Burkinis on the beach

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 25 August 2016

As I read the headlines of recent newspapers I can´t help but feel a sense of sadness about how much discussion can be generated over themes of relative unimportance while other themes that should be talked about are often marginalized and ignored.

More headlines are devoted to athletes and Hollywood stars then are devoted to destruction and disease.

Most of us are more aware of Kim Kardashian´s measurements than we are of how serious a problem global warming is, more concerned about fashion than famine, more afraid of phantom menaces than actual threats.

As my wife is quick to remind me, your humble blogger is quite possibly the most unfashionable person she knows, but I know if I wait long enough fashion will catch up to me!

I think I am a typically, old-fashioned kind of a man when I say I can´t understand the fuss and hullabaloo that is made over fashion.

If my clothes match the weather, fit the function I need them to do, are somewhat clean and are not offensive to the eye of the beholder, then I am satisfied.

My wife is right when she suggests I may have too many books that threaten to eat up what little space our apartment possesses, but I can counter her arguments by taking a quick stroll to her side of the bathroom or taking a quick peek inside her wardrobe.

How many bottles and tubes of toiletries and make-up does a woman actually need?

How many shoes are “enough”?

Has she even worn all the clothes she owns?

In fairness, we strange humans judge one another, especially the female of the species, by appearance, even going so far as to falsely believe that appearance is an accurate gauge of character, that a beauty can never be a beast.

We pin our perceptions of self based upon how others judge our appearance and feel flattered and complimented when someone approves of our looks.

We spend fortunes on pharmaceuticals and some even go so far as to have surgery to maintain an image of unreal perfection and ageless youth.

We foolishly separate the ideas of intelligence from beauty, stupidly thinking that beauty and intelligence cannot co-exist within the same bodily frame and many of us believe that being beautiful is superior to being intelligent.

Why do we give so much respect and attention to fashion models and ignore the truly intellectual individuals among us?

We believe that age is incompatible with beauty, so many a woman tilts against the windmills of immovable inevitability by buying into the notion that science in a bottle can stave off the signs of aging.

Many believe that the body itself is insufficient and incomplete, so folks add cosmetics, jewellery of one form or another, and even body art.

So much time, so much energy, so much interest, so much money revolves around fashion and appearance.

The world might end tomorrow, but, damn it, we will look good when the final chimes strike.

Take the case of Bethany Mota.

Bethany Mota by Gage Skidmore.jpg

“Since launching her YouTube channel from the humble clutter of her north California bedroom, Mota has gone on to amass a following of nearly 10 million viewers and earns an estimated $40,000 a month for her videos.

Only 20 years old, Mota has won awards for her tips on recipes for packed lunches, back to school and morning routine tips, make-up and fashion tutorials.

This internet personality has through her videos built up her own media and fashion empire with her own clothing line with Aéroporta, JCPenney and Forever 21.

Testimony to the ever-rising reach of social media influencers, Mota was deemed so influential that she was selected to interview President Barack Obama as part of an initiative to branch out to a wider audience.

Mona’s YouTube channel reaches automatically larger audiences than most politicians’ social media accounts.” (Independent, 7 April 2016)

Think about this for a moment…

A 20-year-old whose “expertise” lies in what lip shade goes with what dress is more influential than a politician whose decisions have impact on a country’s economy and ultimately its future.

A 20-year-old makes more money per month than the President of the United States makes per year.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world.

No matter how one might belittle the world of fashion, there is no denying its impact and influence upon so many of us.

Fashion makes a statement.

With half the population on the planet obsessed with appearance, there is great potential for profit to be made from this obsession.

“Global brands are waking up to the massive opportunities of the worldwide Muslim market – a burgeoning sector that is young, highly educated and collectively has enormous spending power.

"Allah" in Arabic calligraphy

The world´s 1.6 billion Muslims constitute a laregly untapped commercial market, worth $2.1 trillion annually worldwide and increasing by $500 billion every year.

“A huge opportunity is being missed by corporate brands, but the market is being taken by storm by young Muslim start-ups,” said Shelina Janmohamed, vice president of Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding agency.

Ogilvy Noor | A full-service Islamic Branding consultancy | A full-service Islamic Branding consultancy

There are recent indications that global brands are beginning to target Muslims.

A decision by Marks & Spencer to sell a range of “burkinis” (full cover swimsuits) in the UK last month prompted heated debate.

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H & M, one of the world´s biggest fashion chains, attracted attention with an ad featuring a model in a hijab last year.

H&M-Logo.svg

But there is still a long way to go.

“One of the complaints we hear is that Muslim consumers feel they are not engaged with, as businesses do not reach out to them.” (Shelina Janmohamed)

Janmohamed´s company´s research has found that more than 90% of Muslim consumers said their faith had some influence on their purchases.

Muslims want food, beverages and personal products to be sharia-compliant, but show more flexibility in products and services, such as finance, insurance and travel.

Although most Muslim consumers want acknowledgement and engagement from global businesses, some worry that corporations are motivated more by the chance to profit from the Muslim market.

According to Janmohamed, Muslim consumers fall broadly into two groups: futurists and traditionalists.

Futurists combine faith and modernity.

“They are proud to express their Muslim identity, but are also brand-conscious and brand-loyal.

They are open to the world, very tech-savvy, and very engaged in social media.”(Shelina Janmohamed)

Futurists, or Generation M, are younger and have influence disproportionate to their numbers.

Navid Akhtar, CEO of the Islamic TV production company Alchemiya calls Janmohamed´s futurists “gummies”(global urban Muslims).

Gummies are hyperdiverse, spiritual rather than Religious with a capital R, educated, transnational, with high disposable incomes and the vast majority are English speakers.

A key subset of gummies are “mipsters” (Muslim hipsters), aged between 16 and 24, obsessed with identity, image, fashion, friendship and education.

Tabish Hasan, CEO of the US-based Muslim Aid Network, compares the failure of major brands to tap into the Muslim market now to a similar disregard of the potential of the Hispanic market in the 1980s.

Muslim Aid Serving Humanity

“Brands can´t afford not to engage with the Muslim market.

The Muslim lifestyle market is moving in the same direction – it´s so big, it has so much spending power.

It´s just a matter of time.”(Tabish Hasan)(Guardian, 8 April 2016)

“France has begun arresting Muslim women for wearing full body swimwear.

What started as a temporary rule brought in by a single resort in France has spread along the French Riviera and beyond and has become a lightning rod for a multitude of divisive issues.

The first city to announce the prohibition was Cannes, where mayor David Lisnard said he wanted to prohibit “beachwear ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the target of terror attacks” to avoid “trouble to public order”.

A Cannes bylaw says anyone wearing swimwear deemed not to “respect good customs and secularism” would be barred from visiting the resort´s beaches or swimming.

The second community to announce a burkini ban, Villeneuve-Loubet, was not so direct linking burkinis to terrorism.

V-L´s rule stipulates that only clothing that “is respectful to morality and secular principles, and in compliance with hygiene and safety rules” is allowed.

V-L mayor Lionnel Luca could not give what specific hygiene reasons there were for banning full body swimwear.

A tribunal in Nice ruled that a burkini ban is “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder.

Armed police forced a Muslim woman to remove her clothing on the city´s Promenade des Anglais, the location of the lorry attack on 14 July 2016 (Bastille Day) in which 84 people were killed.

Four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray stood around the woman who was lying on the beach wearing a blue headscarf and matching top and forced her to remove them despite her and her daughter´s crying.

(Think about this for a moment…

Men with guns forcing a woman to undress, with the weight of the law behind them.)

None of the French Riviera orders have directly mentioned burkinis and some people have questioned whether police would enforce the ban for wetsuits, nuns´ habits and other garments.

Dozens of Muslim women have been fined, given warnings, or arrested  for wearing clothing deemed to violate these bans.

Authorities in at least 15 towns and cities have brought in bans, with the most recent being Cagnes sur Mer in Provence.

News of burkini bans has spread around the world, gaining support from right wing politicians.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right Front National, claimed the “soul of France is in question”.

Le Pen, Marine-9586.jpg

“France does not lock away a woman´s body.

France does not hide half its population under the fallacious and hateful pretext that the other half fears it will be tempted.”(Marine Le Pen)

Critics have compared the enforcement of the ban to repression in Saudi Arabia and Iran, arguing that ordering women what to wear (or not to wear) is a violation of human rights in any context.

The bans are widely perceived to be a response to increased tensions and public fears following the Nice attack and the murder of a Catholic priest by ISIS supporters.

Some rights groups have said the new laws amount to the “collective punishment” of Muslims following the terror attacks and amid friction over immigration and the refugee crisis.

And other incidents continue…

Women are being ordered out of the sea, with onlookers shouting racist abuse.

Don´t misunderstand me…

I am very sympathetic to the victims of terrorism and I understand how sad and angry and afraid events of this type make people feel.

But we must not give in to these emotions nor let these emotions be a justification for acting as injustly as those we condemn.

We must not judge entire groups by the actions of a few.

We cannot prevent expression of religion and claim that this prevention is a secular act.

We cannot use the law against someone´s religious beliefs and then claim that we are ensuring that the law is separate from faith.

Nor need we fear that our beliefs are being supplanted by those who have chosen to bring their beliefs among us.

For if our beliefs are strong then they cannot be threatened by change.

And if our beliefs aren´t strong, then maybe change is necessary.

Terror analysts have warned that the dispute will fuel jihadist propaganda as groups like ISIS attempt to portray France and other Western countries as at war with Islam.

If the aim of the terrorists who took so many innocent lives in Paris, Nice and elsewhere was to foment hatred and conflict and to provoke the French state into an overreaction, then the French authorities have more than fulfilled their unsavoury ambitions.

Victimising and bullying Muslim women on holiday is not only bad PR, it is wrong in principle and entirely counterproductive.”(Independent editorial)

Germany is separately considering a nationwide ban on full face veils, which is already enforced in Belgium. (Independent, 25 August 2016)

In regards to face covering, I only consider it necessary when there are security issues where a person would be required to remove a motorcycle helmet, such as places like banks or border crossings.

As for swimwear I lean towards a “live and let live” philosophy.

If a woman is comfortable with being fully covered or uncovered then personal liberty and dignity should be paramount over whether I like seeing that woman in a burkini or a bikini.

And if I am uncomfortable with my environment then I have the choice of leaving it.

Fashion is a statement.

How we choose to respond to it is a question of not only the wearer´s character, but as well our own.

Red Stripe Swimsuit

 

 

 

 

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Life and death through a lense

Zürich, 8 May 2016

“Conflict uproots people and forces them to seek asylum.

Inequality produces injustice.

Humanity´s impact on the environment threatens species (including humanity).

Innovative technological advances disrupt established industries.

In this world…there are so many stories that need to be told…because people deserve to see their world and express themselves freely.

Freedom of information, freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech are more important than ever…

Quality visual journalism is essential for the accurate and independent reporting that makes these freedoms possible.”

(Lars Boering, Managing Director, World Press Photo Foundation)

On Sunday, bearing proudly tickets my wife won online, we visited the World Press Photo Exhibition 2016 in Zürich.

It was inspirational, engaging, educational and supportive.

Smog hangs heavy over Tianjin, a hazard so dangerous that schools stop classes, people are told to stay indoors and restrict vehicle use.

Air pollution accounts for 17% of all deaths in China.

A seven-year-old boy is badly burned when a bomb dropped by a Sudanese government plane lands next to his home.

Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the war between Dafur rebels and the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

Are cops in America deliberately using racial violence and do black lives matter?

Unarmed civilians stare eyeball to eyeball with officers in riot gear armed to the teeth.

Syrian refugees desperate for peace, hungry for freedom, find little of both.

Babies are thrust through holes in razor wire fences, nights are spent in hiding, days dodging border police,  the desperate are gassed with pepper spray and shot at with water cannons for the “crime” of existing and seeking asylum.

Most are women and children.

But their Middle Eastern origins bring panic to right wingers and fear allows inappropriate leaders to claim power.

Paris and Brussels mourn and show solidarity with the victims of terrorist attacks.

Not since Paris was liberated from the Nazis at the end of World War II have so many rallied together.

A young man lies dead and bloody in a Honduran street.

For the past decade, Honduras has been at the top of the world´s homicide list in mostly gang-related, drug-related violence.

Miners in Burkina Faso search for gold, in pits hacked into the ground, many no wider than a manhole, under backbreaking conditions. regularly exposed to mercury and cyanide.

More than 370,000 Syrian refugees live in camps…

Many more have died trying.

Kurds fight Islamic State, protecting the borders of a country which would prefer if the Kurds died in the process.

People drown or die of hypothermia in unseaworthy craft crossing from Africa to Europe, from Turkey to Lesbos.

Native children play in a river in Brazil.

The Brazilian government plans a hydroelectric plant flooding much of the natives´ land, theirs for centuries while urban lights ignite, native people and culture collapses.

A blind Iranian girl enjoys the warmth of sunlight on her face through a window in the morning and though the concept of colour will never be hers, she still explores the world through touch, sound, smell and taste.

Australia remains the land God gave to Cain with violent storms, hailstones the size of golf balls and heavy rainfall – a climate as volatile and threatening as its politics.

Colima Volcano in Mexico remains active with rock showers, lightning and lava flows.

Skiers stumble and basketball players fly through the air, while Swedes synchronise swim in graceful motions.

Starving children live in overcrowded unsanitary circumstances in Koranic boarding schools in Senegal, forced to acquire religious instruction and learn Arabic.

They are the victims of child trafficking, kept in chains, made to beg on the streets for eight hours a day, with all monies given to their teachers.

A lesbian couple bear babies together united by love and common experience.

Constant shelling and bombardment, people flee, deprived of food, clean water, medicine or safety, families ripped apart, displaced amongst the debris of war.

Smoke billows from torn shells of buildings.

Children die before their parents, the healthy are crippled, while hope dies slowly.

Avalanches and earthquakes hit Nepal, but help is slow in coming for aftershocks continue, the weather worsens and roads may be wiped away.

Those not immediately crushed by nature´s convulsions die slowly and often alone from their injuries.

In Rio, shantytowns are so common that no one reports on them.

In Brazil, 2,000 people are killed every year by police.

The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine on 26 April 1986 released large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Children are born and grow up with radiation poisoning.

30 years later, they remain alive yet forever on the edge of life.

Poachers kill animals for sport and profit and forests disappear.

Orangutans are forced to forest edge driven out by manmade fire.

Russians play hockey while Sengalese wrestle.

Women bravely serve their country only to be sexually assaulted by their male counterparts.

Theirs is a special kind of trauma, which mostly goes unreported.

Few return as carefree as they left.

Some never do.

A couple live out their final year of their 34-year marriage fighting cancer together.

They choose to create new memories in their final moments and live lives full of love and meaning that not even death can erase.

A tyrant rules a far off land, rarely photographed or seen by outsiders, yet even here children play, couples dance, farmers work the land.

Underneath the fear and repression the spark that is human nature still burns.

Such are some of the striking images on display, causing us to laugh, feel deep sadness, rediscover our compassion and learn more about the world.

The stories are compelling.

I have not included these images here for I think they need to be experienced yourself.

For not only is a photograph worth a 1,000 words, it is as well a necessary link to our humanity and the planet we share.

Let us praise the photo journalist.

For without, we are truly blind.

We´ll always have Paris (2): Some thoughts

Since the summer of 2014, ISIS has transformed the politics of the Middle East.

These jihad fighters combine fanaticism with military expertise and have won spectacular and unexpected victories against Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces.

ISIS has spread from Iraq’s border with Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan and to the outskirts of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria.

ISIS is intoxicated by its triumphs.

It does not care about the growing list of its enemies, and has created unlikely alliances of enemies, like the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and many Western countries.

ISIS is without mercy, as it kills and targets anyone against its rule.

Its leaders are the products of war.

Deliberate martyrdom through suicide bombing is a central and effective feature of their military tactics.

ISIS are experts in fear.

Videos showing executions terrify and demoralize.

And even though many living in the ISIS caliphate do not like their new masters and are frightened of them, they are even more frightened by their former governments who they view as hated enemies for their treatment of those who dissent.

Many defect to ISIS, as ISIS is viewed as better, stronger, winning wars, making money, and offering training.

ISIS seeks to reshape the world through violence.

The West talks about degrading and destroying ISIS, but there doesn’t seem to exist any evidence of a long-term decisive plan other than to contain and harass the jihadists by long range bombing.

Those countries most threatened by ISIS are least able to defend themselves as they lack even the most basic of reinforcements or supplies and are therefore incapable of defence and demoralized of any hope of victory.

ISIS is expanding.

The caliphate covers an area larger than Britain and dominates 6 million people – a population larger than Denmark, Finland or Ireland.

ISIS has tanks and artillery and controls most of Syria’s petroleum production.

Opposing ISIS is very dangerous.

Every act of terrorism shows that ISIS is coming to kill and destroy any who stands in their way.

Until the world acts decisively and directly, ISIS will continue its butchery unimpeded.

It is the world´s very disunity and ignorance that fuels ISIS power.

Paris will be attacked again, as will other cities both Western as well as Middle Eastern.

Each failure to challenge ISIS empowers ISIS.

ISIS uses its fanatical fundamentalism and interpretation of Islam, (an interpretation fostered by the very lands the West views as allies such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) to “justify” its acts.

It has been this assassin’s cloak that has made Islam and terrorism synonymous in the minds of the ignorant and the uninformed.

Islam is blamed for the actions of terrorists, but terrorists follow their own twisted logic and exist outside normality, outside morality, and are beyond reason.

Terrorists are senseless men without conscience, some who use religion to disguise their evil.

The Islamic conscience, the conscience of the vast majority of Muslims, a conscience shared by most religions, stands for justice, truth and humanity.

When we paint all Muslims with the same brush, we undermine their humanity and defame over one billion people – one in five who share our planet – their societies and their histories.

Sharia law is not practiced by most Muslims, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be.

To understand the events of Paris and Beirut, to comprehend what drives men to murder, is to try to define the undefineable, to decipher irrationality through logic.

It can’t be done.

So, what can be done?

We need to define for ourselves, first and foremost, what it is that we stand for, whether we be Christian, Muslim or other, by remaining open to discussion and the acquisition of knowledge.

We must not hate entire groups for the actions of a few, for if we do then the very beliefs we claim to espouse – justice, truth and humanity – are nothing more than catchphrases of hypocrisy.

We can start by appreciating our homes and our communities and getting involved in our mutual benefit.

Interaction in our local communities is a healthy start to understanding the world as a whole, for it is only in looking beyond ourselves can we truly make a positive difference in the world, both locally and globally.

We must not lose courage and faith in ourselves, for no matter what tragedy befalls us, whether manmade or not, we will always have who we are, our own Paris.

We must speak out and act against those who would have us hate or whom would destroy us, while never forgetting that hate and destruction is practiced by very few, not by the majority.

Never stop believing that love can, and always will, conquer all.

We must not let hate or fear dictate our actions, for we are better than this.

Though Beirut may seem less relateable to many than Paris, we must not view places far removed from us, geographically or culturally, as less worthy of compassion, for throughout the world we share a common humanity.

This humanity is our Paris.

We’ll always have Paris.

We´ll always have Paris (1): The official record

On 12 November 2015, two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Bourj el-Barajneh, a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, that is inhabited mostly by Shia Muslims and is controlled by Hezbollah.

Reports of the number of deaths range from 37 to 41 to 43.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Two suicide bombings occurred in commercial district of the southern suburban Beirut area of Bourj el-Barajneh near the General Security Post in Hussaineya street, according to al-Manar television, an apparent known stronghold of the Shia Hezbollah.

The first bombing occurred outside a Shia mosque, while the second took place inside a nearby bakery before 18:00.

The second blast occurred about 20 metres away and five to seven minutes after the first one as passers-by tried to help the injured of the initial blast.

A potential third attacker was killed before exploding his vest.

He was found dead with his legs torn off but still wearing an explosives belt, according to an unnamed Lebanese security official.

An unnamed government employee speculated that he was killed by the second explosion due to his proximity to that blast.

Al Mayadeen also reported about the would-be bomber and showed a video of a bearded young man with an explosives belt.

Hezbollah’s Bilal Farhat said: “They targeted civilians, worshippers, unarmed people, women and elderly, they only targeted innocent people … [it was a] satanic, terrorist attack.”

Lebanese security forces and Hezbollah gunmen cordoned off the area.

The Health Ministry reported at least 43 people initial deaths with Health Minister Wael Abu Faour adding that 239 people were injured, but that the total casualty count was expected to rise due to some of the wounded people being in critical condition.

Lebanon’s International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society affiliate said that over 200 people were injured.

Hospitals in the area called for people to donate blood due to an unprecedented number of casualties.

Emergency services personnel asked by-standers to leave the area as they were hindering ambulances from ferrying the injured to medical institutions.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam declared a day of national mourning for 13 November.

He also said of the bombings that they were “unjustifiable,” while also calling for unity against “plans to create strife” in the country and that officials should overcome their differences.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah: “What happened here is a crime…this battle against terrorists will continue and it is a long war between us.

This terrorism does not differentiate between its victims.

If ISIS assumes that killing our men and women and children and burning our markets could weaken our determination, then they are mistaken.”

On the evening of 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks—consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-taking—occurred in Paris, France, and Saint-Denis, one of its northern suburbs.

Beginning at 21:16, six mass shootings in central Paris and three separate suicide bombings near the Stade de France occurred.

The deadliest attack was at the Bataclan theatre, where attackers took hostages and engaged in a stand-off with police which ended at 00:58 on 14 November.

The attackers killed, at last count, 129 victims, 89 of them at the Bataclan theatre.

A further 415 were admitted to hospital with injuries sustained in the attacks, including 80 people described as being seriously injured.

In addition to the victims, seven attackers died, and the authorities continued to search for any accomplices remaining at large.

France had been on high alert since the January 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 17 people, including civilians and police officers.

French President François Hollande announced a state of emergency, the first since the 2005 riots and placed temporary controls on the country’s borders.

On 14 November, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Their motive was retaliation for French involvement in the Syrian Civil War and Iraqi Civil War.

President Hollande said the attacks were organised from abroad by ISIL, “with internal help”, and described them as “an act of war”.

The attacks were the deadliest in France since the Second World War and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

France’s military has been involved in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 19 September 2014, known by the codename Operation Chammal.

In October 2015, France struck targets in Syria for the first time.

ISIL specifically mentioned the airstrikes when they claimed responsibility for the attacks.

France had been on high alert for terrorism since the Charlie Hebdo shooting and a series of related attacks in early January 2015.

France had also increased security in anticipation of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015, and had restored border checks a week before the attacks.

The Charlie Hebdo shooting in January 2015 occurred in the 11th arrondissement (district) of the city, where the Bataclan theatre is situated.

France witnessed other, smaller, attacks throughout 2015, including the stabbing of three soldiers in Nice guarding a Jewish community centre in February; an attempt to blow up a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in June, resulting in the death of an employee; and a shooting and stabbing spree on a train in August.

Two Jewish brothers, Pascal and Joël Laloux, owned the Bataclan theatre for more than 40 years until they sold it in September 2015.

The venue had been threatened several times because of their public support of Israel.

In 2011, a group calling itself “Army of Islam” threatened the theatre because of this support.

ISIL and their branches claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks which took place in the weeks leading up to the attacks.

On 12 November 2015, twin suicide bombings took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 43 people.

On 31 October 2015, Metrojet Flight 9268, carrying mostly Russian passengers crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, killing 224 people, for which ISIL’s Sinai branch claimed responsibility.

On the day of the attacks, ISIL’s lead executioner, Jihadi John, was killed by a US drone strike and ISIL lost control of Sinjar to Kurdish forces.

The Paris attacks happened on the first day of the Muslim lunar month of Safar, which in 2015 fell on 13 November.

Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Safar migrates throughout the seasons.

Safar has a religious significance within Islam, as it is named after Prophet Mohammed’s “ghazva” (religious raid) against the “infidel” at Safwan in 623.

Islamic State has referred to the Paris attacks as a “ghazva” (religious raid).

According to the Cambridge History of Islam, when performed within the context of Islamic warfare, a ghazva’s function is to weaken and demoralise an enemy in preparation for his eventual conquest and subjugation.

The hashtag #portesouvertes (“open doors”) was used by Parisians to offer shelter to those too afraid to travel.

As had been the case in January, the Place de la République became a focal point of mourning, memorial, and tributes.

An impromptu memorial also developed near the Bataclan theatre.

Yesterday, two days after the attacks, a memorial service was held at Notre Dame Cathedral, presided over by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, with several political and religious figures in attendance.

Muslim organisations in France, Union of Islamic Organisations of France and Les Fédérations Musulmanes, strongly condemned the attacks in Paris, denouncing them as “barbaric.”

The attacks affected business at high profile venues and shopping centres in Paris, and many Parisians were concerned the attacks might lead to a marginalisation of Muslims in the city.

In response to the attacks, France was put under a state of emergency for the first time since 2005, borders were temporarily closed, and 1,500 soldiers were called in to help the police maintain order in Paris.

The plan blanc (Île de France) and plan rouge (global), two contingency plans for times of emergency, were immediately activated.

According to some English-language sources, Paris declared its first curfew in 70 years.

Belgium tightened security along its border with France and increased security checks for people arriving from France.

All public schools and universities in Paris remained closed the next day.

Sports events in France for the weekend of 14–15 November were postponed or cancelled.

Disneyland Paris, which has operated every day since its opening in 1992, closed its parks as a mark of respect for those who died in the attacks.

The Eiffel Tower, a Paris landmark visited by 20,000 people a day, was closed indefinitely.

According to the New York Times, as of 14 November 2015:

“The capital is under a heavy police presence, and checks at France’s borders have been reinstated.

Air travel continues but with significant security-related delays.

Public protests—a constitutional right in France—are prohibited in Paris and some of the surrounding departments until Thursday.

Several bands due to play in Paris cancelled shows, including U2, Foo Fighters, Motorhead and Coldplay.

Schools with classes or activities, cultural places and other venues (the Eiffel Tower, movie theaters, Disneyland Paris, department stores) are closed.”

The day after the attacks, the French Air Force launched its largest airstrike of Opération Chammal, its bombing campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sending 12 planes, including 10 fighters, that dropped 20 bombs in training camps and ammunition facilities in Raqqa, the city where ISIL is based.

A modified version of the International Peace Symbol by London-based French graphic designer Jean Jullien, in which the centre fork was modified to resemble the Eiffel Tower, was widely spread.

The symbol was widely shared with the hashtags #PrayForParis, #PrayForFrance and #JeSuisParis.

Facebook reintroduced its safety check-in system so users in Paris could notify friends and family that they were safe.

Facebook also encouraged users to temporarily overlay a transparent image of the French flag to “support France and the people of Paris”.

In the wake of the attack, phrases such as “Je Suis Paris” and “We are all Parisians” appeared on news broadcasts and social media websites worldwide to show solidarity with the victims.

This was similar to the reactions after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting with the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” and reflects the historic phrases “Ich bin ein Berliner” in the 1961 Berlin crisis and the phrase “Tonight, we are all Americans” spoken on air by France 2 reporter Nicole Bacharan after the September 11 attacks.

French foreign exchange students gathered in Union Square in New York City where they lit candles and sang La Marseillaise.

Vigils took place in Sydney, Montreal, London, New York City and Glasgow, among others.

On 14 November, German pianist Davide Martello towed his grand piano by bike to the Bataclan theatre, where a reported 80 people had died in the attack.

There, he played John Lennon’s “Imagine” to a crowd gathered outside in tribute to the victims.

Martello is known for travelling around conflict zones to play the piano and previously performed at the sites of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Following the attacks, multiple landmark structures around the world were lit in the colours of the French flag, including the spire of One World Trade Center in New York City, the London Eye and Tower Bridge in London and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai (one of the targets of the 2008 Mumbai attacks).

Various Muslim religious leaders and organisations from around the world condemned the attacks.

Some took to social media to say that the attacks went against the teachings of Islam.

Les Fédérations Musulmanes, a French Muslim federation, strongly condemned the attacks in Paris denouncing it as “abject barbarism.”

Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, issued a press release from London condemning the attack by expressing his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the French nation.

He said that these attacks are against the teachings of the Quran.

The Muslim Council of Britain described the attacks as “horrific and abhorrent” and participated in one of the Trafalgar Square vigils.

The Council added that “There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith …there is no justification for such carnage whatsoever.”

The Association of British Muslims said that “The Muslim faith condemns such acts of violence.”

“The attacks in Paris were not aimed just at France or Paris, they are attacks against the values and freedoms we cherish and live by in Europe, they were aimed at all of us.”

All that is written above comes from Internet sources.

What follows in the next post are my thoughts…