It has now been over a week since seven coordinated terror attacks killed 130 people in Paris, leaving a nation in shock and reflection. The attacks, claimed by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), were the deadliest in France since World War II.
The attacks began close to the Stade de France, where a large crowd was watching an international soccer match between France and Germany. Explosions began there and continued on to the Right Bank area of central Paris, where people were gunned down while eating in area restaurants and bars.
The most deadly of the seven attacks happened at the Bataclan concert venue in Boulevard Voltaire, where a U.S. band, Eagles of Death Metal, was performing. Witnesses said the attackers stormed the hall, firing into the crowd of 1,500 concert attendees. Officials have said 89 people lost their lives from the gunmen who wielded AK-47s and wore vests strapped with bombs.
Since these attacks, French authorities say police have conducted over 793 raids, detaining 90 people and seizing weapons, continuing what President Francois Hollande vowed to be a “merciless” war against the terror group.
Local reaction in the aftermath of the attacks
Even though the attacks happened across the world, their effects are felt here at home.
Shamso Iman is a Muslim student studying community psychology at St. Cloud State, and she says the Paris attacks have only added to the tensions and misconceptions people have towards people of the Islamic faith.
“I was scared, I was mad, I was frustrated,” Iman said when she heard about the Paris attacks. “My guard was up and I knew that they were going to say it’s Muslim terrorists – I knew that was all coming, and I knew there was going to be backlash from it. I was preparing myself for how I am going to deal with it, what I’m going to do.”
Iman wants to get the word out that not all Muslim people are terrorists, as only a small percentage are.
“If you actually believe in the Islam religion, you don’t kill innocent lives. You don’t kill people. You’re supposed to love and stand against oppression; that is what the religion encourages,” said Iman.
Iman says she doesn’t know a single person who supports ISIS, whether they are Muslim or not. She said ISIS is to blame for the misconceptions and fear people have towards Somali people.
“I cannot stand ISIS for the life of me. They are to blame for the things I have to experience. Being flipped off at the red light, somebody yelling that I’m a terrorist,” said Iman. “This is home for me, I grew up here, and this is all I know. For me to hear those things makes me so sad.”
She said it’s the actions of people’s misconceptions combined with media action that make her feel unsafe within the community.
“I don’t like the media because they go up there and say ‘Muslim terrorists.’ They are two different things,” she said. “The terrorists doing it have their own agenda outside of being Muslim. People doing that are hungry for power, they have their own motivation for what they are doing.”
“ISIS kills more Muslims than anything, that’s what people don’t understand,” Iman said. “They kill more innocent children, women and men that are Muslim. ISIS is not Islam. They are two different things. Any religion should not be attacked due to a person’s actions.”
Iman and others hope to clear away people’s misunderstandings and come together in the aftermath of the attacks.
Shahzad Ahmad is the director for the Multicultural Student Services and overseas the Center for International Studies at St. Cloud State. He said the attacks on Paris were “horrific,” but he hopes that everyone can come together in light of the incident.
“Anytime there is an incident like this, it allows people to make opinions and perceptions based on limited information,” Ahmad said. “I think it creates an opportunity for us to have a dialogue; it creates an opportunity for us to educate one another and come together to condemn events like that where there is a loss of human life.”
With over 1,200 international students, Ahmad says St. Cloud State is a very connected university and community, and that helps people come together to stand up and support one another and make a difference in society.
“I think the Paris attacks are a reminder of how connected we are and how it impacts all of us. It reminds us to continue to have dialogue to resolve difficult issues and have difficult conversations so that we can work towards building a community, building an environment where people are free to discuss and support one another. In any acts of violence we need to stand together and condemn them,” Ahmad said.
Altogether, Iman says she wishes people could feel safe within their communities and not feel threatened or unsafe due to other people’s actions.
She said, “I wish that racism didn’t exist, I wish oppression didn’t exist. Because if it didn’t we wouldn’t have to go through what we are going through. I wouldn’t have to be worrying about my safety or neighbor safety or any student of color’s safety.”
“Loss of innocent lives or anytime there’s been an attack in which lives are lost, it is wrong. It is against all people, color and unity and love respect for one another,” said Ahmad.