Muriel Domenach stood in freezing weather outside of the French consulate in Istanbul last Thursday evening to honor the 12 people killed in a deadly terror attack in Paris.
Six days after the attack on Charlie Hebdo – a satirical magazine – the French diplomat still carries scars of the deadly events but felt more sanguine about the future after the worldwide support shown both for those brutally murdered and for freedom of speech.
She talked to The Anadolu Agency about the attack and ensuing presence of unity in her country and around the world.
“Shock,” is the word she chose to describe how France and people around the world felt following the attack on Charlie Hebdo and subsequent outrages, such as in a French kosher supermarket which left four hostages dead.
“This attack was aimed at human rights, freedom of speech and thoughts. It created a great sympathy around the world as everyone felt targeted,” Domenach – a former member of France’s permanent representation to NATO – says.
The deadly attack on the magazine led to protests in France and around the world. More than 55 world leaders and an estimated four million people in France rallied in Paris last Sunday to pay tribute to the victims.
“It was a historic moment,” the diplomat says, adding that, “Paris was the world’s capital last Sunday. France’s national anthem was the world’s.”
Domenach says she was greatly affected by Turkish solidarity: “Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s participation on the Paris march made us happy,” she states.
The rally and unity proved that terrorists could not achieve their aim “to scare and split us,” the diplomat emphasized. “This rally also made me feel more secure,” she added.
However, with right-wing populist parties seeking to benefit from a growing fear of Islam, the three-day terror wave has triggered worry among Muslims in France and Europe.
Only one day after the Paris shootings, a mosque in Le Mans in northwestern France was attacked. In Germany, Islamophobic movements are gaining increased traction, raising concerns among Muslims.
Domenach conceded that there has been tension in Europe but added that France would not fall into the Islamophobia trap. “These terrorists want us to believe that Islam approves of terror,” she says.
France has the highest number of Muslims in Western Europe – around three million. “Muslims in France have been integrated into society. The fact that the police officer murdered while guarding the magazine is Muslim shows the level of integration,” Domenach says.
There are more Muslims in the French police and army than in al-Qaeda or ISIL, she adds.
Personally, she said, she is a feminist and does not like the kind of satire seen in the pages of Charlie Hebdo. However, she quoted the French thinker Voltaire’s famous line: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”