During these times of terror we need heroes like this.

It’s been a month of terror, characterised by seemingly countless media reports around the world focused on death, violence and fear. But from out of the horror have come stories of heroism and inspiration.

But amid the gory front pages and the endless social media outrage promoting hate and social disunity, a number of voices are speaking out firmly and clearly for harmony.

Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life came together in ‘unity marches’ across France and the rest of the globe this weekend — and many of the voices for peace are are Muslims, quietly working to promote unity and to decry the horrors perpetrated supposedly in the name of Islam.

A unity rally in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks. (Photo: Getty)

One such Muslim is 24-year-old supermarket worker Lassana Bathily. This weekend, Bathily was being hailed a hero after it was revealed he hid Jewish shoppers in the basement during the terrifying siege in a Kosher supermarket in Paris at the weekend.

Lassana Bathily.

As radical gunman and self-proclaimed ISIS supporter Amedy Coulibaly raged upstairs — having rounded up 19 hostages and murdered three on the spot — Mr Bathily, a Muslim of Malian descent, risked his own life by guiding the hostages to a walk-in freezer in the basement.

“I turned off the lights and the fridge. I closed the door and told them to keep quiet,” he recalled, according to the Daily Mail.

Mr Bathily then sneaked away using a goods lift and slipped out to brief police on what the hostage-taker was doing upstairs — brave actions that may have saved the lives of those hostages, including at least two young children.

The Hyper Casher kosher grocery store in Paris, where gunman  Amedy Coulibaly took 19 hostages. He told BFMTV station he had ‘co-ordinated’ with the suspected Charlie Hebdo attackers and belonged to the Islamic State. (Photo: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Bathily’s act of heroism comes just days after Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet lost his life in the horrifying terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo editorial offices in the French capital.

That attack — perpetrated by two extremist gunmen to whom Coulibaly claimed to be linked — left a total of 12 dead, including eight editorial staffers and two policemen.

Merabet was shot point-blank by one of three gunmen on the street outside the offices, after reaching out his hand and asking: “Did you want to kill me?”

Ahmed Merabet. (Photo: Twitter)

In a touching act of solidarity, the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed (“I am Ahmed”) has been trending since Ahmed’s death; the social media movement aims to create awareness of how the Muslim man died defending freedom of speech and trying to ward off fundamentalist attackers who claimed to be acting in the name of religion.


Among those joining the #JeSuisAhmed social media campaign was Twitter user Mustafa Akyol(@AkyolinEnglish), who wrote: “As a Muslim, I condemn the cruel attack on #CharlieHebdo & offer condolences to the French people. The ‘Islam’ of the murderers is not mine.”

Another user, Sabbiyah Pervez (@sabbiyah), added: “Sheer madness… So far from any faith they claim to belong to. #NotInMyName.”

A sign which reads, ‘Thank you Ahmed’. (Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Merabet’s brother Malek delivered a powerful address on Saturday, emphasising a similar message: that his sibling had been killed by “false Muslims” who did not represent the majority of peace-loving, moderate Muslims.

“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims,” Malek Merabet said in the touching tribute.

Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste,” he said.

“I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and antisemites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion,” he added.

“I want to make another point: don’t tar everybody with the same brush, don’t burn mosques – or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring our dead back and it won’t appease the families.”

Malek Merabet, the brother of slain policeman Ahmed Merabet talks during a press conferenceon Saturday. (Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Droves of other Muslim organisations and individuals have shared similar sentiments, with the Arab League — which represents 22 Arab countries, all with a majority Muslim population — declaring: “Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris.”

The Muslim Council of Britain has similarly condemned the attack, adding: “Whomever the attackers are, and whatever the cause may be, nothing justifies the taking of life.”

“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) added.

Meanwhile, the USA Spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has remarked: “When we study Islam, we see clearly that the Quran condemns this kind of violence categorically.”

Some of the social media responses to the attacks in Paris (post continues after gallery):


These messages, like the extraordinary acts of heroicism by ordinary men like Merabet and Bathily, are important. They are crucial reminders that, in times of crisis, hope exists.

That in times of hate and fear, peace and unity can prevail.

And that despite the actions of the extremist individuals perpetrating the recent attacks in France, the majority of Muslims are peace-loving individuals.

So let’s embrace strong, beautiful gestures and messages of solidarity like those expressed by Bathily, by the Merabaet brothers, by the #IAmAhmed hashtag, and by the powerful unity marches taking place this week across the world.

Because to live in peace, what we need is not more division, but more gentle, brave acts of understanding and unity.

This is how we will defeat terrorism.

A few photos from the anti-terror march in Europe:

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