Some very foolish, backwards people did an awful thing today. In a misguided attempt to satisfy the insane demands of their purported faith, three men stormed the offices of a satirical French magazine and shot ten people dead. They then killed two police officers, one pathetically as he pled for mercy lying prone on the ground. That man, 42 year old Merabet Ahmed, was a Muslim. I’m quite certain the faith of the dead officer was vastly different, and indeed in innumerable ways better, than whatever sick corruption manifested itself as faith in the minds of the gunmen.
The magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked and a dozen people massacred because three young men had committed themselves to the extreme end of a religion, and believed that the magazine’s depictions of the Muslim prophet Mohammad was a blasphemy so extreme and heinous the only appropriate reaction was to gun down the cartoonists responsible.
What sins did those people commit, to warrant their deaths?
There is no justification for such violence. And indeed the violence is so unjustifiable and sickening it reminds me why I’m convinced religious fundamentalism of any kind is a nefarious social pathology.
But worse was how we in the decadent West reacted.
It upsets me to no end that some would argue this nearly insignificant weekly satirical newsmagazine had it coming, or that they baited religious fanatics into being attacked.
Who cares how they illustrated Mohammad? Should we not live in a society free the restrictions of any one particular religious dogma? Am I not free to doodle whichever deity I should choose?
It confounded me to see people of ‘the left’ argue that the illustrations had been perceived as racist or otherwise culturally insensitive. For one, the prohibition on visual representations of the man known as Mohammad are unique to extremist Sunnis. Why should anyone give two shits about their obscure rules – neither Canada nor France is a caliphate.
And Islam is not a race.
It’s a religion that purports to be multi-racial and all-encompassing. It’s a set of values and a collection of ideas, and ideas are fair ground to be mocked, belittled, dismissed etc. If anything, the Sunni extremists who perpetrated the attack want their understanding of Islam to be the dominant form, and believe further that their racial identity as Sunnis gives them the right to dictate Mohammad’s teachings. They are the racists for pushing a Sunni Supremacist worldview. They’re fascists too. The cartoons were not ‘racist’ even though they may have been tasteless, but they sure as hell were critical of of those who want to turn back the clock on human evolution by appealing to religious fundamentalism, and severely curtail individual rights and freedoms.
It should be of primary concern to all those who want to defend free speech to acknowledge this means defending all that you personally disagree with as well.
As an example, I cannot morally support Quebec independence, pro-lifers or death penalty advocates, but in our society they have every right to express themselves. Should they, or I, choose to belittle/undercut our own positions by stooping to the level of mocking the rhetorical opponent, the onus is on the audience to consider that debasement as well, in context, and weigh it against whatever other pertinent information is available.
It shouldn’t have to be spelled out like that, least of all to those on the ‘left’ of the political spectrum.
Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and thought are the most important, fundamental freedoms in a liberal democracy.
And yet, when it came time to show some true solidarity, The Associated Press, the Daily Telegraph, CNN, New York Daily News and from what I can tell, an unfortunate number of Canadian news outlets have decided that they would rather censor Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures and cover pages in their news reports.
There’s a word for this: cowardice
The unfortunate reality is that, as damaging and despicable as today’s terrorist attack in Paris is, it’s not nearly as damaging and despicable as our own media’s self-imposed censorship.
The only thing more insane than gunning people down for ostensibly mocking a 6th century merchant who claimed divine revelation is for ostensibly secular news and media corporations to defend the outrage of religious fanatics by supporting their efforts at censorship.
Censoring the images does nothing to defend the rights, values and responsibilities of our society. It does the exact opposite.
Worse, it encourages terrorism, because it demonstrates just how quickly we’re willing to compromise our values and further demonstrates that violence can be used as an effective tool against the apparent ‘excesses’ of Western secularism, free speech and liberal democratic tradition.
It is pathetic and perverted that news organizations in Canada and the United States, organizations that have a civic responsibility to defend the public interest against censorship, have collectively decided to fold like umbrellas and censor themselves.
If I can put it simply, this is literally how the terrorists win.
State secularization and political and economic socialization are fundamental aspects of the progressive evolution of our species. Today, the wretched fist of the Middle Ages, of barbarism, struck a satirical magazine in early 21st century Paris. Twelve people dead because they dared imagine what a 6th century Arabian might look like, and dared further to criticize the beliefs and practices of that man’s most insane followers.
And in the supposedly free and learned West, the progressives blamed the victim and the media tacitly endorsed censorship.
It was a very grim day indeed.