Muslim leaders condemn French massacre, but some on street disagree

Lebanese protesters hold candles and placards reading in French "I am Charlie, Gebran and Samir' during a gathering in solidarity with victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
(Nabil Mounzer/ EPA)

A diverse array of Muslim religious and political leaders have issued condemnations of the Paris massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine ahead of vigils planned here Sunday to mourn the victims.

Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian, called on the country’s Muslims to renounce extremism in favor of tolerance, especially in the capital.

“The responsibility of all of us is to raise the voice against extremism. Against violence and terrorism. Against the confiscation of truth and righteousness, and the violation of rights and dignities,” Derian told a crowd Friday.

He said the Lebanese have a responsibility to speak out against the “abhorrent sectarianism” and “obnoxious racism” of fundamentalists who have distorted Islamic beliefs.


Hasan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, also decried the Paris shooters in a video speech to supporters in southern Beirut on Thursday, saying they were more offensive to Muhammad than Western satirical cartoonists, and dismissed them as takfiris, or wannabe Muslims.

“The behavior of some of the terrorist and takfiri groups that attribute themselves to Islam … through their words and actions and their reprehensible and ugly and violent and inhuman and brutal practices … have insulted the messenger of Allah and the religion of Allah and the prophets and the book of Allah and the nation of the Muslims more than his enemies insulted him,” Nasrallah said.

“Even those who attacked the messenger of Allah by authoring books that insulted the messenger or made films that insult the messenger or cartoons that insult the messenger.

Takfiris are the biggest threat to Islam, as a religion [and] as a message,” Nasrallah added

While Nasrallah did not mention Charlie Hebdo itself, he said Islamic extremists who massacre people – a reference to Sunni-dominated groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State– have historically done the most harm to Islam.

Fellow Shiites in Iran have also condemned the Paris attack. Speaking in Tehran on Friday, prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami sermonized, “Islam does not approve of killing innocent people, whether in Paris, or in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

But Khatami also accused Western governments of supporting Sunni extremists, noting: “These terrorists are part of a problem of your own making. They live off the political support you and your allies lend them.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also faulted western leaders for supporting Sunni-led governments, which he associated with extremists.


“World leaders in consultation with each other should adopt a united policy and avoid double standards to uproot violence and extremism” everywhere, not just in the West, he told the state news agency on Friday.

But “those who kill and carry out violent and extremist acts unjustly in the name of jihad, religion or Islam provoke Islamophobia whether they wish it or not,” he added.

In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah Sisi condemned the Paris attack and sent condolences to French President Francois Hollande, insisting, “Terrorism is an international phenomenon that should be faced and terminated through joint international effort.”

Hamas, meanwhile, issued a statement Saturday saying the group “condemns the attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and insists that the difference of opinions and thoughts cannot justify murder.”


The group did not explicitly condemn the subsequent hostage crisis Friday at a kosher Paris grocery.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week likened the Paris attacks to those by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel.

Hamas in their Saturday statement rejected the comparison, calling Netanyahu’s comments “desperate attempts … to link our movement on the one side, and terrorism throughout the world on the other side.”

The Palestinian Authority also dismissed the Paris attacks as terrorism, calling them a “heinous crime.”


In Beirut on Sunday, a “Je Suis Charlie” gathering is planned in the downtown Samir Kassir Square, named after a 45-year-old columnist killed by a car bomb in 2005. Supporters posted and tweeted messages of solidarity Saturday.

“This gathering will be a silent sit-in: no speeches, no public statements,” wrote organizer Aman Mhanna on Facebook, “Regardless of any difference in opinion and points of view, the gathering will bring together all those who believe that free speech must never be silenced through violence and murder.”

More than a thousand people indicated that they plan to attend.

“Arab countries should protest too!” Myriam Saba wrote.


“I’m a Muslim and I refuse to kill because they insult the prophet,” posted Mohammed Chougari. Others agued that local activists should focus on problems in Lebanon, not France and other more privileged countries. Lebanon has borne the brunt of the crisis created by the Syrian civil war, and has been plagued by car bombings and roiled by internal political strife.

“How would the world have reacted if the same thing happened in Lebanon?” asked Josyane Boulos in a blog post users linked to on the “Je Suis Charlie” Beirut Facebook page The Lebanese have become too accustomed to bombings, violence, death and insecurity, to living as post-colonial “second-class citizens,” Boulos said.

“Thousands of Lebanese have died to defend freedom, all sorts of liberties, and continue fighting despite threats and terror and global ignorance. No, I’m not Charlie. I am Lebanese.”

Others defended the gathering, including Najib Mitri, who writes for the Lebanese Blog Baladi.


Mitri contended the Paris attack should be “a reminder for all Lebanese to stand united when it comes to freedom of expression because without it, our country will cease to exist. It is a wake-up call to realize the importance of preserving our liberties and standing against those who wish to compromise it for the sake of security or religions.”

In a downtown Tehran restaurant Saturday, some disagreed, including Iranian journalist Farshad Qoubanpour, 37.

“It is not my concern who has been killed in Paris,” Qoubanpour said.

“Why are terrorists fighting against Bashar Assad in Syria OK, but the same terrorists fighting against French society and government are bad?” he said, calling them “the same type of gangs in different uniforms.”


Nearby, retiree Reza Shaygan, 62, debated the attack’s significance with friends over tea.

“France has supported the anti-Syrian regime forces and been interfering in Middle Eastern politics since the First World War,” Shaygan said, noting that France has a history of treating Muslims in Algeria and other colonies unequally.

“The Muslims as second-class citizens are entitled to be angry, but of course I do not condone the terrorist actions in Paris or anywhere in the world,” he said.

Hossain Zabzervari, 63, said using France’s colonial history to justify attacks by those historically disenfranchised sets a dangerous precedent – even for Iran, which has its own colonial history in India.


“The past is past,” he said, “Are Indians entitled to resort to terrorists’ measures against Iranians because our ancestors invaded?”

Mostaghim reported from Tehran. Special correspondent Nabih Bulos in Beirut contrbuted to this report.