Lithuanian mufti: Paris attackers are criminals, not representatives of Muslim community

Jakubauskas adds, however, that France is a country that has struggled to integrate its 6.5-million-strong Muslim population into the society.

“It is clear and has been repeated many times that the perpetrators [of Charlie Hebdo attack] are criminals who must be punished. In no way do they represent the Muslim community – the Muslim community has nothing to do with it. These attacks are a folly and have nothing to do with religion. If they [the perpetrators] hold some views or support movements like Islamic State or others, it is still their personal crime. Nothing to do with the community.

“The same statements are coming from Muslim communities in France. These are criminals perpetrating crime, they must be held responsible for their actions,” Jakubauskas told DELFI.

The mufti adds that the situation in France is very delicate. Parts of its big Muslim population, poorly integrated and socially marginalized, are vulnerable to radical ideas and overly irritable by things like cartoons mocking Islam that were published in Charlie Hebdo.

Will it be possible to avoid putting blame for the attack on the entire Muslim community? Jakubauskas says it is possible, but will require effort.

“You have to work with all communities. This is why, in France, all Muslim organizations are holding an assembly, they put out statements about how barbaric this attack is and that these issues need to be addressed in cooperation with the authorities. Those communities, after all, are part of the society and so they participate in addressing the issues,” he says.

“You need to work with people, make sure they are employed. Problems arise when there are people who cannot integrate into the society, who are idle. There are great problems with integration in the West. Say, we’ve never had that here in Lithuania, whereas in the West they have many problems, as the [Muslim] community is big and integration is inadequate. Especially in France, where many people from former colonies came, received citizenship, but not rights… And such people are easy to manipulate by various organizations and groups,” according to Jakubauskas.

He adds that attacks by Muslims get disproportionally much attention, even though many horrible crimes are perpetrated by other groups around the globe.

“These are individual cases, there are people who are drawn to that, but it’s the outcome of social inequality and other problems. Many citizens, even born in that country [France], later start speaking up against their government and their country. Not necessarily Muslims, there are people of different African religions who are poorly integrated. It doesn’t mean that the Muslim community is exceptional. The Muslim community makes up 10 percent of the population, over 6 million people, all of them citizens. If France cannot deal with its citizens, this is a social problem of the entire country. Many people cannot find jobs,” Jakubauskas says.

Commenting on whether Lithuania’s Muslim community faces prejudice for attacks like the one in Paris, Jakubauskas says it does not.

“No, it would not make any sense. We are talking about a crime here, perpetrated by these individuals. What does the community have to do with it? We have been the community for hundreds of years, we are not a new formation that speaks out against the state. We have always fought side by side for Lithuania’s freedom, we are loyal citizens, why would there be any insinuations? That would be absurd,” the Lithuanian mufti said.

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