Cartoonists Murdered, Radical Islamism Blamed, But What’s the Bigger Picture?360°ANALYSIS
No one deserves to be killed because they draw an offensive picture — of anyone. If you don’t want to be offended, avoid it.
The fallout from the Paris attacks by three alleged al-Qaeda operatives will be significant in many ways. Upon reflection, it is important to put things into perspective.
Out of the 12 people who were killed on January 7, eight were journalists and cartoonists at the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. At the time of the shooting, they were holding an antiracism meeting. Before storming the magazine’s office, the perpetrators of the attack claimed their first victim: a Muslim policeman. But the three attackers simply didn’t care, understand or know any better.
In its cartoons, Charlie Hebdo doesn’t discriminate. The magazine lampooned all and sundry in its illustrations: racists, bigots, right-wing politicians, the super rich, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and more.
This terrorist attack is not about Charlie Hebdo or Islam and Muslims. Rather, it is about a few desperately disturbed individuals. So-called Muslims who carry out such horrors have no place in Islam. Those who killed innocent people in Paris did so for so many reasons, from making a political statement to supporting some warped ideology.
Hundreds of millions of Sunni Muslims believe it is wrong to depict the Prophet Muhammad, but only a handful would go as far as to kill, wrongly albeit, anyone because of it. Religions are quite neutral entities, but those who have influence over their believers can misguide them. This applies to all faiths.
The problem is those who are anti-religion, anti-Islam or anti-Muslim will see this attack simply as confirmation of their views. But rather than going gung-ho, this incident could be an opportunity to build relations between communities. However, the dominant political narrative will be to maintain the status quo. For some, that means going on the attack against Islam and Muslims. For most Muslims, it means keeping their heads below the parapet.
The important thing to remember is that Charlie Hebdo made fun of everyone, and it did so because it is a satirical publication. Most people would simply choose not to read it if they thought it would offend them.
The actions of the Paris murderers merely reinforce the arguments of the cartoonists that made the latter want to mock aspects of regressive Muslim behaviors in the way they did. Just because these terrorists were shouting Islamic slogans as they slaughtered men and women doesn’t mean it has anything to do with religion. It is merely political and ideological — nothing more, nothing less.
The average person who feels the need to defend their religion or attack Islam in response to this tragedy needs to stop and think that they might actually be fueling a vicious cycle that feeds only the interests of extremist groups.
The blame game is a detailed matter of opinion, conjecture and value judgments, all of which are relevant to the discussion. But ultimately we are dealing with the absolute fringes and any action centers on those groups or individuals. Not France, secularism, Islamism, racism, citizenship or Muslim identities, which are all much further-reaching issues.
No one deserves to be killed because they draw an offensive picture — of anyone. If you don’t want to be offended, avoid it. No one is forcing it down your throat. That includes Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo and many others. Just ignore them all. It’s only an attack on the religion if you want it to be.
Muslims will be targeted after this cruel event and this is sad. But freedom of speech is important for Muslims, too, even though freedom of expression is overstated everywhere. Nothing in Islam supports the kind of horrific violence that Paris has endured over the past few days, but this will not prevent what will undoubtedly be a heavy backlash.
*[This article was originally published on Tahir Abbas’ blog.]
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