We are like the cop shot on the pavement
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgWe, modern Muslims, are like the French police officer Ahmed Merabet, trying to say something before dying, believing in the combination of our faith and our modernism, but unable to escape our fate of being shot in the head.
He was asking for mercy. He was trying to convey something. It was one of the most shocking videos; one that no one could ever forget. I was stuck on it. The poor guy was probably trying to save his life, but was shot mercilessly, inhumanly, professionally… It was his last moment in life.
Maybe if he had laid still and pretended to be dead he might have survived. The shooter is also dead now, thanks to the sophisticated methods of the French police. We will never know...
What we do know is that bicycle patrol officer Merabet drew his weapon and fired at the car of the gunmen. His police pistol was answered by Kalashnikovs, and he was shot and injured. Next, the attackers stopped for a moment and ran to where Merabet lay injured. “You want to kill us?” one of the gunmen asked, “No, it’s fine, chief,” Merabet replied.
In the initial versions of the incident, it was first thought that the police officer asked the gunman “Do you want to kill me?” and then the gunman answered, “No, it’s fine, chief.” This also makes sense, but it was the other way around.
“Voulez-vous me tuer?” and “C’est bon, chef.”
The policeman was talking the way he was trained. He was addressing the attackers in a friendly way, somehow an understanding way, upgrading them by calling them chief, trying to calm them. The gunmen, on the other hand, were probably drugged, what militants call “courage drugs” that they all swallow before these kinds of acts of terror, providing them with extra courage, projecting them to another dimension.
In light of such cruelty, I think I understand, sympathize, and kind of identify with the dying cop. We learned afterward that he was of the Muslim faith. Then my imagination created a scenario. I thought he was trying to tell the shooter that he was a Muslim too. He had a gesture of raising his hand, in a confident way (I had that impression). I don’t know if you agree with me or not, I noticed that he was sure he had the magic words; that his life would be spared when he told the gunmen his faith; that they would not shoot him. But he hit the wall. BAM. He was shot dead in seconds.
I think we are all like him. When I say we, I mean the modern Muslims of the world, the moderate Muslims, or maybe the non-practicing Muslims of the world. Those who have been born to a Muslim family and have that identity given to them, the one we pass on to our children; not bothering to question it much... Especially if you are in a once-secular country like Turkey, you can live your entire life being a non-practicing Muslim. You have a Muslim identity; you believe in the goodness of the religion, but seeing how it is you are distanced from the currently practiced faith, caught in a dilemma between modern times and medieval practices.
We are trying to tell the world something, even with the last breath we take, we are sure of it; we are afraid, we are dying, we are injured; we have something to say. We want to cry it out loud...
But it is not heard. It hits the wall of terror. It kills us. We may or may not be wearing a French police uniform. The fact is we are not even near to being understood. We are lying out in the open. Neither our faith nor our adopted identity protects us. We are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Our own faith comes back and kills us directly, as a bullet in the head.
I think we are all begging for mercy on the pavement. I am not a religious expert. I am an ordinary person who still has hope that the religious identity I was born into will provide me with some spiritual support, at least at critical times.
I remember calling the name of Allah during the crack of doom moments, the 45 seconds of the hellish earthquake that struck Western Turkey in 1999, when the whole world was falling apart.
For the first time in my life, I was shouting God’s name. Nothing happened. The horror continued. The house was shaking like a train. I was begging God to save my child, me and my neighbor. Nothing happened. I started shouting louder, thinking God would hear me better if I raised my voice. My very young neighbor – we were all holding on to each other – was repeating “bismillah, bismillah,” Arabic for “In the name of God.” She later told me that it was the only holy word she knew (worse than me).
There seems to be no magical words or beliefs to protect us from the approaching terminator. We still believe - and keep on believing - in peace, in tolerance, in freedom of speech, in advancement, in developing into a better society.
I thought the police officer told the gunmen, “Don’t shoot me; I’m a Muslim, too…” But he was shot anyway.
When only a few kilometers south of our border, Yazidi women are sold in the market place as slaves, in 2015, in the name of faith; when innocent people are beheaded and we do nothing about these things, then this evil will come and give us a bullet in the head.
Our combination of moderate Islam and modernism is dead.