“This pen, this perfectly innocent pen.”
So said Harold Pinter. Going by the news in Paris yesterday when masked gunmen stormed into the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed, among others, cartoonists, editors, and journalists. Their crime? Cartoons of the prophet. Pretty tasteless. Maybe funny. But it’s a satirical perspective. But the pen has once again had to pay for itself in blood.
One of the cartoonists killed (after having previously received death threats) ironically said, “I’m not afraid of retaliation… I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.” This is ironic because it is an echo of the very words of Imam Husain (AS), the prophet’s grandson. Indeed, the very prophet who was apparently ridiculed in a series of satirical cartoons published by the magazine.
It’s really not a great time in history to be Muslim. But let’s be honest: it never has been. And we are not making it easier on ourselves. And while I don’t have the stats to prove it, I’m pretty sure we are more feared, mistrusted, and despised than the world lets on. Interestingly though, between 82% – 97% of all victims of terrorism are Muslim. (See here http://t.co/r2TKVFjtkB) So that should makes some of you feel better.
I’ll cut the crap. Newspapers, feeds, blogs, social media, and everyone who has an opinion will have something to say about this. I’m a nobody in this situation. What I am, is sad. I am sad because I feel closer to giving up the fight than ever. I’m a Muslim and I end up defending my religion more than I ought to. In fact, it reasons upon me that I don’t need to defend anything. Or explain myself. Or particularly react or respond when I am provoked; which is often enough. I am making small inroads with the thought that Islam is not the same guy as a Muslim. One is an ideology; a theocratically-designed and driven faith. And the other, is compelled by extremism, intolerance, and an unchecked sensitivity to any criticism. Because, while I am not a fan of racist, homophobic, anti-Islamic buffoonery, I’m not crazy about the idea of dead people as a result of it either.
I’m upset with my fellow Muslims. What a bloody circus you’ve set up for us, brothers with arms. So much for being the religion of peace. You only have to scratch the surface to understand that the prophet was a man of peace and showed an aggravating level of patience and tolerance for fascists and bigots. So this response of violence really has no place in the Islam I know and love.
Increasingly, Muslims cannot avoid having their credibility questioned. And with good reason. How many times must a man steal before he is called a thief? Once. Today, we commit acts of terror in the name of Allah (blasphemy), call it jihad (is not a war when you’re terrorising people), and then feel aggrieved when people call us terrorists and use their freedom of speech to express it. Well now. We’re pretty easy game.
So look, I’m not here to talk politics. I’m not going to launch into religious discourse or quote the Hadith. I don’t know enough. I’m here to speak as a Muslim to another Muslim. In particular, terrorists. I want to say, you’re an abhorrence to our faith and a slap on the face of peace. You are stupid because you think your violence will make people fear you and submit to you. They fear you, yes, but fear makes people hate you. And that means an unbroken cycle of fear-hatred-terror.
What it also means is that they hate us. The average Muslim on the street. The guy struggling to make a living in a big city. The girl going to school in her hijab. The young couple looking for a flat. They hate us. We’ve done nothing but share a common religion.
But your Islam is not my Islam.
In my Islam I don’t believe that Allah, the “most beneficent, and merciful”; who made you needs you to save his prophet from slander. Just who are you to avenge the first Muslim; the man who brought you your very faith? What gives you this kooky sense of entitlement? Who died and said you were the chosen one? It boggles my mind that you believe your purpose in life is to serve God by killing his own creations to glorify Him. By the way, your plan did not work. People are pissed off with Allah and all of us who worship Him and they think we are all alike. So thanks for nothing.
Some cartoonists practised their right to free speech, as hurtful and offensive as it was. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. And if you’re offended, say so. Use a pen. Use your mouth. Use your brain. Why do you use a gun? Are you so demented a creature that your only response is violence and not discourse or debate? All you’ve shown the world is that you’re the undisputed puller of triggers. It does not make you or us look very smart. It makes us look impulsive, small-minded, intolerant, overtly sensitive, and insecure about our faith. Because really, if you are a believer, you really shouldn’t care less what anyone else has to say.
As for the rest of us ( so called moderate) Muslims, it may do you good to read this excellent article which poses some fiercely honest questions and forces you to face some not-so-pretty facts: An Open Letter to Moderate Muslims http://t.co/O1OTS8iw85
Listen. Whoever you are, don’t defend or justify acts of murder and terror. That’s not what being a Muslim is about. It’s about calling out oppression, be it in the form of slavery, controlled speech, or abuse. Remember that oppression can also come in the form having your rights taken away.
Stand up for what’s right. Not the hurtful, insulting cartoons, not for bloody vendettas either. Stand up for reason. Stand up for clean, honest debate. Stand up for moderation. Stand up for mutual respect of others’ beliefs and faiths. Stand up against oppression of all kinds. Even when the oppressor is one of our own. Most of all, stand up for what you believe in.
I am standing up for humanity and for the Allah who has been nothing less than beneficent and merciful.
P.S. Before you leave, I would like to plug this extremely relevant post from The Hooded Utilitarian called, “In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism”. It’s not an easy piece to read or digest (you’ll see why), but it is an eye-opener and pushes us all to face some difficult facts worth pondering. Here are just the opening lines:
“When faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire.
In this case, it is the wrong response.
Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic.”