On Wednesday the 8th, 2015, there was a terrorist attack in Paris. At least 12 dead, 8 journalist, 1 editor, 1 clerk, and two cops. The attack was deliberate, orchestrated by two brothers, Muslim, extremist, with ties to Al Qaida in Yemen. The target was the cartoonist Charlie Hebdo, and they got him. He is one of the dead.
It was followed up with another attack on a Kosher hyper market, by a third extremist. Four civilians murdered by the terrorist, they victims were jewish.
I think it is safe to say, that almost no one outside of France knows this cartoonist, satirist, but after Wednesday the 8th, a whole generation of people living in this century started to proclaim they are Hebdo. Many publications around the world, especially in America, and Europe published his cartoons in solidarity and that is how I got to see his work. It’s nothing genius, it’s inflammatory, crude, aimed to antagonize the Muslim population and plays to a sentiment that echoes some of the bigoted ideal and motivation that came to define our century, you know the one that strikes the melody “you’re either with us or against us.” The cartoons we saw were crude depiction of Muslims/the Prophet Mohamed, Muslim extremists and to be sure such expressions are permissible and protected by the French government. The act itself, the ability to offend sensibilities, religious sensibility needs not to be justified, it is cherished and enshrined by artists,writers, journalists, critics, musicians, any one in academia, anyone who loves to curse, who likes to vent, hear their own voice unfiltered, certainly anyone who is prideful of the French culture. In other words, liking Hebdo cartoons, draws a distinction between those who who are hardcore French and those who are adopting the French culture. In other words, Hebdo’s cartoons reveal something about the indigenous pedestrians’ sensibility, you pick up the magazine cringe or laugh, the secular Versus non-secular. Hebdo once had a cartoon where jesus, God and the holy spirit were sleeping together in a threesome. The Hebdo mental anti-crusade may be extrapolated to draw a distinction
Between those who are indifferent and those who are offended, and to those who are offended, perhaps Hebdo posed a challenge, what can you do about it? Who is in control? And since Hebdo had a legal bases from the State to assert his beliefs, the response would naturally be: nothing, you can do nothing.
Well, that was the case until he was murdered.
I will accept Hebdo’s cultural currency for face value. I can see the logic, and I respect it. I disdain the authority and authorship of any religion over our minds, senses, and body, and above all I have no mercy for any religion that wants to take control of an artistic expression. I respect that Hebdo and every person who is a free thinker who refuses to bow down to the religious authority. That is a period. As in It’s my dogma. But at the same time it’s not like Hebdo’s work was in art gallery’s. A little perspective is in order, he is certainly not Naji Ali, in life or in death.
It’s clear that Hebdo is a French phenomena, heck even David Brook points out hey, hey, you are not all Charles Hebdo, in fact almost none of the media outlets or college campuses in the world are Hebdo, certainly not in America will show his stuff. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/09/opinion/david-brooks-i-am-not-charlie-hebdo.html?_r=0)
So when you start reading more about France, the structural unemployment for the youth, alarming concentration of unemployment in muslim communities, 3 generations of Algerian Muslim communities in cyclic poverty, unemployment, higher rates of crimes, and faced with outward racism, such as not hiring people that have Muslim sounding names, banning burqas and scarfs, or open public racist debates (see article http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-justice-minister-and-the-banana-how-racist-is-france )It should make you pause.
Let me explain, I actually paused but not to change my mind about Hebod’s rights or my revisions toward his horrific murdering by scum-bag criminal who espouse to Islamic fundamentalism. I paused because the terrorist on face value have successfully turned death into a spectacular event.
Death that they commit every day on other arabs by the hundreds, many times by the thousands on a daily basis and it goes unnoticed, or it gets noticed as part of a political discord that swirls into the farcical.
In contrast, 3 terrorists out of hundred of thousands of terrorist that live in Middle East, 3 terrorist acted in France and turned it into a spectacle.
The terrorist that killed Hebdo, aimed to blur the lines between them and all Muslims, because they finally dared to provide a final response to insulting the prophet.
The reaction, the debate inverted into the nature of Islam, and blurred the line between muslim victims, innocent muslim bystanders, and muslim villains, and everyone seems to be drinking the kool aid.
I must have gotten the bug too because I decided to do something weird. Like start a blog to keep the dialogue going, at least with my self. Admittedly I have been in a weird mood, ever since the Syrian Revolution got hijacked by fundamentalist, then a “nobody” declared a caliphate, heads of journalists are getting decapitated on video, with a small knife, but only after the soon to be murdered had to confess on their knees proclaiming it is the west fault for his predicament and death.
I paused because it is starting to smell funny in the Arab world And considering that most of the population are Muslims in the Middle East…Well make your own conclusions.
I could’nt help but to play back some of the extraordinary failures in the region how my memory made excuses:
when the struggle in Palestine became jihadist, we blamed the failure of Arabism, when hizballah became a state defender, we blamed the weak state, when Iraq dissolved into chaos we blamed an egotistical dictator, when Libya broke we blamed the cracked dictator, when Egyptian revolution took a gluttonous hardline Islamic representation, we blamed poverty, and then Syria, my friend aptly calls it the darkness at the end of the tunnel.
To some, this incoherence is all easy to explain, it’s the West’s fault and its proxy agents. It’s not just the fundamentalist who share this common bedrock, it’s the assortment of jelly beans in all color, shape and flavors. Perhaps arabs are just overtly sensitive people, easily offended, not by violence, by words and images.
Perhaps I’m remembering excuses , using my faulty memory, and writing under such accords, because of the perversions that is on full display, when forcing the beheaded to blame his own country before taking his life. Taking away everything from a man, then gruesomely killing them, for everyone to see, because the West,
and because his country refused to pay the ransom (but that is not on the video, so it’s not worth exploring.)
I guess I’m no different either, one will have to be an idiot not to see the destructive, murderous and perverted role that the west plays in the region, direct and indirect. But, when is it permissible to start sharing some of this blame? And assuming arabs start to share the blame, when would be possible to criticize a religion such as Islam, from within, without fear? When would be okay to change your mind about your belief system, experience doubt, without fear? When can a society be at peace with the idea of faith, conversion to faith, lack of faith?
Here I pause and give a shoutout to the golden age, where tolerance was practiced. I’m not sure if we can ever recreate the past, considering our present. The shoutout should be filled with all the books and authors that contributed to our knowledge base, but that will not happen, as these people are not celebrated in today’s society, arabs today don’t model their lives don’t emulate the ones who dared to dissent in history. These people who once dared, are frozen in time and they understand if they had a way to still perceive.
I’m not sure Arabs could stop blaming the West and start blaming their own, to vocalize discontent, not only for their physical rights but for ethereal rights. For the record, I’m the one who is unreasonable, Yes, I expected large demonstrations in Arab countries when ISIS was formed, when beheading became a reality show, and when the obscenity of mass murder and sex slaves became public knowledge. This shows futility of my thoughts. Yes, I expected massive demonstrations for peace, when Islam is being used as a marketing tool for ultra-hyper- violence. Not because 3 people committed murder, because the terrorist has taken over several countries and they are proclaiming to represent the true religion, the religion not the jeans!
But the masses can’t demonstrate because of Iran, Saudi Arabia, because of SISI, because of Assad. Or perhaps they don’t care, because the Arab Moslem are satisfied with the holy book they have in their home and if they follow it they will go to haven, so fuck everything and everyone. Perhaps?
Maybe ISIS posed a challenge, what can you do about it? Who is in control? Does ISIS have a religious base to assert its beliefs? They are in control of countries, they recruiting other people, and population in Iraq and Syria helped them spread like wild fire, with population in other countries, Yemen, Saudi Arabia that admire their firebrand.
The response to ISIS would naturally do nothing, as an Arab, you can do nothing.
I would imagine, in an Imagined Arab world, when people dare to question everything they know, violate taboos, and survive and share their experience as contributors to the story of our humanity, it’s only then the perfection of our imperfection becomes self-evident. Yeah, I would imagine.
In many ways the threat to Arabs and Moslem Arab, and Moslem Arab Males is not about white, brown, and black races, with all due respect to the post colonist. It’s about how to seize the current times, and the current minds, with ideas (paying zero tribute to war of ideas and cultural war espoused by the neocons.)
It seems to me that, Ideas if not vetted by an Islamic filter, to ensure they are all sourced, or referenced by the One God, then they may be tainted by some kind of incarnated polytheism.
In a way, ideas that do not pass the muster are feared like some kind of modern surviving version of polytheism, dangerous.
The most dangerous ideas are those emanating from self-sourced people, professing that humans have the potential to realize that all paths lead to salvation if their hearts are clean, their minds are clear, and if they just surrender to themselves.
To most of the Arab Moslem Male population this sounds like a mental virus, that needs to be uprooted before it spreads. The pattern for uprooting is to Ban, Censor, Deny, Punish, Intimidate, Abuse, Kill, and refuse to take zero responsibility or allow anyone to hold them accountable because they are on a holy mission. The mission protecting the holy temple, the minds of your generation, exterminating all the weed, insects, and vermin, irrelevant, ideas so that God can enter.
How do I know this? I don’t. Because if you lived in an Arab Islamic country, and made such claims you would be killed for heresy. Yet this very fact is not disturbing enough to create a change in power. Self determination is an alien concept, very western, blasphemy befitting of death.
Some would point to the failure of the spring revolution as the proof. That is another blog entry.
In a secular world any wonky belief system would be acceptable as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, and adheres to the law of the land. But when the Law is religious, things can get complicated.
When I say we, I mean me, an ordinary person who happens to deeply care about ideals such as justice, fairness, and compassion. I say we, because I lived enough to know that more people than me happen to share the same sentiments and aspirations for the fellow human beings.
So yes, I took a moment and paused, talked to friends and family about Islam. I admit it was kind of weird. It is weird because it is not my job to find solutions, answers, to keep on digging like this, all these words end up just confusing and masking the obvious;
it smells awful in the Middle East.
Robert Fisk, probably paused and tried to make sense of the Algerian terrorist when he published his commentary about the Hebdo attack in “context” of the Algerian Muslim plights within France.
Also Juan cole took pause when he published his article of sharpening contradictions, putting in context the terrorist strategic aim to polarize the West public opinion against its Muslim constituents.
The newyorker took pause and provided the historical calibration to the current event by emphasizing the West religious intolerance that paved the way for the modern secular government. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies
For its part, the French government proved that it is in control, identified the attackers, killed them, and is taking advantage of its success by declaring a war on Muslim fundamentalist. Taking cue of another adage that seems to have defined our century “don’t let a great catastrophe go to waste”.
I took pause, did something different, I watched CNN news, for the first time in five years. I have not watched television news in over 5 news. That was super weird.
I talked to friends, family, and debated about the meaning and consequences of the current events. Some of my friends urged me to watch Fox news, to understand the extent of islamaphobia that is sweeping the national airwaves and consciousness.
It was tempting, but I did not think it was needed. Point well taken. I was surprised by the Muslim Apology hashtags trending in social media and even made it to CNN and it was indicative of the mood. Asking Moslem to apologize is insulting, as it assumes
1.8 billion People are not unique, not in charge of their own lives, that they are all guilty Robots regardless where they live.
On the other hand, it would be nice to have Arabs demonstrate against each other, it is a sign of strength not weakness. It would be nice for a change to demand freedom of our minds and refuse to kill or be killed for it.
Another sent me to Reza Arslan’s comments, the iconoclastic history of Islam, and a link despite the fact of historical depiction of the prophet Mohamed in Islamic Art. It was educational.
Truth to be told my friends’ opinion are pragmatic, reasonable opinion and so sound that they befit a nation. Simple message: don’t vilify the religion, idiot.
I only understood the power of their opinions when I was watching CNN. It was apparent how the public debate is being shaped:
In short the pundits speak with conviction about Extremist and they confuse the fundamentalist literal mindset, with their use of terror as a metaphor, rather than literal.
As in, when a terrorist says they will destroy France, they are not speaking to the French people, they are using a metaphor to communicate with the local french Moslems. The metaphor is
to face death, the biggest fear, without fear. To let them know that they just need to turn into violence and the terrorist version of Islam will find them.
The worst reaction possible would be to take the literal minded fundamentalist action as literal, when it comes to terror. Which is what the pundits tend to do, they are like art dealers who don’t want to miss on a Van Gogh, they think every terrorist declaration is a mein kempf, and they can’t afford to be wrong, heck the world can’t afford it, so they spin the most cynical expression. The news it is a travesty.
I’m not playing a religious Kabuki game, I actually have no interest to vilify any religion, I think all religion and their adherents are an amazing story in this time capsule we call planet earth. Though I’m rooting for the free thinkers.
I called my mom who lives in Lebanon, to vent about the current events. while we are sharing the tragedy of the Arab world, and as we were talking about the shameful state of affairs, she lets me know that a suicide bomber just killed himself in a coffee shop in Tripoli. Rest assured no one will take pause or have a national debate about innocent civilians that died that instant. Ironically, that is when my phone ran out battery and our connection ended.
I guess at the end of the day, It’s not about France, America, Muslims, Terrorists, or even Charlie Hebdo. It’s about asking yourself uncomfortable questions, and try not to be so easily satisfied, especially if it smells funny.