There are so many twisted, knotted strands to this Charlie Hebdo thing, forming a dark shroud – let’s pull on a few of those strands, and see whether the fabric tightens or falls apart.
The Journalists Were Shot Because of Bush!
I’m not a psychologist or a historian, but I think that when people actually explain their actions personally, that is usually a good indication of their motivation.
These attackers told us why they did what they did: because they were offended by the cartoons – there were plenty of real political targets to attack if they wanted to avenge foreign policy on that day.
They were, of course, allied with the Islamic State, but people have been killing people for these reasons long before IS or American intervention in the Middle East.
Remember Salman Rushdie (whose books I haven’t read)? A religious gangster sentenced him to death before even the Gulf War. For any Guardian readers: the first Gulf War began in 1990, 9 years before the beginning of time (when Bush invaded Iraq).
From what I’ve read, the Qur’an doesn’t prohibit drawings of their prophet, but the Hadith does. In 2012, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (which includes Turkey) lobbied the UN for an international ban on the criticism of Islam – as such, these people actually believe what they say.
The above statement does not make implications about all Muslims.
Nonetheless, people’s ideologies and beliefs affect their actions.
Meanwhile, I’m no more scared of my Muslim friends than I am my Communist friends, but I don’t let my Communist friends forget about the USSR. The USSR was a perversion of Marx’s ideas, but no Communist can convince me that their founder believed in the free market, without which millions of Soviet citizens starved.
Muslims can ignore the calls to restrict freedom that are found in the Qur’an and the Hadith but, similarly, those verses won’t go away. I won’t deny the deaths that are associated with my politics and its adherents, but I can say that I’ve chosen very deliberately the ideology with the smallest mass grave behind it.
‘Islam is a Religion of Peace’
The latest one I heard was that it’s a religion of love. Please; love is one of the most glorious words in the English language, and peace is pretty close. I don’t think anyone who I have heard has actually thought about what love is, or how a religion of love or of peace would actally look.
I hope you’re not bored of this, but this is one of the few moments where it’s actually relevant:–
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13; 4-7
Please forgive the New King James Version: the King James uses the stiff-sounding ‘charity’ rather than ‘love’.
What religion on Earth actually fits that definition? No holy book, no faith, not even (many people’s darling) Buddhism advises or actually convinces people to act in accordance. Saying that Islam is a religion of love is almost but not quite like saying that War is Peace.
We’re nearly there, aren’t we? Islam is a religion of love, Assad is our Ally and you’d better not write a book about pigs.
Hypocrisy? Plenty to Spread around
Douglas Murray, whose words are often right draws the line of free speech at holocaust denial or antisemitism – I don’t draw it anywhere.
The oft-cryptic Medi Hassan calls free speech fundies like me hypocrites and seems to claim that holocaust jokes aren’t acceptable – I can point him to a great line by Doug Stanhope on the holocaust, and I dare him not to laugh.
You can find plenty of arguments to justify universal free speech outside this blog, and I can express them no better. So I’ll take a different tack.
Can you think of a time when you changed a belief or opinion because it became illegal? Can you imagine yourself doing so? The people whose speech we don’t like won’t disappear: they stay bad, but go quiet. In curtailing free speech, the state curtails what is essentially the only way in which people can be argued out of their positions.
You can’t make a law to change people’s minds any more than you can make a law to grow the economy – our culture, like the economy, grows through free exchange between free people.
And now Cameron, not like a phoenix rising from the fire but like fire rising out of fire to burn more stuff, asks: ‘do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?’
Though he marched alongside other World leaders in Paris, it seems he has no truer a personality or sense of virtue than Ed Milliband.
That group of leaders, comprised, in part, of useful idiots and hypocrites, gives me a similar feeling to the moment when people forgot about the charity part of the no make-up selfie and just posted pictures of their faces without money changing hands.
I was impressed far more by the solidarity of the people of France who, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, very effectively spread around the risk that is associated with freedom and maintaining freedom.
For the Danish cartoons affair, of 2005 the people seemed a bit reticent, but, this time, it seemed that the thugs have finally gone too far.
Meanwhile, French comedian Dieudonne, who sent a tweet with the implication that he sympathised with the attack, has been arrested. It’s nice to see that the French authorities are working with the fundamentalists to destroy free speech even quicker.
We will only beat these Yahoos if we’re better than them, if we create good ethics and actually follow them.
My friend Esther Hodges observed, with respect to the protests in Paris:–
If an equivalent number were to march for each victim of Boko Haram’s most recent and most deadly attack in Baga, around 435 million would be marching.
I admit that this feels depressing. Though, if we protested every day Islamic extremists killed someone, we’d rarely leave the streets. Nonetheless, Boko Haram don’t care whether people in decadent, infidel Western countries protest or not.
I have my own problems with the Je Suis Charlie meme. But, I think that anyone who watched those protests, hoping that the French would’ve been convinced to keep quiet concerning their prophet, would’ve realised that their plan has failed.
Nigeria, on the other hand, doesn’t need well-meaning marchers in Europe, they need their own marchers, in their millions, telling Boko Haram where they can shove their ideology. We can’t export safety and freedom to Nigeria anymore than we can improve living standards in the long term with aid. A person has the right only to that for which they fight – and that’s a statement of fact, not ethics.
The whole thing’s a mess, isn’t it? I think we are in a better place, however, than when Jyllands-Posten published the Muhammad cartoons in 2005. We’ll be all right in the end, as long as we don’t let Charlie Hebdo go the way of the No Make-Up Selfie.
Has reading over this made you feel alone? Writing it has made me feel so. But don’t worry, those useful idiots in the middle just cancel out every other action they take; that leaves those of us who believe in freedom and those who don’t, and we’re already at an advantage by having a free mind with which to fight.
My ebook, Faux, is now available:—
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