Abdelkader Benai, a Muslim born in the Netherlands, has penned a powerful meditation on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in The New York Times.

“When I was 17, I found ‘The Satanic Verses’ tucked away in a school library,” he writes. “I grabbed it, started reading and was mesmerized. Here was a young man struggling with his faith in a faithless world — an immigrant son from a deeply religious home thrown into a world where everything is embraced and nothing is sacred. It confirmed what I had felt deep inside: a free and open society is a threat to religious people. Their religion will be mocked — sometimes even suppressed — and this will provoke anger.”

He says, “What happened last week is not about lack of humor, or a failure to understand caricature. Nor is it about hatred of the West. It’s about anger taking a wrong turn.”

Those who perpetrated the massacre “fell prey to a powerful delusion…. the same delusion I felt as a teenager: that by attacking the messenger your anger will disappear and you will be victorious. But the only way to conquer your anger is to understand where its roots lie. For me the freedom to doubt, to not choose sides and to feel empathy for characters and people with whom I disagree was liberating.”

For Mr. Benai, reason allows him to accept that, inevitably, some people will disagree with him — and that it’s OK, not a cause for murder.

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