Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Islam versus Satire = Murder

“Allahu Akbar” was the cry being heard from the gunmen who slaughtered 12 people in their attack on a newspaper’s offices in Paris this morning.  There is something seriously poverty-stricken and sickening about any religion whose adherents respond to the printed word, or image, with a murderous attack.  Their God reveals his smallness, meanness and brutality in the actions of such apostles, but perhaps after all “Allahu Akbar” is the empty slogan of already spiritually dispossessed people. 

I write this as news is still developing about the attack on the Paris offices of satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, and much is still unknown about it.   Given that the magazine has lampooned the Prophet Muhammed and radical Islam (along with nearly every other religion as well) it currently seems a fair bet that the attackers were indeed Islamic adherents.  They represent a brand of Islam incapable of rational operation in the modern world.  My own knowledge of the Koran is too limited to allow any comment on whether such action as that taken today can be justified in its pages, or whether it represents an apostasy of Islam.  If it is the latter, of course we look forward to the vigorous denunciations of anyone who uses Islam to further a murderous aim from the leaders of that religion.

In the meantime, the Charlie Hebdo tragedy illustrates the awful problem faced by liberal, western societies.  Journalists, writers and illustrators are in the front-line of maintaining, upholding and simply symbolising that rational liberalism, but as this morning’s events show, such attitudes are red rags to the closed minds of the religious fanatic.  And it is lamentably easy for the fanatic bent on murder to wreak his havoc in a liberal state.  The number of gunmen whose courageous crusade took them to the killing zone of unarmed men and women working at computer screens may only have been two, but the resultant havoc has been immense.  And the danger is that the very thread of liberty itself becomes taut, and in places broken, by the fall-out of such an event.


All credit to President Hollande – not a man who has covered himself in glory during his mishappen presidency so far – for his rapid visit to the Charlie Hebdo offices and his clear reassertion of France’s ‘liberty’.  The deaths caused by the “Allahu Akbar” shouting murderers are tragedies; but I wonder if the response to such senseless hatred may well be a ratcheting up of a determination by writers and publications and others to overtly attack such monstrosity, question the ideas and theology behind it, and vigorously assert the superiority of liberty and rationalism.  In taking their action today, the gunmen have already shown that they have lost.  It is a gaping wound that their defeat is so costly.

UPDATE: French Islamic leaders have been quick to condemn the attacks, saying that "They have hit us all. We are all victims".

UPDATE 2: The Spectator's editorial about this attack quotes Muslim writer Irshid Manji's words in an article last year -  “The Qur’an states that there should ‘no compulsion in religion’. (2:256). Nobody should be forced to treat tradition as untouchable, including traditions that result in the messed-up Muslim habit of equating our very human prophet with an inviolable idol.”

It becomes as imperative as ever that Islamic leaders and followers take a lead in condemning the attacks, in order to make the case for Islam as a religion of tolerance.

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