Combo, an artist, has become a household symbol of tolerance after being badly beaten for covering a wall in a Paris street with graffiti calling for coexistence between the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
“I am not afraid. I am aware there is a risk, but I am optimistic. There is always a risk of getting hit by a car or choking on a pistachio nut,” the artist told Spanish news agency Efe, IANS news agency reported on Tuesday, 24 February.
Street artist Combo was physically assaulted in eastern Paris earlier in February after refusing to take down one of his artworks, French newspaper Le Monde reported.
On a wall in the Porte Dorée neighborhood, the 28-year-old put up a picture of himself wearing traditional garb, common in Arabic-speaking countries, standing next to a graffiti of the word “coexist”.
Painting the word “co-exist”, he replaced the “c” with the Islamic crescent, the “x” with the Star of David, and the “t” with the Christian cross.
Four men approached the artist and insulted him, demanding that he remove the painting.
The artist wrote on his Facebook page that when he refused to comply, all four of them beat him up severely, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder and bruises.
Combo re-used the “coexist” slogan that had been originally devised by the Polish artist Piotr Mlodozenic in 2001 in Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem), referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It is a way of mimicking the slogans of jihadis and their propaganda machine,” Combo said.
The young artist finances his activities by working for small businesses and selling some of his art works.
On his Twitter account Feb 14, Combo wrote: “Love is blind, but religion can blind us. Happy Valentine.”
“In France, we have 50,000 Muslim soldiers who protect our country,” says one of his graffiti murals, usually created at night in little more than 10 minutes, often with help from his colleagues to save time.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe’s largest.
The National Observatory Against Islamophobia said over one hundred incidents have been reported to the police since Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 7-9.
The rise in attacks over the last two weeks represents an increase of 110 percent over the whole of January 2014, the organization said.
Moreover, a Muslim father was stabbed to death in his own home in southern France this week by a neighbor who claimed to be avenging Charlie Hebdo.
French Muslims have been complaining of restrictions on performing their religious practices.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011. Those who won’t remove their veils will have to pay a 150-euro ($190) fine. ONISLAM