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In shared grief, world’s Muslims reach out to Paris

Islamabad: In Pakistan it was the parents: men and women who watched their children die in extremist attacks who were generous in their own grief, reaching out across the world to tell the survivors of Friday’s nightmare in Paris that they are not alone.

In Afghanistan, torn apart by decades of war and a bloody insurgency, Muslims took to social media to change their profile pictures to the French tricolour, despite the fact that Facebook had no Afghan flag filter for when their own lives were shattered by bombs and guns.

Muslims across the world have condemned the attacks on Paris in a heartbreakingly empathetic response that has been sustained over the six days since gunmen killed 129 people in a bloody jihadist rampage across the City of Light.

“I want to tell the French they are not alone,” chemistry teacher Andalib Aftab told AFP tearfully this week.

Aftab lost her 16-year-old son in Pakistan’s deadliest ever extremist attack, a Taliban massacre at a school that killed more than 150 people, mostly children, in December last year.

But bitterness and despair have surfaced too, from those who live every day with the horror now gripping France.

“We have tasted death for many years,” Iraqi Samara al-Qaisi wrote on Facebook.

“We have been watching horror movies in Iraq; we have tasted this for 12 years, and no country moved to help us,” she said.

“Why do we have to show this strong sympathy with the French people, while our people are being slaughtered by terrorists on daily basis?” asked Afghan Facebook user Yousuf Omar.

“Do they show this kind of sympathy with us?”

The bitterness is undercut by anguish, however, and there has been no outpouring of anger as there was in the aftermath of January’s attack on the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

That attack, prompted by the magazine’s controversial cartoons, spurred protests by Muslims angered by what they saw as Charlie Hebdo’s blasphemy including in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir.

This time, hundreds in Kashmir condemned the wave of attacks in Paris, with hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying the “killing of innocents in the name of religion is in no way justifiable”.

European Muslim leaders were also united in condemning what Turkey’s top cleric Mehmet Gormez said in an open letter to G20 leaders was “not an attack on France, on Europe or on the West; it is an attack on every human being that cherishes world peace”.