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October 2017
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Praying for Paris is wrong and here’s why

When it comes to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the call for prayer on social media platforms is irritating. Although it is always maintained, the Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with religion, one must realize that the opposite is the case. Islamism has in fact to do with Islam: The jihadists claim that they follow a literal interpretation of the Koran in their ideology. But in the same way it is wrong to demonize individual Muslims, it is wrong to think, the terror can be stopped by praying Christianity. So why reply to this terrible outgrowth of religion in Paris with more religion? Praying for Paris is wrong: Here’s why humanity is preferable to a prayer in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris.


On the 13th of November 2015, Paris suffered the bloodiest terrorist attack of its history. The 130 people who died in six different attacks in the centre of Paris and many more who were injured brought us anew the seriousness of the threat to France and furthermore for Europe to mind. Musicians who cancel their concerts; politicians who openly speak of war in their own country; air raids on the IS area in Syria; arrests in France, Belgium and Germany; strengthening of legislation is the result. Europe is in a state of emergency. The world held its breath but not its thumbs: the hashtag #PrayForParis flooded social networks.

In the twenty-four hours following the terror attacks, more than 70 million people shared their support and prayers for the French capitol on Instagram, according to the social network (Laurent, O., 2015, November 16). Whether these people are really believing or don’t worship a god or even affiliate with a religion and are just expressing condolences is debatable, but “praying” for Paris is the wrong approach in trusting to add any help against terrorism.


Terror in Europe is not a phenomenon of recent years. Since the 1970s and 1980s, the terror of the IRA in Britain, the ETA in the Basque Country or by extremists across Europe was formative. France has been one of the countries that are most involved in the fight against jihadist terrorism, wherever it appears, for several years. Humans’ ability to do terrible things to each other has always been there. What has changed is the motivation of the terrorists: Religious fundamentalism grew. Therefore it is not surprising that from a religious perspective, there is a tendency to look at things from a bird’s eye view and to try to place such happenings into a larger pattern.

For a couple of reasons people believe in prayer as the appropriate strategy to cope with this huge tragedy: First of all, praying is easy. It is a way to feel like doing something productive without actually accomplishing something. Second, and moreover frightful, praying for Paris via Social Media is meant to be an act of solidarity. But what it really represents is a generalized idea of Christians assuming the attack was perpetrated by Muslims. Therefore, what these postings actually do, is to position people on one side of a never-ending good versus evil- battle. We have to be careful not to support an idea where the Western, Christian world is against the Muslim world of the Middle East. If people are combating this type of religious extremism with their own brand of extremism, it is like fighting fire with fire.

Spirituality should be respected and everyone has the right to believe or not believe. But it becomes a different matter as soon as religion is practiced in an extremist way. In all the major world religions, there are scriptures that one cannot call into question, which inevitably leads to violence and intolerance. The more power a religion has in a country, the more intolerance is there towards those who don’t follow their principles. We must rise above these religious beliefs that divide us. Islamic extremism cannot be confronted in demonizing individual Muslims or excusing the terror committed in name of Islam.


The fundamental issue mankind is facing today is the capacity of human beings to hurt and kill other human beings which existed long before Paris and, unfortunately, will continue to exist. As the 2015 Global Terrorism Index highlights, there is an 80 per cent increase in the total number of deaths from terrorism only within the last year (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2015). This column’s aim is not to provide a solution to this horrible situation, but to call on our community to use the power that we have to represent a different notion of humanity. We shouldn’t be praying for Paris because it doesn’t need any more religion.” Those are the words of Charlie Hebdo illustrator Joann Sfar, posted on his Facebook and Twitter page in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. It is not a question whether to believe in god or not.

People, who believe in humanity and in the oneness of humanity, speak out. But think first.

Philosophy, literature, art – belief: all may offer an important glimpse into how the world works and what it means to be human being. Not every scientist claims to have all the answers and it is not always rationalization that is superior in its views. There is nothing wrong with a statement showing concern, empathy, and compassion – but when people are posting that they are praying for Paris as an act of solidarity, what is lacking is helpful rationalization.

Instead of prayer, we must oppose against religious extremism. Moreover: To defy terrorism we must appreciate our shared humanity.


Institute for Economics and Peace (2015). Global Terrorism Index 2015. Highlights. Retrieved from:

70 Million People Shared Their Prayers for Paris on Instagram This Weekend. (Laurent, Oliver, 2015, November 16) Time. Retrieved from:


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