmyra.
You nihilists are known for the beheadings of innocent people, for killing tourists in a Tunis museum, and for numerous attacks across the Middle East killing true Muslims, a vast majority of whom support the actual Arab causes you only claim to care about. You forced millions of Syrians and Iraqis to flee and live a life of destitution, danger and drowning as they seek a decent life. Where is the life, the joy, or the meaning in any of what you are doing?
France itself is also home to five million Muslims, who have found refuge and a better life, are able to offer their children hope and to support relatives who have remained abroad. You killed several of their children, too. What cause or grievances could you possibly have to justify such coldblooded killing? Are your hearts so cold and empty that you are unable to respect human life and joy?
France and its freedoms offer us the possibility to speak about issues and to address grievances. There is a national and an international justice system, both of which offer institutions whose goal it is to right wrongs, no matter how great the wrong or how lengthy the process. By standing up for one’s rights, or the rights of others, one can make a difference through these systems and institutions. But you chose to perpetrate a massacre of the hopeful, innocent youth, with no goal or objective except your hatred of life. Is there even a reason you believe to be fighting for? Where is your culture and your compassion?
You purveyors of death who call yourselves Daesh or ISIS have mounted terrorist attacks in Egypt, in Libya, in Tunisia, and in Lebanon just last week, not to speak of the thousands of innocent people who have died at your hands in Syria and in Iraq. In Yemen you killed worshipers at a mosque during the holy Eid al-Adha prayers. And you have time and again killed Muslim worshipers at mosques in Saudi Arabia, the very heart of Islam. You are no true Muslims, your relationship with Islam is only a figment of your sick imagination.
The families who lost their loved ones in the Paris attacks will forgive you, but you have left this world as cowards unwilling to witness the consequences of your ghastly actions, or the love, warmth and compassion that sentient human beings share. Your families — the families of you killers — must reach out to the families of the victims in order to ask for forgiveness on your behalf, to grieve with them, and to offer them love and compassion in place of the death and emptiness which are the only thing you had inside. Is this too much to ask to for? There is really very little to it, just a moment between fellow human beings that allows us all some healing. We must make it happen.
Wake up you murderers, you destroyers of civilization. You will not win, for you are on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of humanity, on the wrong side of life. Islam has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with your actions and your cold nihilism. The vast majority of your victims are faithful Muslims. You are faceless murderers and destroyers of life, veiled and afraid, cowering in your semblance of a state that is made only of blood and sand.
We true Arabs who fought for our freedom, we true Muslims who defended our religion and affirmed our brotherhood with the rest of mankind, we reject everything you stand for. Of course many Arabs and Muslims have their grievances, their frustrations and have endured suffering in the Middle East, but contrary to you nihilists they know that the death of more innocent people achieves nothing but to cause yet more suffering in this world. As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently said, you are neither a state nor Islamic, not in any sense of these words. Your sole aim is to destroy, and you will fail. We will continue to build, and we will win.