It’s safer to be a smart-ass in print than it is in real life.
The dominating story in the news the last day(s) was the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo and the killing of 12 people — ostensibly because they offended some believers (or what they think is holy). Not to mention those who were killed simply because they were trying to enforce the rule of law and ensure the safety of their fellow citizens. But yeah, the main issue seems to be: Some cartoonists/satirists drew cartoons of Mohammed and made fun of Islam. And they were killed for it.
For some reason, these incidents really piss me off. I was angry when Lars Vilks was attacked, I am livid now.
In no particular order …
- I am pissed that a few assholes can tarnish the reputation of a major religion.
- I am pissed that these particular assholes killed 12 people as if it were nothing, one practically en passant. ( /!\ I scorn trigger warnings but this video is … hard to watch. /!\).
- I am pissed that right-wing movements will use these incidents to further their cause, using attacks against free speech to try to establish a kind of “government” that has even less respect for free speech as these terrorists.
- I am pissed that major news organizations have printed “Je suis Charlie.” images but not the ostensibly offending or “blasphemous” cartoons. I guess many editors are glad that they could bypass the difficult decision and simply print black images with “Je suis Charlie.” or donating money — instead of printing images like these:
- I am pissed that while the chancellor (of the country I am living in) promised that all belief systems will be protected against the inevitable backlash after this attack (well, let’s be honest, it will be only against one belief system) (German site), she does also warn about having a general discussion about Islam. Sorry, but while I agree that belief systems should not be attacked, discouraging an open discussion where all people will be heard will ensure even more resentments against Islam (and Muslims). If “the masses” have prejudices and misconceptions then for fucks sake openly address these misconceptions!
- I am pissed that while major Muslim organizations condemn the terrorist attack, they do not seem to take a stand of showing that they will rather accept blasphemy than murder. I mean seriously, if I were to belong to a movement and people claiming to work for the movement did something so vile … I’d make sure that I’d sour their work. And if it meant debasing myself I would. Look. If I were a Catholic pastor who would be pissed off by “some nutjob” pissing on a crucifix and calling it art, and some Catholic killed that “artist” claiming to defend the honor of Christ, I would display a copy of that “artwork” in my church. Simply because no matter how bad or how … disgusting I would find any piece of art it would never justify murder. I would not like it (that’s the point — if it were easy, it would not mean anything!), but I would hold the terrorists responsible, not the artists. The terrorists ostensibly acting in my name shamed me into doing something I detest. Because doing something I detest is necessary to make perfectly clear that I do neither agree with their actions nor would I want in any way profit by them. So I agree with this image:
And beyond the issues that immediately pissed me off — let’s look at the reactions. I mean, seriously, there were a lot of beautiful and clever and moving images about the attack, drawn by cartoonists who sympathize with Charlie Hebdo. You find a great gallery here.
But if these cartoonists really want to give these cowards the finger, shouldn’t they draw cartoons of Mohammed instead of these terrorist fucks? Making fun of terrorists is actually the easy thing to do. The radicals don’t consider you a blasphemer if you do it and they don’t try to kill you.
And it’s time for Muslims whose reputation was tarnished by this terrorist attack to show that while blasphemy is … well, blasphemy, it does not justify killing people for it. If you cannot offend people, freedom of speech doesn’t mean shit.
And you know something … it stops here. Fuck it. Terrorists want to induce fear, they want to induce resentments. As someone said, they know they are not strong or powerful enough to bring down a society, so they want the society to turn on itself. As a counter-insurgent specialist once said:
“Every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you are working for the enemy. There’s counter-insurgency in a nutshell. Don’t create enemies.”
Tom Ricks about McMasters and his approach to counter-insurgency
They want the public to treat Muslims like terrorists to create terrorists. Terrorists claim disrespect of the prophet to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not to mention that this kind of climate will only strengthen right-wing politics — which are worse than any terrorism could be.
And yeah, it’s (more or less) easy for me to write this. While I have about 11k visits a month, this blog is miniscule in comparison to what goes on online. I have some good postings, some helpful ones, e.g., on Scrivener and other software. Some good tips and tricks. But I’m not exactly at risk here.
But one thing I know is that I passionately believe in freedom of speech. I believe in the open marketplace of ideas. I respect the complexity of an individual and the need for the freedom to express different views of the world. Well, as long as it does not curtail the freedom of other individuals (or kill them). And you cannot have freedom of speech with censorship. Whether it comes from the fear of your own mind, or of what others might think (with or without an AK-47).
So yeah. These terrorists can deal in fear. They can make people feel afraid. They will always be able to kill people or make them beg for their lives. Anyone who is determined to train to acquire some skills can do it. And they have the obvious advantage of determining when to strike — they have the initiative. But they are few. And while their attacks are oftentimes devastating in brutality and loss of lives, they are limited. They cannot get us all, especially not if more object to them.
So fuck censorship — object to living under censorship laws and draw on.
Looking at the press reports since the incident, I came upon one good argument why it might backfire to ask Muslims to take a stand against blasphemy laws by holding up the respective cartoons themselves. One article (forgot which one, sorry) mentioned that it’s the … well, rather uneducated “rebellious” youth who get sucked into terrorism (not surprisingly, others would have questioned why those calling for these attacks don’t do it if it’s so great). If they see their “elders” committing blasphemy by holding up these cartoons themselves, they’d likely see them as sell-outs or traitors — and it might create an even deeper rift. So others might have it even more difficult to notice radicalization and miss chances to intervene (or let the police intervene). Not to mention that even if blasphemy would become a non-issue, the ones calling for terror would just pick/create something else to be offended.
But then again, I still think that Islam desperately needs a reformation — and more humor. Any religion that cannot laugh about itself has a serious problem — or is one for other faiths (and actually, that applies to Atheists/Agnostics too).