08 January 2015

Nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo

The targeted assassination in Paris yesterday by Jihadist Fundamentalists of journalists and, in particular, political cartoonists, has of course shocked the World. While it is important to remember that for all its awfulness and terrible symbolism, this kind of terrorism is not an existential threat to Western societies, and should not be overreacted to in the way that the US, it is now clear, overreacted to 9/11. 

Having said that, there is a serious issue here. We wink and nod at Saudi Arabia, because of its huge oil reserves, despite the fact that it is a nation that fosters and harbors violent fundamentalists, arising from its foundation in the extremist Wahabi cult. We falsely compare the violence of these terrorists to Fundamentalists of other religions, when, in fact, while some Bible Thumpers in the US may literally believe in the Bible, for the most part they do not raid the homes of people who disagree with them, and drag out and stone their non-virginal daughters. 

The fact is that radical Islamist cults are fostered and harbored by Muslim communities both in the Middle East and in Europe (less in the USA). Islam never underwent a Reformation, and consequently, Muslim cultures are, it is a simple fact, far more misogynist and repressive than Western societies. But if so-called moderate Muslims, as people like Reza Aslan are always telling us are the majority, seriously want to be treated with respect and not be lumped together with the violent intolerance of people like these assassins, they need to do more than wring their hands. They need to make clear, in their mosques, in their newspapers and media, in the actions of their supposedly moderate governments, that these people will not be tolerated. That when someone's relative is making bombs and attending meetings of extremist cells... and you can't tell me people in these communities don't often know that this is going on... they must report it just as they would report anyone contemplating murder. And the sad truth is, out of misplaced loyalty to their supposed co-religionists, there is all too much looking the other way.

There will be a reaction to this awful terrorism. Marie LePen's Nationalist party will benefit. French people will tend to regard even ordinary Muslims with suspicion. This is just the way it is. And if moderate Muslims, who want to live in peace as part of a pluralistic society, want to avoid being tarred with the same brush as is applied to the Jihadists, they must stand against them, clearly and forthrightly, and declare their support for freedom of expression, even when it is directed against their sacred cows. Muslim societies must eradicate this violent intolerance root and branch, or it will parasitize their entire culture and destroy them.

Every time a Jihadist steals the life of someone for the "crime" of disagreeing with their Medieval attitude towards faith and freedom, the violence is confined in space and time, but the response, the "meme" of revulsion and such acts, grows and spreads. 12 are killed, and a few Jihadist extremists celebrate, but 10,000 gather in the Place de la Republique and chant "Je suis Charlie," and the world condemns the terrorists. In the long run, the reality is that they weaken their religion; people inevitably negatively associate their professed religion with them and their evil acts. Rather than avenging their "prophet," they are besmirching his name and lessening his influence in the future.

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