Sunday, 11 January 2015

Some thoughts on Islam and Charlie Hebdo

In the aftermath of what happened at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris there were a limited, but noticeable, number of comments bordering on defending  the murders. The comments didn't go as far as saying the people deserved to be killed but people tried to excuse what happened.  One prime example was Catholic League President Bill Donohue who said: 
“It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death … had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive” 
 Such comments prompted me to tweet this:

It doesn't matter what sensitivities were hurt. It doesn't matter what deity, religion, or prophet was lampooned. No one has the right to take someone else's life just because their feelings were hurt. 12 people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The killers and hostages were killed in the siege that followed. How can anyone think that...

"....but they shouldn't have mocked Islam" 
"....but the cartoons were distasteful" 
"....but people's beliefs should be respected"
justifies such a pointless loss of life? No one should lose their life for drawing cartoons, regardless the subject. 

In the aftermath people, including French President Francois Hollande, said the killings had nothing to do with Islam. I understand that President Hollande my have been motivated to say this out of a duty to protect innocent, peaceful Muslims from reprisal attacks. I'm not sure why he would say it when all know it's not the truth. In a situation like this not all truths need to be stated, but all things stated should be the truth.

So I understand the President's motivation, but I'm not sure why someone would send me "So why would you doubt Hollande's correct assertion that the Islamic religion isn't at fault?"

I'm not really sure what more evidence they need. Muslims attacked and killed people working for a satirical newspaper well known for lampooning Muhammad and Islam (as well as other religions and religious figures).
The gunmen were Muslims. They were heard shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic ("Allahu Akbar").
This was a religion inspired attack by religious people for religious reasons. Sharia calls for death for Blasphemy. The gunmen, despite having no authority to do so, were enforcing this law.
A religion was insulted. A religion was defended by religious people and it was done with murderous consequences.

To suggest Islam had nothing to do with it is the height of either stupidity or naivety. 

I posted the above to Facebook and a friend asked what the solution is. 

My response got lengthy: 

I think step 1 is to actually ban Sharia law. Not sure how to legislate that because I'm no legal expert but it has to be done here and in all non-Islamic states. I know in the UK Islamic communities are setting up their own Sharia courts and they are operating as though they have actual authority. We need to make it clear to all that no religious tenet carries more weight that the actual law of the land. 

Then we need to educate and motivate 'rank and file' Muslims to be vocal within their communities about blasphemy and we need a ground-up movement from within to declare blasphemy is *not* punishable.  
Politicians need to openly say there *is* an issue within Islam and that issue is that Sharia law says that blasphemy is punishable by death. They need to put pressure on Islamic leaders to renounce this law and they need to make Islamic leaders declare that Islam *is* open to criticism and satire.  
Then on a global scale the UN needs to put pressure on Islamic countries, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to change their blasphemy laws. In Pakistan recently a man was released from jail where he'd been sentenced for blasphemy. Two days later he was shot and killed. In Saudi Arabia a man has been sentenced to 10 years jail and 1000 lashes for 'Insulting Islam'. He received the first 50 of those lashes on Friday. He'll receive the rest over the next 19 weeks. When governments are punishing people for blasphemy, other governments need to be standing up to them. 
My friend commented the my proposed solution was a bit pie-in-the-sky and asked a few more questions so I added:
It is pie in the sky but big problems need big solutions. I guess the question is - How do you convince people that killing over cartoons is not okay? To me only another question arises - Can you convince a person willing to kill a person over a cartoon of anything? If the west retreats and leaves Islamic theocracies to Muslims the problem doesn't go away, it just becomes more local. The guy in Pakistan still dies, the guy in Saudi Arabia still get lashed, maybe we just don't hear about it. We need to convince *all* Muslims that blasphemy is not a crime. Maybe we do that by sharing affluence and educating the masses.
I know not all Muslims kill over cartoons but as far as I know all people who kill over cartoons are Muslims. Is this causal or coincidental? They are following the law of their religion. It is the law of their religion that has motivated them. Seems causal to me. 

There are some disturbing statistics published about how Muslims feel regarding free speech and their religion. According to the data from an American survey published here...
  • 58% said "no" When asked, “Do you believe that criticism of Islam or Muhammad should be permitted under the Constitution’s First Amendment?"
  • 45% of respondents agreed “…that those who criticize or parody Islam in the U.S. should face criminal charges,”
  • 32% believed “…Sharia law should be the supreme law of the land in the US.”
The more these people accept that Islam is not above criticism, they more they accept that blasphemy is *not* punishable, and the more vocal they are about that to their community leaders, the less likely it is that people will be killed for drawing cartoons. 

The killers are dead now. They are dead and will be dead forever. They were murderously upset at the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo but now tens of millions more people have seen those cartoons. The cause of the killers has more critics than ever before. What have they achieved by embarking on a course of action that saw such a senseless loss of life? Surely only the opposite of what they wanted. See the Streisand effect.  

There is a problem here. It is within Islam. Blasphemy, criticism, satire all have to be accepted, even if they're not liked. People have the right to not be killed for drawing a cartoon lampooning an ideology more than people have to right to not have their feelings hurt. 

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