A barbaric attack this afternoon at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and several others severely wounded.
“…in [what is purported to be] an apparent militant Islamist attack, four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.”
Reports from several reputed news sources claim the attack as being carried out by people claiming to be part of Al Qaeda, although this has not been entirely corroborated yet.
While multitudes [myself included] have come out in strong support of the cartoonists following the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, some media outlets seem to highlight the ‘fact’ that Charlie Hebdo persisted in its irreverence, subliminally implying somehow that they deserved it. A perverted apologism of sorts for a violent, ruthless attack.
Irreverence can go to extremes, and it has done so repeatedly. In its most modern form, it has all but regressed in its entirety to its original iterations: to use, manipulate and control masses, a tool for power, whether that power is political, monetary or plain old physical might.
That oft repeated quote still stands: “Religion is like a dick. It’s fine to have one, but don’t go waving it around in people’s faces…”
AND don’t go stabbing people with it.
I would like to openly aver that there may be personal bias in that I am personally against the concept of religion in and of itself, and of the opinion that it has done far more harm than good in society. However, it is not anybody’s place to state to another what they may and may not believe [a job extremists take entirely upon themselves, and have done violently in this case].
Extremists seem convinced somehow that their beliefs are the ‘truest’, the strongest, the most faithful to an imaginary sky being on which they base their entire set of values and morals. (To the woman in Central London who once told me atheists ‘have no morals’, we choose to found ours on a reason unrelated to fear of punishment, retribution, becoming a Christmas turkey et al.)
Is your belief so weak that pens and pencils can shake it, cause it to be insulted, irreparably damaged? Is your ‘all-knowing’, ‘all-powerful’ being, the creator of all humanity and everything in existence, the one for whom you commit these crimes, so fragile that words will hurt it? The same being that threatens to punish a being for eternity for being ‘evil’ needs guarding and protection from a few words? Less reminiscent of a god, more reminiscent of a schoolyard bully too chicken to get a taste of his own medicine. Is THAT your belief?
Is belief asking people to ‘multiply’ to ‘replenish their numbers’? To arrest, silence, kill those who disagree?
Censorship is a world issue; Indian cartoonists have in the past been arrested for what was interpreted as ‘seditious work’. Protests are currently on in India against a film that showed, according to detractors, the country’s biggest religion in a ‘bad light’. [It didn’t – it was a sardonic, much-needed take against godmen and the money-spinning, divisive business that is religion.]
Multitudes protested – on the internet, vocally, in their homes, which, while I personally disagreed with, is perfectly alright. Extremists took it further, with picketing, physical violence and threats.
No physical harm came to any being, however, which is a significant relief, but does not condone the attacks.
Extremism, specifically extremist religion, is a plague. A veritable cancer, seemingly attempting to eat humanity and peace from the inside out; by attacking people, education, free speech and thereby, rational thought.
People have protested from time immemorial, with religion as their goal, their instrument, tool, their means and their end.
To protest film, literature, thought or dissent. In an ideal world, Deepa Mehta would never face widespread protest, and neither would Rajkumar Hirani. Salman Rushdie would never have had to flee, and neither would M.F. Husain. In a sane world, nobody would die as a result of the rabid insecurity of extremist factions, and their cowardly, bloody violence.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves today that if our beliefs (whether in a sky being, a tenet, a school of thought) are as unflappable as we believe them to be, names will never hurt them. It is that belief that should be under question in the end.
To those who believe an absence of religion necessarily means an absence of morality, where is YOUR morality now? In the pointlessly spilled blood of 12 innocent people?
Today, instead of backing down to those who have proclaimed themselves defenders or protectors of faith, each one of us must make a conscious effort to defend something ourselves: the license for others to say things we may not like or agree with, but respecting utterly their choice to express it anyway. The freedom of expression includes the freedom to offend (and being offended is one of humanity’s favourite pastimes).
With these attacks, extremists hope, in silencing those who disagree, that others who disagree will silence themselves. Fear for self censorship. That the threat of attack will lead them to ‘fall in line’.
Today, write more than you did yesterday. Say something you were afraid to say. Speak up about atrocities against everyone. If you protest the Paris attacks, protest those threatening the freedom of expression in your own political and geographic arena. Each time you feel personally slighted or violently offended at a film meant to point out exactly that, check yourself.
Murder is never defensible, and this was not merely an attack on the 12 victims at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. It was an attack on the freedom of expression, of the expression of that opinion without threat. It was an attack on every one of us with a voice that wants to be heard without silencing itself in fear. It is now up to us to not be cowed down; in the words of the slain Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, to die standing, rather than live on our knees.