Where Does It Hurt, O City of Light

Sunday, November 15, 2015 - 12:42am
Photo by Jim Roberts

Where Does It Hurt, O City of Light

Upon receiving the news from Paris, I did what I often do in moments of crisis. I turned off the TV — and sat with the grief. I turned, as I often do, to poetry, nature, scripture, and prayer. I retreated to solitude, leaving time for sorrow to sit with me before having to answer the inevitable crush of media speculation.

In those early hours there is no real analysis, only a parroting of ideological perspectives. I find it more fully human to welcome grief, and connect with the humanity of those for whom these tragedies are even more personal, more intimately destructive.

The poem that I turned to was yet again from the amazing Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire:

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Everywhere, everywhere. Everybody hurts. It hurts everywhere.

I watched the outpouring of grief from all over the world, including most of my Muslim friends. I saw hundreds of Facebook profiles being changed to the French flag-themed profile pictures, and thousands of #prayerforParis and #Prayers4Paris tweets.

I also saw, as I knew would come, wounded cries of the heart from friends in Beirut wondering why their own atrocity (43 dead) just one day before — also at the hands of ISIS — had not received any such similar outpouring of grief; friends from Pakistan wondering why there was no option to “check in as safe” during their experiences with violent attacks; friends from Central African Republic wondering why their dead — in the thousands — are the subject of no one’s global solidarity.

Somewhere in the midst of grief and devastation, here was the cry that I also heard again and again: What about my pain?

In some of the news coverage, we get told that “bombings are nothing new” to Beirut. I cannot help but read this as implying not that some countries are witnessing more violence than others, but that some lives matter more than others. Some outposts have been even more forthright, talking about our selective outrage masking a two-tiered model of human life, and outright racism.

It is a subtle shift, but I think there is a difference in tone between recognizing someone else’s tragedy and saying, “But what about mine?” and saying, “Yes, I see your tragedy, and I offer you my condolences and sympathy. And I see your tragedy and mine as connected.” It is the second that strikes me as more spiritually and morally mature.

Having sat with grief for a day of silence, here are a few thoughts that come to my mind:

Need to Grieve, Need to Mourn.
When I got the news and had a chance to catch up with the grief, I then made a point of turning down media interview requests and actually took the time to mourn. I hope more of us do take this necessary time. How sad it is to see analysts on TV opining, when we have not yet buried the dead and mourned the loss of life. I am concerned when our response in times of crisis is to strike out, lash out, and express rage before we have had time to sit with, and process, sadness and grief. Unprocessed grief always lashes out in ignorant, unhelpful ways.

My heart and prayers go to the families of the deceased, and to all who have felt the impact of this horrific attack. I wish we could extend the time to sit in solitude, hold each other, wipe each others’ tears, and mourn together.

Yes, Paris Is a Dazzling, Beautiful (Global) City of Lights.
Paris is charming almost beyond what a heart can bear. But no, Paris is not unique. Today, Paris is a global city. The very same global process of colonialism has brought the children of the colonies, largely North Africans, into the metropole. Today, Muslims are the most visible minority population in France, and they are both racially and economically marginalized.

Today, Paris is part of the global narrative. New York, Madrid, London, Ankara, Bombay, Damascus have all witnessed grotesque acts of terrorism. The primary victims of terrorism by ISIS are Muslims in places like Iraq and Syria. Muslims have been killed on a magnitude hundreds of times the scale of the Paris atrocity. Remember that, according to a recent United Nations report, some 8,493 Iraqi civilians were killed and 15,782 Iraqis were injured by ISIS in the summer of 2014 alone. According to credible reports, approximately one million people have been killed in Iraq since the start of the U.S. occupation.

ISIS and Islam.
As has been the case with previous tragedies, national Muslim organizations extended their sympathies and their condemnations of the horrific acts of terrorism. But I wonder if now, almost 15 years after 9/11, if we should still have to. I don’t know how many times we have to keep saying that acts of violence on civilians can never be justified, no matter who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.

Simply put, when Muslims condemn acts of violence from extremists, and they get asked again and again why don’t they condemn terrorism, I wonder if is because some of us are not listening. And perhaps that we don’t want to listen. There is a sad place deep in my soul that has to admit this: there are some in our midst who do not want to believe that faithful, pious Muslims could find and do find acts of violence morally repugnant. That attitude, as common as it is, tells me nothing about the humanity of Muslims that I know, or about Islam. It does tell me a lot about a xenophobic spirit of ignorance that is rampant in our society.

Ultimately, this spirit of ignorance and racism is a common enemy, just as much as state-sponsored violence and violence committed by groups like ISIS is an enemy. All of these stand in opposition to the dignity of all of us.

I don’t know how to say it more directly than this: Yes, the members of ISIS come from Muslim backgrounds. No, their actions cannot be justified on the basis of the 1400 years of Islamic tradition. Every serious scholar of Islam has confirmed this clearly, and unambiguously. ISIS is about as Muslim as the KKK is Christian. If you don’t look to the KKK to tell you about God’s message of love as expressed through Jesus, don’t look to ISIS to tell you about God’s mercy as expressed through Muhammad.

Avoiding the Trap of Divisiveness.
The ISIS terrorist attacks are precisely intended to create a divide, a false divide between Muslims and the West. Acts of terrorism are not only about the violence and mayhem created. They are also anticipating, and bringing about, a backlash from the societies that have experienced violence. This goes back to the days preceding 9/11, where al-Qaeda hoped to bring about a U.S. attack on Afghanistan. It succeeded.

ISIS, as well, is hoping to create a culture of backlash against Muslims in Europe, to foster a situation of persecution of Muslims there that will bolster future recruitment of extremists. And, Western attacks on Iraq/Syria will, in turn, lead to further extremism. To put it simply, we can’t bomb our way out of the ISIS mess. Military campaigns are part of the solution, but they cannot be the whole solution. Diplomacy, including with parties that we have political differences of opinion with, have to be part of the answer.

If we are to confront ISIS, we have to confront the sources of their funding as well as their ideology, which will force us to ask difficult and challenging questions from many of their Wahhabi and Gulf area supporters — who are also American allies.

The Mythic “Attack on Universal Values.”
President Obama released a statement regarding the terrorist attacks:

"Once again we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share."

As a humanist and a person of color, and as a person critical of both Western colonial conceit and violent extremism, I can only half-applaud the President’s statement. On one hand, both the Qur’an (5:32) and the Mishnah [Sanhedrin 4:5] tell us that to take one human life is as if to take the life of whole humanity, and to save one human life is as if to save the life of all humanity. True, from that perspective the attack on Paris is an attack on all humanity.

What I question is the selectivity of the “universal values” part in President Obama’s statement. I don’t know what that means. Liberté, égalité, fraternité were not, ever, universal values. The Europeans never intended for the values of the Enlightenment to be applied to the whole of humanity. The Enlightenment — which gave birth to both the French and the American revolutions — was also a profoundly exclusionary principle that never applied to the victims of the empire: not to native Americans, not to the humans stolen from West Africa and brought to the Americas as slaves, not to women, and not to the French colonies. The “universal” values were never universal.

I would love for compassion, dignity, and the sanctity of each and every human life to be a universal human value. If it is to be, that day is in our future. I will believe that we have arrived when the atrocities in Syria, in Palestine/Israel, in Central African Republic, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Myanmar, in inner-city America are all treated as attacks on “universal values.” When these atrocities are treated as global and universal human atrocities on par with attacks on Paris and New York, I will believe the declarations. When we see politicians marching for African lives, Afghan lives, Palestinian lives, and Black lives, I will believe their statements.

Watch Out for Trolls.
No sooner had the atrocity in Paris happened, before the bodies were buried, out came the trolls. There was Richard Dawkins, who came out against Islam yet again:

There was Donald Trump, who somehow managed to turn the Paris tragedy into a stump speech for the NRA, stating,“Nobody had guns but the bad guys.” As if the solution to violence is somehow more guns.

Franklin Graham was at it again, stating that “Islam” was at war with the West:

He spent just as much time on Twitter bashing Islam as he did offering prayers for the victims. In collapsing ISIS and Islam, Graham is actually granting ISIS the very Islamic legitimacy that it so craves — and does not deserve.

No, the answer to ISIS’s violence and hatred cannot be more hatred and more ignorance. We have to transcend this hatred through something more beautiful and loftier: a call for universal love, and a holistic sense of justice.

We cannot curse our way out of this darkness. This fragile and broken world needs more light, more light.

Protect the Refugees.
The news out of Paris indicates that one of the assailants has been identified as a Syrian. The fear on many people’s part is that this will lead to a backlash against all Syrian refugees. That would be a humanitarian catastrophe of immense scale. Let us remember this: the Syrian refugees are fleeing the brutality of the very same ISIS that has now unleashed its savagery on Paris (and Beirut). In short, the millions of Syrian refugees are themselves the primary victims of ISIS. Let us not doubly punish these desperate people by associating them with the atrocity of their own tormentors.

In the afternoon I took my children out for a long, slow walk in the woods. We took time to reflect on the trees, the light, the fallen leaves. In the midst of grief, there is still time to hold a friend’s hand, to hold a beloved in the heart, and go for a gentle stroll.

I don’t have the answers to ISIS, or how to defeat them. But I do know this: at the end of the day, love and unity will have the victory. If we are to get there, we have to remain fully human.

If we close our hearts to love, to each other, to nature, to God, we have already lost. If we close our hearts to one another, we have already lost.

There is grief in the city of light, and in so many cities of light. In the midst of the grief, in the late hour of a Fall, a beauty lingers. Love shall have the victory at the end of days.

Let there be light inside our hearts.
Let there be light around us.
Let the light permeate us.
Let’s rebuild the City of Lights, one illuminated heart after another.

The City of Light needs no more darkness. Let us welcome light into our hearts, and be agents of healing.


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Omid Safi

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

Share Your Reflection



Omid, you have expressed the thoughts and emotions I've been seeking for the past day. Thank you.


Thank you. So powerful.

Will will ALL have to learn to live together in peace or perish.

thank you for this article. ....it has given me what I need to help others.....not to be scared or ignorant. ...God bless us ALL. ...

Thank you for speaking my heart in a way that my acquaintances are not yet ready to hear.
peace and good___,
Beth Ramos

Thank you, Omid. I think the wisest point in your reflection was to sit with grief!

The wound is where the light gets in...

Thank you for sharing. Very powerful.

Thank you so much for this poignant and balanced reflection. In our our morally simplistic good-guy, bad-guy, sound-byte driven world, it's important to put these nuanced opinions out there for people like me to find. We all want a simple answer (myself included) - and they are easy to find. But taking time to reflect on the humanity of all feels like an important next step. Thank you again.

Reading this alone has brought healing to my heart, thank you.

Dr. Safi, as always thank you. As Friday night progressed, I found myself longing for your words on the attacks. My job necessitated my presence on social media, and yours is a voice I'm often pleased to meet there. I am grateful that you shared your reason for stepping away before re-engaging productively. I've watched enough of your lectures and read enough of your posts to expect nothing less. Discovering your work before my arrival in Washington has affected my career trajectory profoundly. I had truly believed the myth that being compassionate and being politically/socially active were mutually exclusive. I had accepted that poetry and empathy were to be my evening fellows while my days were to be filled with one or another institute's form of Realism. Your work has shown me that truth, beauty, love and peace can be part of my daily life both personally and professionally. All the best to you and yours, and thank you once again for your contribution to the earliest moments of healing after this, yet another moment of tragedy.

Thank you, Stephen Mc Grath, for your honesty and openness. I am grateful you integrate your principals into every aspect of your life. Yes, there is a myth that somehow we must divide who we fully are from what we do. The obvious absurdity of this notion needs no elaboration; the myth persists when people do not question their thinking. What the world needs is people who practice their core principals all day, every day, regardless of their work in the world. This alone would make our world a safer, more peaceful , and compassionate place.

Dr. Safe, once again, your insights are a balm to my sad heart. Your instinct to pull inward toward the pain is the true path to healing. It makes the room for response, rather than reaction. Thank you.

Thank you from my heart for this eloquent, poignant piece; I share your grief and prayers. Blessings upon you and upon our broken world so that we may all know "compassion, dignity, and the sanctity of each and every human life to be a universal human value."

Your thoughtful reflection helps restore faith in humankind and broaden a sense of compassion. Thank you for writing from the heart and yet also speaking so honestly about the huge challenges we face in embracing our entire human family.

This wonderful essay has enough food in it for several meals. I appreciate and Echo many of these thoughts. Particularly the comments about the public comments made by "celebrities" . I couldn't help but cringe at the president's thoughtless use of "universal values". Canned phrases are at best unhelpful.
Also I see in myself some callousness and thoughtlessness. I must call my Lebanese friend today and express my sorrow for her homeland. Before it had only been a thought. Thank you for this essay.

Brilliant, insightful, factual, humanitarian ... wise. Thank you.

........a blessed walk in the woods to let the fallen leaves of autumn nurture the soul, in the northern hemisphere.......and may a blessed walk in the woods be to view the buds of trees coming forth in the spring time of the year in the southern hemisphere.......the globe has both possibilities to nurture the soul and the spirit of humanity......

thank you for this fine eloquent heartfelt offering of wisdom. essential and mature. distilled. strong and gentle. full of light. unitive.

Thank you. You have put my sadness, worry, and hope into words.

Beautifully said.

Thank you for those beautiful words.

Poignantly said. Thank you.

Such beautiful insight in your piece, Omid, and so appreciated. Thank you.

Every time I read you my heart along with my eyes moisten with tear as well as love and tranquility. Very few can speak of love and faith and human dignity at the time of crisis. May God fill our heart with love and feel and pray for the innocent people departed their family and friends and us! The ideology of hatred and killing must be eradicated from IS as well as all warmongering nations and populations, then only humanity will win. Selective outrage emboldens the perpetrators of this dastardly acts of violence.

Thank you so much for sharing this!! I try to always tell people that one of the many lessons my dying patients taught me is that We Are One Human Family and we need to be the love we hope to find in another.

thank you.

Lovely writing. However, as we all know, evil and violence will never end on this earth. There is no "Imagine". There is no "Peace on Earth". It is beyond human nature. Be the best person you can be for others through your prayer and personal actions. What more is there?

I am often split by the same fear that appears more poignant and real than anything else...? Wish someone for just once could use the gift they have of intelligant "reach" to inform in a manner that first and foremost recognizes society on this planet in its many incarnations for what it truly is in the here and now. I haven't the patience to hash about over the past. And unfortunately I have long been the best person I can be through meditation, prayer and personal action- yet left still feeling that there actually has to be something "more", cuz clearly this isn't working :-(

Well said I must share your message.

Thank you! It is a beautiful piece and i meditated on it... it is a conversation made for the soul... Thank you, again!

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing these powerful, necessary words.

Thanks be. Giving voice to the pain in our hearts.

I needed this. We all do. The most intelligent assessment of the tragedies in recent days.

You are a beautiful human being. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Deeply grateful for your thoughtful, helpful wisdom, Dr. Safi.
We need your voice everywhere right now.

Amin. My sentiments exactly. I find that nature is truly God's healer. Omid, thank you for the sharing of your beautiful heart and the wisdom of Allah. Peace, prayers, hugs, illumination.

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this with us. It is helping me to process what happened and helps me see what needs to happen.

Poem for the nations, by my late friend, Godfrey John, from his book FIVE SEASON: selected poems and essays (1977)

Your people and my people are one
people are
leaves of a single
tree are like
the very young. For everywhere
leaves imply one
leaf idea and where is a child who cannot touch
the many faces of song?

No matter who we are,
no matter which of us
is black or red, yellow white, or brown
I say

What do you long for, friend?
Somewhere deep in all of us there's a song
waiting to be heard. Are you listening?
We thrust from the same roots and
when everything's done
only the deep in us lasts, is real
I mean
what's warmly true
what's quietly strong in you, in me
outgrows the worst and goes on echoing:
the real thing dwarfs
all parody of peace
all sound of harm.


In you, in me
truth's sap runs up; stillness becomes
a clear pool
whose wet strength is on our lips.
Are you surprised that in your child-heart first
leaves break through, wars end . . . ?

Only brotherhood's right.
Only brotherhood's real.

Here, comrade, buddy, chum—give me your hand!
There's no mote in your eye that I can see
your innocence fills my own
with so much light.
I say


Wisely, beautifully said. You've articulated some troubling thoughts that dogged me, as well as the grief. And it's so very true that not only Europe or the US have suffered -- it's everyone, everywhere. I don't believe there is a god, but love, kindness, and unity do exist, no matter what atrocities are perpetrated. I support the spread of light, compassion, and wisdom to all.

Blessings dear one, and thank you for bringing words to what is in my heart, and in my mourning and grief. Love to all my relations in the world, those suffering from violence in mind, body, spirit. May we be a light to one another on this path of healing.

Beauty opens the door for justice.

Thank you so much for your clarity and wisdom. I will be posting and sharing your essay everywhere.

This was beautifully, powerfully said. Thank you for articulating what so many of us are thinking.

Thank you and Blessed Be.

Thank you, Omid. This is what I needed to hear this Sunday morning.

Yes! Please tell me there is a plan for action in this direction.

I so agree with so much of what you have written, and thank you for it. I share your profound feelings of grief on its many levels, permeating your life choices of family, friends, religion, calling to be a teacher.
I cannot, however, agree that we humans do not share the universal values which President Obama mentioned. I , too, am a teacher. Over 35 plus years, my adult students have come from more than 115 counties, have been strong or weak members of major religions, and groups within those faith groups that I have had to do research on to begin to understand. I have a dear, dear friend who is a brilliant man, and an atheist. If we look at children - before they are taught to love or to hate others who are different from themselves - we see, across ALL cultures - that these innocents develop a sense of freedom, of justice, of friendship, of "relatedness" with other children. That is what our Creator has given us - and I think those are human values and universal values.
Reading the comments about Beirut, about Syrian refugees, about Kenya, about the poor of America, the missing across the globe - all the evils that are unfortunately a part of our lives - reading the thoughtful and caring comments, strengthens my belief that we who have universal values WILL prevail, if we so choose. And choose we must, whatever our religious or political position.

Merci ! Merci de tout coeur ! Un texte, une réflexion profonde, inclusive et humaine. Une réflexion qui me redonne espoir en l'Humanité. Il est temps pour nous tous, êtres humains, de reconnaître notre nature profonde et nos racines communes et enfin de préparer, de faire et de vivre la paix ensemble.
Si vis pacem, para pacem.
"If you want peace, prepare peace." - Joseph Rotblat
Merci encore. D'un humaniste à un autre.

Petit Guy Belanger, vous avez lis le reflexion de Dr. safi en Anglais; pourquois repondez vous en Francais? Moi, je comprends un peu, mais je crois qu'il y a beaucoup des gens qui ne comprent pas plus de six mots...

I would like to push it a little further. Your thoughtful text made me remember a moment with my 13 years old daughter last night, she was crying simultaneously because she was sorry for the people dying or hurt in Paris, and because she realized she was more touched by their faith then by that of victims in Beirut or Istanbul.
Victims become aggressors, abused children become abusers, hurt nations strike, unless a process of grieving can take place. But grieving is possible only if one sees oneself and the others as a whole, and not split in good and bad. This is a difficult and painful process, especially after trauma. Therefore love will not come upon us like illumination at the end of the day. We have to do painful inner work for it. On the level of a people, of nations, I wonder what that takes.

Beautiful and thoughtful. Thank you.

Omid, thanks for your light and helping people heal. More light of love.

Too bad you have to spend so much of your energy doing damage control, when you have so many other valuable things to do!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions. You have been able to put into words my thoughts and feelings. What a powerful article.

Thank you so much for your well-written words you share here, Omid! My husband and I are Lutheran Christians who live in Minnesota. We appreciate your perspective and are grateful to hear your thoughts on this issue that our world is facing.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

Thank you so very much for this beautiful and clearly articulated wisdom.

Thank you for sharing these insightful thoughts. Many, many blessings as you continue to touch the lives of students as well as all who read your words.

Have tried connecting with Franklin Graham and educating him on the difference between ISIS and Islam?

I am grateful that a realistic assessment of the actions of terrorists are not incompatible with desires for peace and compassion. I also concur that liberté égalité fraternité are not universal values because they exclude so many; only when compassion for Beirut or Ferguson, US or Africa is as widespread as the tricolores on display now can we begin to speak of universal values. Perhaps, if we are at war, a statement I have heard all too often, may it be a war FOR peace and compassion and not a war solely to destroy ISIS. To repudiate extreme terror and needless mindless killing does not mean we canmot still extend compassion to all humankind. I am not unaware of the US's role in fostering the development of Al Quaeda and ISIS/L/ Daesh. The US's militarism is never far from the surface: calling for peace and compassion has before been considered traitorous : so be it.

Beautifully said and so true. Thank you for your comments.

Beautiful stated. It reflects my feelings exactly.

Omid, thank you from the depths of my heart for your sanity, your clarity, your perspective.

Dear Mr. Safi,
This is a quick note to thank you for this piece. I am a member of a spiritual community here in Idaho, and a group of us take turns helping to lead the service. I had a turn in Jan., just after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. What to say? I needed words more profound than I could muster, and I found your piece and shared it. Coincidentally, it was my turn again today. I read and read and read yesterday, but nothing spoke to me. And you hadn't posted yet. I found myself saying, "Where is Mr. Safi? I need his words." I checked again this morning, and a half hour before departing to share my thoughts at the center, there you were. Your words washed over our congregation, nestled here in the serenity and beauty of the Idaho mountains, but with tear-stained faces. We needed you. I am enormously grateful for your words. Thank you.

This reflection is beautiful, insightful, balanced and SO VERY NEEDED. You have a gift of expressing what so many of us think and can't seem to express. Thank you.

Beautifully written and so true. We need not be afraid of the refugees because they are muslims, but we need to help them because they are humans. We need to recognize that although they may seem different from the outside, our light inside is the same. If we recognize our shared goal - living and letting live in peace - we can join forces in striving to realize it. Then we can stand together as a heard, protecting the weaker of mind among us, and the dangerous sect leaders out there seeking new puppets to carry out their apocalyptic dreams will have no success in finding them.

I enjoyed your thoughtful and compassionate words about this horrible event. And you enlightened me to the hardships of other people in the places of which we don't hear much about (sadly) in American mainstream media. Your call for "love and unity" is noble and admirable, I agree that we should always seek to honor one another and try to respect our differences, celebrating the best of what the multitude of cultures have to offer. Here comes the "but"....I do not agree that "love and unity" will ever change certain humans. You could pour truck-loads of it on them and they will use what they perceive to be your weakness to exploit and harm for their own twisted beliefs. I've dealt with these types of people first-hand (prisons, sociopaths, etc.). It is the clash between what we can imagine idealistically (a beautiful world of love and respect) and what we know in our gut to be real (there are people that just don't care if you and I are murdered) that brings about great hand-wringing on how to solve this "problem." I'll state my view bluntly: If we do not remove those that are willing to murder us, then eventually they will.

Europe is welcomming the Syrian refugiees. And many leading politician, at least in the Netherlands and Germany are supporting, facilitaiting and promotiing the growth of a European non-fundamentalistic Islam. This is the outspoken reaction of the mayer of both Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Keeping close contact with the muslimpopulation and offer them a real perspective in jobs, housing, education is the key for all this. This was the mainstream reaction on Dutch televisies after the Paris-attac of the 13th. Kind regards, Roy

Please accept my deepest thanks for your call for quiet grieving , for listing the places around the world that are suffering, and for reminding us that beauty heals.

No, the answer to ISIS’s violence and hatred cannot be more hatred and more ignorance. We have to transcend this hatred through something more beautiful and loftier: a call for universal love, and a holistic sense of justice.

When has this not been said? After every attack, from anyone on anyone, there are always voices calling for universal love, and a holistic sense of justice. And yet, the violence continues and people die. So, do we continue doing the same and hoping for a different result, which is the definition of insanity, or stupidity?

Sometimes, and I believe this is one of those times, a group is so deeply invested in their own logic and beliefs that they are unreachable, because they believe to shift from their belief is a failure/sin that will bring about a religious/heavenly condemnation that supersedes any outside/mortal's assurance of goodness. ISIS is not the only group who has fallen into this trap, the past and present is littered with with such groups, and they are found in every corner of the world. So no one has a monopoly on evil.

What to do then? Do we reach out in love and hope, while the killings continue? Do we tell those who are wounded and crippled for life that we tried to stop their tormentors but couldn't because they wouldn't listen to us and our impeccable logic and sincerely, heartfelt yearning for peace? Do we tell the mourning families that they will probably lose other members even though we tried to negotiate ISIS out of killing them?

I believe we are called to physical action, and if these perpetrators of evil must be killed--then so be it. Violence is not my first choice, and I don't think engaging in religious or political hatred is necessary, but given the alternatives, violence may be what needs to be done. Just like a policeman uses her pistol to stop a murderer, so must other nations rise up with their forces and stop these murderers for the sake of other lives that stand to be lost or irrevocably ruined.

There are many points in your article that I agree with, Omid, especially as I am one who has seen the selectiveness and uneven application of our nation's political outrage. Yes, our nation has often acted with hypocrisy, but past failures should not stop that nation from taking necessary and present action in the name of an eventual peace. Even a policeman who has stolen something is expected to stop a thief.

Well spoken; thank you for sharing the contents of your head and your heart. Peace be with us all.

Thank you! You have expressed many of my deepest and heartfelt thoughts and convictions. I find refreshing during this time of grief.

Another perspective.

Amen. I thank you for enlightening me.

It is so easy to want to simplify this insanity by creating the divisiveness you speak of in our language and thoughts. The sad reality is there has always been fringe groups who set the tone of anger and cruelty but they do not reflect the true nature of mankind. We truly must hold tight to our values including faith that we can defeat evil by coming together as a force united, not divided.

The poem is absolutely the Earth today. Each person is diminished by the death or hate of another. God bless us, enlarge our love, keep His hand on us and from evil to stop the pain.

Thank you so much for your reflections. I respect and value your thoughts and words very much. Peace to you.

I to could not watch or listen to the media. I too hurt for the children and women and innocent people of Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Syria...the list can go on and on. My lump in my throat, tears running down my face confused as to why only the such matter. You have eloquently expressed everything I feel in such a wise, calm and factual way. My hope has been returned. May Almighty God bless you and your family. Thank you for doing this, I feel the love so strong. I will share. Hugs!!!

Lovely words and thoughts

so thoughtfully expressed. thank you.

"The Europeans never intended for the values of the Enlightenment to be applied to the whole of humanity." No, this is wrong. The Enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century and their followers claimed they were talking for the whole of humanity. And in France some tried to apply it in the empire :
- in 1794, the French deputies abolished slavery in the colonies (restored by Bonaparte in 1802, causing Haiti's Revolution)
- during the 19th century, many French justified the colonization by the values of the Enlightenment "bringing the light" to the poor people living in the darkness of their uncivilized culture. Basic racism, but sincere belief in the values of the Enlightenment to be applied to the whole of humanity. And so enduring today in the West.
But indeed, in the end the Revolutionaries applied those values just for themselves.

So the issue is not about the universalist aim of the European Enlightenment. It is : are we Europeans (and Western people) right to believe that it is the unique modele for the happiness of the Human Being ?

How beautiful and thoughtful, Omid. Thank you for providing another way to think about this tragedy.

This is it,
the truth through the midst of tragedy. Truth that reminds us that we are all as one and all are one. It's time the world wakes up to the suffering of all humans, Tibet is another that is not seen. We need to bring the light to all humans for we are all equal beings of the Earth. No one greater than the next. Thank you for bringing forth the light and acknowledging the need for grief for all.

While I applaud the need to grieve the author damns with faint praise.

Why not come out against Islam or any other backward set of beliefs?

Regarding "universal values", I agree with Rosemary below. They were intended that way in the late 1700s. This caused real moral tension within western societies over both slavery and colonialism. That there is still an immoral layer of northern dealings in southern lands does not affect this reality of intent, which is perceived as a source of tension by many not just the likes of Boko Haram. Of course one can select some of the "universal values" apart from others---education for instance. Others such as equal status of women "evolved" from the original statements of the values. That these last two are cited in the same breath as the grievances over northern military treatment is why leaders like Obama press for engagement on them.

Thank you so much. We must never stop opposing racism. A divided humanity is a suffering humanity.

So eloquent. Thanks for this amazing, thought-provoking essay. I feel the same regarding the quiet time to sit and grieve.

While the world is plagued with violence, the U.S. Is plagued with ignorance. The only thing that will save us is tolerance and tolerance can only be achieved through understanding and understanding can only be achieved through education. I'm embarrassed by our ignorance.

It is a blessing to hear a word of truth from someone. The pounding of the news cycle doesn't open my heart to compassion. This reflection does. Thank you.

One big problem is that large parts of the Muslim world support Hamas, Hizbulla, Boko Haram, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, the PFLP and the Muslim Brotherhood, and consider them all not to be terrorists, while the Western world has no doubt - they're all terrorists and Islamic extremists.

From the perspective of the Western world, if you support terrorists, then you support terrorists. That includes ISIS and all the others mentioned above.

Muslims can try to create distance between themselves and ISIS, but as long as they broadly support other terrorists, their attempts will have reason to fail.

When will you people get real. We are at war-extreme terrorists want to destroy America. No, war is not pleasant. But war between good and evil has existed from the beginning of time. It will exist until the end of time. ISIS compared to KKK exhibits both your ignorance of this great country and your liberal bias.

Dr. Safi wins the argument by dismissing any who disagree with him as un-serious. This in itself is not serious scholarship. If your arguments stand to scrutiny there is no need to dismiss dissent at the outset. Anyone who reads the Qu'ran and the Hadith and studies the history of Islam knows that chauvinistic and bloody conquest is not only approved they are commanded. Further, you know that they are commanded as central duties of the faithful. If you are not Muslim then the prophet, the book, the Hadith, and the history, all command your subjugation or your death. Anyone who says otherwise either has not studied these things or is incapable of modifying their bias.

My heart and being bows to you, dear Omid. Thank you for the wisdom and soothing balm that your words bring. I offer words I received from Fr. Richard Rohr's daily meditation: "In our culture we are often too busy to truly lament and allow ourselves to experience grief for the suffering in our world. In our rush to fix problems, we neglect to give space and time for our wounds to teach us. Tears and rituals can help us process our subconscious, unnameable feelings." He offered two practices from Joanna Macy to help us process this grief at

This is wonderful. I will share this. What you have said is part of the Muslim world speaking out. There is also a good article on ISIS in The Atlantic, which you have probably already seen. It points out that while the group is of Islamic background, it is NOT Islam. They make a similar comparison to yours of ISIS/Islam and the KKK/Christianity. ISIS, it says, is like David Korech's or Jim Jones's groups were to Christianity. Thank you!

Thank you for this beautifully written article. I really appreciate you speaking your thoughts!

Thank you Omid for the Enlightenment!

As usual Omid, you have named important truths that we all need to take into account. You have wonderfully named the tensions and the truths about how too many people respond to such horrors selectively and that, by doing so, they prove themselves to be more a part of the problem than the solution.

In this beginning of this greater awareness driving us to consolation between God and ourselves, be aware, we are not in "the end of days" as ISIS would so willfully correograph. May they also find that through this inner closeness, it is available to all humanity. One only needs take the time for gratitude in all of it's forgiveness and love, personally.

God bless you from the depth of my heart.

i accompany you in your grief,,,,i accompany everyone from every country who have had terrible things happen to them,,,the french are not more important than other country's terrorist attacks,,it is just so hard to keep up with the news, i only knew about france because i saw it on facebook,,,,,,every life is important whether human , animal , or the planet,,,,god created life only god has the right to take it away,,,,no human has the right to inflict pain or punishment

Thank you for this wise inner expression of grief and reflection

Yes, I too hurt with the deep grief of all humanity and the grief of all nature destroyed and for what incomprehensible, patriarchal purpose, I ask?? It doesn't make sense to judge and destroy each other and our beautiful earth that nurtures and feeds us. We are all one, and our environment sustains our Oneness.
Somehow our leaders and those of ISIS cannot see that to destroy one part of humanity and/or nature we destroy all life force. We are all interlocked together and need to work together, not just to attempt to save our self, but Life itself, all life.
Let us open our hearts to true compassion and Love for all Life. Let the coming gathering of leaders see the bigger picture for both Peace for all humans and environment and not loose sight for what originally was to be considered. One cannot survive without the other. ...as humans, we have been given the gift of consciousness, let us use it with wisdom, caring and connective love for all..."we are the eyes of the earth and the voice of the earth"(Joseph Campbell)

With respect, to delicately and politely disconnect ISIS from its deeply religious core and analogize it with the KKK (though both are clearly abhorrent) misses the mark. Your message of love and healing is profoundly virtuous, but it is a disservice to reality when thoughtful, open-minded people don't call something what it is: ISIS is precisely a radical Islamic organization. That it has distorted its text to serve barbaric means doesn't absolve it of it theological lifeblood.
I offer this eye-opening article for those interested:

Once again though, you are just assuming, like most Americans, that just because ISIS claims to be religious, that the Islamic faith has to do with the violence. The author here did not "absolve it of theological lifeblood," he's trying to make the claim that there are wild extremists here that have obliterated the true message of the religion, thus not being representative of it.

It is always to the light that we must look in order to survive our grief. My soul cries out for every life cut short through violence . . . not just in Paris, but everywhere in the world. Until the world acknowledges that all life matters, we will never have peace. It is time to hear the call and join together to find a way to reach that goal.

Yes, I too grieve for the whole world and all people as well as our beautiful earth that we seem so intent on destroying along with our selves.
Where is our consciousness of what we are doing to all life on earth? And where is the consciousness of those who wish for dominance over another; that patriarchal belief of superiority over others and nature?
How can we influence our leaders that both Peace and Environment go hand in hand, one cannot survive without the other. We are One Earth together, Human and Being, matter and energy and in need to shared Love and Compassion for all people and all living things. Destroy one we eventually destroy all, including our-self, as we are One! As humans we have been given the gift of consciousness..."we are the earth, we are the eyes of the earth and the voice of the earth". (Joseph Campbell)...let us own each our own shadow of destruction and not project it onto another...let us find an open heart that can heal and support all life. Let us find courage not to retaliate in reactivity...let us find wisdom! Thank you, Omid for your sharing, the space of connection.

Thank you for sharing what I believe is Gods will for me, to bring light and be an agent of healing , ever so needed today.

A deeply thoughtful commentary, reminding us there is a time to mourn before we try to seek answers to such difficult questions. I especially found comfort in the author talking a leisurely walk with his kids, his honesty that he doesn't have answers on how to defeat or deal with ISIS, and the lovely poem, "There is grief in the city of light, and in so many cities of light." And yes, let us indeed welcome light into our own hearts so we may be agenda of healing, however we feel called to do so.

Beautifully stated. Thank you!

Thank you for your excellent thoughts and reflections. Your article was sent to me and the other members of our book club by a friend.

Thank you so much for this! Will share with friends.

Besutifully expressed

Deep gratitude for sharing your insights and weaving together offerings for practical actions. Your invitation to stand in grief and whole-heartedness in a time when feeling the pain of the world can be clouded by the body's need to act and the mind's need to run away. You are a model for sharing a tender way of staying present with pain and beauty in your own home, networks and in the world.

Thank you for this clear, love filled message. You bring light to my heart with your words.
As an African American, woman and lesbian I recognize the need for a deeper understanding, fascination and curiosity about each other. You inspire me to love better today.

Thank you for this. Somehow you found a way to capture all the loose thoughts I've been having for the last few weeks and have expressed them in a way that gives me a tiny glimpse of hope. I don't even feel that hope yet, but I can see a small ray of it glimmering on humanity's horizon.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Thank you for this most beautiful and thoughtful essay. Completely captures my thoughts and feelings over the past days of sadnes.

Thank you Omid for speaking out...I have been waiting for an explanation from our Maslum friends in the US .
Who..How...Why...What ?. I agree. Love , Diplomacy , rather than bombs , yet I wonder ?
Your mention of the KKK reminded of me.!

Good article.

Thank you. For the heart and thank you for the eloquent words that express it so well.

I see your pain and feeling mine does not blind me to yours. When my pain does for a moment blind me to your pain - and it does on occasion - please see my pain and sit patiently while I re-calibrate my heart and my values. Pain, initially, does not bring out the best in us but experienced, embraced, accepted, and worked, pain gives us the opportunity to emerge better and more humane than we were.

Thank you for holding the heart of humanity and invoking wholeness not more splitting. I feel this truth and find willingness to bear more Reality with your support. This is the complexity of being human and any oversimplification leads to more and more suffering that harms not heals. Thank you

Thank you Omid for offering your thoughts. Your clear voice & open heart is a welcome beacon of light during these dark years of violence.

Your quote: "ISIS is as Muslim as KKK is Christian" puts your thoughts succinctly and powerfully. The masked faces of both groups remind us of their cowardice, the black of the one and the white of the other of their ignorance . Yes, there are essential human values - those the President of the US invokes - and the violence of our collective human past, as Steven Pinker so ably demonstrates, need not be the stuff of our future if we take the high road to peaceful coexistence. Where greed gives way to compassion, where poverty and wealth meld into opportunity, health and well being. Can you imagine a world where the tree lined streets of comfortable North America have no dark side of inner city poverty or poverty on the reserves of indigenous people? Shame on the likes of Donald Trump and those who support him. Let quiet grief translate into quiet action - let the contemplative walk in the woods anchor thought in reason and a higher goal than the annihilation of our enemies . As Winston Chuchill could see beyond the bombings to a Europe - and a Germany - rebuilt. Let us remember that Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were all repeatedly beaten as children ... violence begets violence. We stumble on, as a race, uphill over craggy and arid terrain, towards the safety of peaceful coexistence , where self hatred in the guise of intolerance of others, where poverty , ignorance and want, are relegated to our collective human history.

Dear Omid Safi,
I knew you would share your thoughts early Sunday,I just opened my apple now,and I thank you from deep within my heart
for your wisdom.
I also could only sit with my grief.
I give thanks for you in our world,you are a brightly shining light for us all.

Thank you! At our church, we are reading Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow ... and what you say about "universal values" is resoundingly reinforced in the US treatment of people of color. We must work towards being "agents of healing". Thank you again

Thank you. Your thoughts are healing and soothe the pain bringing positive expressions of love and care. Thank you.

Overall a well intentioned essay, however, Richard Dawkins would troll any religion, and since the Pope and many other religious leaders made statements to their followers I don't see why Muslim leaders would not. Of course Muslims should not be required to condemn events by law or out of fear, however, when people are scared or hurt is generally when religious leaders/organizations speak up.

Since you speak so eloquently about compassion you must also understand it is short supply. If someone feels a connection to Paris or France they should be free to express solidarity and empathy without having anyone insinuate they are racist or myopic. It is unfortunate there are tragedies other places and its clear there have been more deaths in Iraq than Paris. However, when people deeply feel compassion, empathy, or solidarity that is intrinsically good for humanity. This essay started of strong when it addressed "your tragedy and my tragedy", but then devolved into commentary on "why Paris and not Beirut?".

And finally I don't understand what you mean by "I don't understand what that means" in reference to "Universal Values". President Obama didn't even say "western values" so its a long leap to the Enlightenment and dead white men. Its impossible to conclude that the President, during a statement to our allies after an unprecedented indecent, took a racially discriminatory tone. Were Native Americans treated terribly? Very much yes, however, what does that have to do with the presidents reaction to a terrorist attack? I guess victims have victimization in common but the events and ideas which create victims are not always linked. Especially when there are generations and continents between them.

Its great there are people out there seeing the big picture who care about every tragedy. But my fear is commentary like this about 11/13 will make newly engaged empathetic people indifferent. Being told you're not good at something is disengaging. If someone wants to express solidarity and is then told "well what about Beirut" then "and also slaves, Native Americans, the Watts riots, and the gender pay gap" they will be hesitant to be empathetic in the future. When someone expresses empathy with humanity during a tragedy please don't judge their lack condolences for a different tragedy.

Thank you for this beautiful reflection of wisdom and light----this reminds me to guard my own heart against the anger I feel when these terrible acts happen. To reach for beauty, light and wisdom----to be the solution, not perpetuate the problem.

Thank you. Praying for light...

Your reflections are what I (we all) need to hear today ... and tomorrow ... and from now on.
Thank you, thank you!

Hello Doctor,
Thank you for expressing your love of non-violence as a solution to humanity's suffering. Ghandi and Martin Luther King.
How would nonviolence save human catastrophe in Syria? The same question applies to all inhuman conditions all over our planet.
How many people age 1 to 5 die every day in 2015. Non-violence will not solve world hunger. If only we could just stop what we are doing and human love would fill all humanity with food, comfort, and content.
I can understand your frustration with the situation of non-violent Muslims having to continually state that terrorists do not reppresent all Muslims. However I feel the article is insufficient in content as well as not addressing our human condition.
And so I would like to pressent some simple questions.
Is a human a human if he does not know God? In other words are you a human first then a Muslim or Christian or is it the other way around?
Is it possible to elevate humanity without solving hunger and injustice first?
If you had the opportunity to solve hunger and injustice which would you choose to give the priority?

Thank you for your thoughts. I share your awareness of the western tendency to limit caring to selected "good" humans. I differ from you in one respect. I do not believe that humans owe it to anyone to adopt common ethical limits on behavior. Tribes of people have chosen to control tribal behavior through the use of techniques branded as "brutal" by western philosophy. This is their world, and I object to the west waging war on people based on that ethical basis. I fail to see why the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate is any business of the western world. I accept that a primitive premise exists, set by choices dating back fifteen hundred years, that as Christendom (including Judeo-Christians) and Islam seek to both rule Jerusalem, whoever maintains Kingship today will be attacked by the other. Those of us in the present moment probably think Israel has always existed and is part of the basis for our worldview, however the time since the founding of the Judeo-Christian rule over that area is not completely different from the periods of rule in the middle ages. No ceasing of Jihadi energy was seen in the 90 years between the 1095 taking of Jeruselum, and the Jihadi battles that returned the city to Islamic rule in 1187. I see the world events as still controlled by that basic sense of mission.

Geo W Bush used the term's "crusade" in describing his interest in destroying Al-Quida. This got me thinking, and studying. And I've come away with a stong belief that we're in the middle of a future history lesson that will distill events like we see daily into the most recent battle for the Levant.

Its time for the western world to alter its stance. We need to decry our tendency to meddle and allow Islam to permanently occupy the Levant. Why? Because the western world has everything to gain, and only oil to lose. Its past time to turn away from oil as the economic basis, and taking the 1500 year old pea out from under the mattress would let the world finally sleep well.

Thank you for writing this article. Knowing that there are people like you one knows that despite these horrors there is hope for this world. Again, thank you.

This is a moving and very thoughtful piece of reflective writing .

An alien from another planet comes to visit our earth and studies the known life of Mohammed and the growth of Islam and ponders it .
The alien then studies the life of Jesus Christ and the growth of Christianity and ponders it .
I wonder which one he would choose to follow if he had to chose ?

My other little thought is : do we pray for the terrorists and their departed souls and their families left behind with as much passion as we do so devoutly for the victims ?

So grateful for your reflection and the sharing of your process. Many of the responses herein demonstrate the hunger among many non-Muslims for a vision of wholeness across the diversities of humankind. It is difficult for white American Christians, secular humanists, others -- no matter how good-hearted and open we may be -- to provide this witness. We usually lack historical perspective, relevant personal experience, and knowledge of Muslim perspectives. Yet when a personal, inclusive vision such as this is offered, it touches hearts and minds, and empowers us to be Light-bearers and to stand w/ Muslims and Islam against the ignorance and arrogance that is an unfortunate part of our particular legacy. A soulful thank-you, Omid.

Thank you, Paul, for shortening and helping clear the long path from our heads to our hearts. Seems heart opening is more essential than ever. Your words are balm but wise.

Thank you for the rich words that have fallen from your page. Thank you for your perspective in a time of shortened views. Thank you for the light you share in a darkened time. If only more people had a heart such as yours. Blessed be.

The post states, "If we are to get there, we have to remain fully human," and "I would love for compassion, dignity, and the sanctity of each and every human life to be a universal human value." It also exhorts to "avoid the trap of divisiveness." Amen.

Fine sentiments all, and there seems to be near universal agreement in the comments. Please tell us then, why the apparent disparagement of Enlightenment values? What about les doits de l'homme--the rights of mankind? More light! Yes, and Paris and the European Enlightenment brought us a vision that shouldn't be discarded, but amplified. What would you replace the Enlightenment with--postmodernism, just because human beings have not achieved perfect implementation? Transhumanism? Parochial religious world views? It's a live question that I hope you will consider answering. One must distinguish between the ideals, the Enlightenment vision itself, without confusing it's shimmering possibility and the realities of its multifaceted, complex, evolving and imperfect implementation. Let's come together in shared humanity, but also give due respect to the Enlightenment vision that allows our freedom on expression and acknowledges our common human value. Not perfect. Fully human, as you say. Humans are flawed. Doits de l'homme, non doits de l'ange. Human rights are not for the angels.

Terrorism has no religion

Thank you so much for this reflection. Besides the political analysis, I truly appreciate that you began with a call to stop and mourn.

I find it hard to believe that everyone that has posted on this site agrees with you. To equate what happen in Paris to what happens within Moslem countries is not logical. It is not the same dynamic nor the same cause. All atrocities are atrocities but to try to state that they are equivalent in the manner that you have is not correct. Why do you try to draw attention away from this tragedy to your own specific concerns instead of merely honoring their grief?

Dear Omid - you have brought tears to my eyes and you spoke the truth - we are all hurting. Terrorist attacks are nothing new to Germans either. We had our share in the 70s and early 80s. The Irish and English had their RAF. Regardless of religion, nationality - WE ALL hurt and instead of drifting apart we all should get closer and take care of our neighbors and brothers/sisters in pain. Thank you for the article, I will repost.

Oh, how beautiful and wise, thank you. I love your writing, and found this to be so true, and also healing.

I am curious to know your thoughts on the Atlantic article.

Thank you for sharing your very important thoughts and suggestions. Your insight is greatly needed. I and others have been involved in Interfaith Dialogue for several years. I will share this article with several others. Thank you!

This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for putting in a very articulate way the yearnings that my heart has been feeling for the last several days. Thank you, my brother.

Thank you for your thoughts. They are beautiful....

A beautiful, thoughtful essay that expresses so much of what I've been thinking as I see people start to pile it on Islam as if these terrorists represented all there was to a particular faith. Terrorists are terrorists. My heart aches for those Muslims, especially the youngest ones, who will get picked on in the days, weeks to come because of the actions of the terrorists. I heard so many stories from Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim youth during reporting for my book, Faith Ed. They talked of being teased after news broke about a 'Muslim' terrorist. Thank you for your wise and sonorous words.

This is beautifully written. It brought a sense of healing to my mind and heart.

al-hamdu lillah li Omid Safi! -- Thank God for Omid Safi! You are reflecting the heart of the faiths and the broken heart of the God of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The prophets all knew this and called us to a similar repentance. Thank you for your words. Beirut was once called the Paris of the Middle East. Surely, there is unity in their suffering. Let us find the courage to walk the paths of peace.

Thank you for this eloquent, beautiful , hopeful piece

The most beautiful piece I have read on these tragedies, and the most comforting. I am not sure of God, but bless you.

So beautifully written. Your words clearly and sanely ring out into what has become a sea of deafening and insane rhetoric of hate. Thank you.

Thank you. Beautifully expressed.

Interesting that you ask your readers and our leaders not to "collapse"ISIS with Islam, then you proceed to collapse 19th Century European colonialism with the values of modern Europeans and the values of those actually interested in Enlightenment. You article treats us (Europeans) as the other as surely as Muslims are treated as "the other" by some Europeans. You're going to have to choose if you are willing to practice what you ask of others or if you will continue the path of so many who believe that it is always the other who is the problem.

May this brilliant, compassionate and truthful article be spread far and wide, to all politicians and lawmakers in the world, but perhaps to American politicians in particular. Already in the state of NH Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan, for whom I campaigned and voted, is the first Democratic governor to call for a complete halt of Syrian refugees coming to the US. She's running for senator in the upcoming elections. What a sadly precipitous political move. There will be more. Would that this powerful article make a difference to everybody in political power, which also means everybody who has more money than they know what to do with...Thank you, Omid. Peace.

Thank you for putting words together in a way that connects the dots of grief, pain, fear, responsibility, ownership, love, grace and hope.... into a universal picture. Your message reflects the truth into which we all are called to live. Our choice is love or fear... there is no other.

I read this with every word aching and seeping its way into my heart. This could not be any more true.


Dr. Safi - thank you for your writing. Your words brought me comfort in this time of grief.

I came looking, tonight, for a salve. I felt beaten, saddened beyond belief as the days pass and France has now retaliated with such force. I have no one in my immediate world who understands this 'other side' .

I found what I was looking for in your words and your kindred soul.....namaste Omid.

Thank you Omid, for writing so clearly what we all know in our hearts, but often fail to trust. That violence does not cure violence, and only Love recognizes Love. And thank you so much for sharing the amazing Warsan Shire poem. I had not heard of her, and now I have looked her up and discovered her powerful poem 'Home' about why people become refugees. Here is the link:

I agree totally with your eloquently written piece.

It's difficult to find any sensible comments on the Paris events.
I'm struggling to find my own words. Thank you for yours.
Thank you also for alerting me to the poet, Warsan Shire :

... later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

I understand you have students. I hope you don't mind if I draw your attention to a rare book about remniscence of an unusual Sufi teacher I co-edited:

Incredibly wise. Thank you. Amidst the noise of hatred and fear, comes the whisper of love and humanity. I hope the whispers grow loud and booming.

Thank you for your beautiful reflection.

Thank you, amen.

I love your comments and so agree. The disafected youth in europe need to be brought into the mainstream living their values and freedom to do that without racism. Together they can help us learn how we can be open, listen, and ask - help me understand your pain.

Thank you. Yours is a voice of sanity among all the craziness going on. You are right, people are speaking out of their grief, before taking time to reflect and listen to their inner voice. May your kind and thoughtful words teach us how to perceive the hurt in the world through a more loving lens.

One of the more thoughtful reflections on yet another tragedy and inability of those in charge and the media to take a moment of respect. Your comparison of the link of ISIS to Muslim is as KKK to Christian is a stroke of clarity that not many have yet made, and would likely slow down some of the political talking heads and crazy talk. Poetry (all the arts), and ultimately love, allow us the power to reflect, heal, and respect our grief, as you have done so well. Thank you!

You are so right, only love and compassion can heal and make for true change. Thank you once again for speaking what I and many other Christians feel.

Thank you for going to the silent grieving place so you could find this wisdom to share.

As you did Omid, I turned to prayer, but in French, my second language. Paris, France, was my home for the third year of all my university studies, in French, while absorbing the culture, befriending the people, living with a French family. On Saturday, France24 gave me all the live feed I needed. Of course "pious Muslims...find acts of violence morally repugnant." I've heard this often from Syrian musician/composer Malek Jandali who is one of my Muslim heroes. One way to overcome ISIS is to open our hearts and arms lovingly to all the Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. Unfortunately, too often, they are drowning at sea, never to view the light of any city, in any foreign land. LOVE is the only response our poor world needs now.

Omid, in my mother language it means Hope. You did give me the hope and desire to share the light of my heart with the the hearts of all human in order to disappoint the enemies of love, coexistence, peace and harmony.

During times when I feel utterly hopeless at the state of the world you remind me that retrieving the love I have within my heart for humanity is not to be overlooked. It is this love that has the power to heal. And true love has no bounds- racial, national, or otherwise. Thank you for allowing me the time to grieve through your powerful words.

Professor Safi says:

> I don’t know how many times we have to keep saying that acts of violence on civilians can never be justified, no matter who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.

Five civilians were murdered yesterday in Israel in attacks by Palestinian terrorists.

Will Professor Safi condemn Palestinian terrorists too? He hasn't in the past, instead choosing to be an apologist for the terrorist organization Hamas.

An 18-year-old American student - Ezra Schwartz, a Sharon Massachusetts native - was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a drive-by shooting and car ramming. The terrorist also murdered a 51-year old rabbi (a respected teacher at a local Jewish school and father of four), and a Palestinian Arab man standing nearby. Another five people were injured.

Schwartz was volunteering with classmates when he was gunned down by the terrorist who opened fire from his vehicle. Schwartz had just celebrated his 18th birthday in October. Five other volunteers from his school were also shot but not seriously injured.

The terrorist was arrested.

Earlier today, another Palestinian terrorist stabbed three Israeli civilians on a street in Tel Aviv, killing two of them. He was arrested.

The terrorist's mother later told Hamas television: "My son is a source of pride for Hebron and Palestine."

Thank you for sharing what I have been feeling about mourning needed before lashing out or striking back.

thank you for this. your words help me move forward.

We cannot stop the war and violence with more war and violence. As Omid Safi has stated, it must be through the light of our hearts; and we must use strategic means not violent means to address our global conflicts. We must be the change we want to see . . .

"We cannot curse our way out of this darkness. This fragile and broken world needs more light, more light."

Thank you for this thoughtful and kind piece once again. The study of international politics - or at least what I learned at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins SAIS - can never be the entire solution to any "political problem".

There is no violence towards the other, without violence towards the self.

And that means accepting radical personal responsibility for personal healing and transformation must come, if not before, then certainly alongside with any attempted political solutions offered.

It's not about what "they" need to do. It is about what "we" and, even more radically, "I" need to do to be part of the solution to what ails our world.

First we go inward, find our own grief, pain, sadness, anger, hate, self-condemnation and, courageously, endeavor to release it - exactly as you bravely described with your time of pause. Then we bring our light into the world.

Thank you Omid for reminding us that light is the only thing that can ever overcome darkness.

That light within each of us, and that which subsequently manifests in the outside world.

Firmly, continuously educating our children about the major religions of the world--their unique and their similar parts-- is one intrinsic thread of a multi-dimensional evolutionary quilt for humanity.

Thank you and Bless you for the wisest reflections I have ever read about the pain caused by both violence and some folks' Western selective indifference to pain that is not 'white'. Yours are the reflections my heart has been seeking. Perhaps because I grew up in a poor inner-city multi race and multi religion neighborhood, I grew up knowing that pain and sorrow came in all colors. Years ago, when I managed a customer service unit, my heart hurt when I heard that our country had started to bomb Iraq. I came out of my cubicle to let my team know this, and I was amazed when my white team members cheered ! and only my black and brown team members felt sad. This week, I attended a beautiful Thanksgiving Celebration, the 11th Annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Celebration that was started by Rabbi Steven Lebow of Temple Kol Emeth and his good friend Monsignor Patrick Bishop (now retired) of Transfiguration Catholic Church. The theme was 'Teach Your Children Well About Other Religions', and as always, we had speakers and musicians from the Baha'i, Muslim, Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, Church of Christ, Sikh, Episcopal, Unity, Missionary Baptist, Catholic and Jewish communities. My spirit was lifted that night and has been lifted even more by your reflections. I will send a note to each community, highlighting the link to your reflections and hope hundreds and thousands more will reflect upon and discuss your comments. I wish they could be on the required reading lists at all churches and schools. Thank you.

I'm always so grateful for your insights. They are unfailingly compassionate, powerful and wise. Thank you.

Love-itself be graced to every eye reading your words Omin; your '''candle-light''' shines for others to follow. Thank you!!!

I thought of you when I read this, Erika so thought I would share it.
Warm wishes

Until Always.

Right on. You say what I think.
It hurts that so many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances don't understand this. I'd like to cut them off, ignore them - but that is the opposite of helpful. So I keep sharing articles and reflections like this one, praying that something will get through.

Yes Monica, one of the best and beautiful articles on the tragedy. Much compassion and care - to remind us that is how we must learn to be. Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your mind. A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves 1,000 moments of regret.

Lots of information out there.
Ignoring the cause is immoral.
The cause is religious fanaticism.
One religion in particular.
I think everyone knows exactly which religion that is.
It is the one that has nothing to do with peace. Despite of their claims of the very opposite.
Honor the victims by identifying the cause and eliminate it.

Your powerful column began with an excerpt from the Shire poem with its sad truth about the extent of harm in the world. I was touched to tears by its use of the words, "where does it hurt," that a helper, such as a doctor or parent, asks a patient or child.
You ended with a prayer reminescent of the sweet song of children's choirs, "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and let it begin with me. Between these tender passages was a terrific essay of forthrightness and wisdom. Thank you for making me realize I must broaden and diversify my sources of news. I'm planning to send a link to this page to others who will value your words.

This is so beautiful. Thank you.

Does Professor Safi find this acceptable? Here's a clip from one of Hamas' (Al Aqsa TV) childrens programs, where they teach small children that it's good to kill all Jews.

Thank You Safi Sahib! Lovely addition. it is a true reflection of a moderate muslim. We are proud of you being a an Afghan.

Thank you so much for this very enlightening article. ....I have so needed this to help me..help those who are so scared of a Muslim. ....I will be following you ...God bless...us ALL...

Thank you for your thoughts, especially regarding the thought that all lives matter. I also have turned to reading more poetry and listening to classical music lately, was curious why and you have very likely shed some light onto the matter of grief being the reason for this.

Thank you Omid, for your understanding of what some of us have to go through. I am one of the children of the French colonies in North Africa living now near Paris. I was born in Algeria, while my dad worked to rebuild France after the Second World War. Incidentally, my dad was a soldier during that same war along with many other Muslims who where denied French citizenship but where good enough to die protecting the French flag and fighting the Nazis.
More then one million people died during Algeria's war for independence, between 1954 and 1962.
200 000 more died in the nineties, victims of terrorism at the hands of the GIA, an organization that came about before al-Qaeda did. Algeria paid a heavy price against terror, like many other Muslim countries.
Muslims who live in France take a blow every time terror kills in the name of their religion. They have to explain to their children, French citizen like those who died in Paris, not to be ashamed of their religion or of their Muslim sounding names. They have to teach them the Marseillaise and teach them the challenge of living the values of equality and fraternity that are part of the values of France.
Of course, there were Muslims sitting in the concert hall, or at the terrace of the cafés. Isis bombs don’t discriminate; they kill regardless of the colour of the skin.

Beautiful....and sane...Thank you!

Merci. Shokran. Thank you...

Beautiful. Tears.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for your words of calm, peace and love. I feel as if I am letting my heart close because this killing never seems to stop and saying "sorry for your loss" seems so meaningless and too easy as we move on to the next and next and next shooting. You give me reason to not let this happen and to have hope in a future we can create together.

I went to your lecture at ERUF this week and heard someone say that your response here was the best they had read after the Paris attacks. So I found it and read it today. I will agree with the person who lead me here. I also want to thank you for the beautiful model you give of sitting with sorrow before reacting. So often our reaction to sorrow and grief is to "Do" instead of "Be" as if doing will eliminate the pain of grief when the "Being" is what is necessary in order for the "Doing" to come round right. Thank you!