A special edition of Charlie Hebdo is on sale. Emboldened by the hypocritical speeches that characterised last Sunday’s international solidarity rally in Paris, editors of the rag-sheet claimed three million copies would be on sale for the next one week. A sell-out is guaranteed and this means cool cash for a publication whose weekly print never exceeded fifty thousand.
As usual, hypocrisy has won and the world is basking in its warped victory. In the thick of the madness to commend bigots’ right to offend, there was no semblance of a whimper from world leaders that rallied in Paris in condemnation of the excesses of Charlie Hebdo. Iran, Turkey and a few Muslim organizations preached moderation from the fringes but had their voices drowned in the global display of hypocrisy. This is hardly surprising, anyway! The message: Charlie Hebdo did nothing wrong in caricaturing prophets; it is their attackers that are black-faced, intolerant Muslim fundamentalists!
Despite the hypocrisy, the West must accept complicity in the deaths! During the week, seventeen people, made up of journalists, cartoonists, police officers, bystanders and three terrorists were killed and the whole world literally came to a standstill. The anger that greeted the killings and the global condemnation that followed are justified. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmud Abass, leaders of the two countries that are responsible, albeit indirectly, for last week’s and similar targeted killings elsewhere made it to Paris!
Overnight, a little known, backwater publication has become world known. This could have been the aim of its founders but it is safe to hazard a guess that the seventeen people that were killed would still be alive had one-tenth of those who rallied in Paris last Sunday shouted down Charlie Hebdo and condemned the excesses of its editors over the years. But the world chose to play the ostrich, in the selective defence of a dubious and hypocritical culture of freedom of speech, as Charlie Hebdo and similar outfits and individuals insulted and assaulted the sensibilities of others.
According to Western narratives, which we must all subscribe to, it is considered appropriate for people, including Jews, to shred and make bonfires of copies of the Holy Qur’an just as it is fashionable for people to caricature and depict the Holy Prophet Muhammad without considering its offence on Muslims. In the same West, official sanctions, including long spells in prison await expression of anti-Semitic views such as denial of the holocaust, the term used to describe the alleged incineration of six million Jews by Europeans on European soil. It is on account of holocaust-denial that Iran is being treated as a pariah state. Freedom of speech, eh?
The unfortunate Charlie Hebdo massacre reminds us of the frustration of the average Muslims arising from this dilemma. Muslims are enjoined to show reverence for all divinely-revealed books: the Holy Qur’an is one; the others being the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, a collection of revelations which Muslims refer to as Azzabur, Attaurah and Injil. Rejecting any of these clearly renders a Muslim an apostate. In essence, a Muslim cannot shred or make a bonfire of the Holy Qur’an or the Holy Bible. Ditto for all Prophets: None is considered a Muslim if they insult any of the Prophets of God prominent among them being Jesus, known to Muslims as Isa. Many non-Muslims would be surprised to hear that Muslims would rise in condemnation if, God forbid, a Muslim caricatures Jesus or any Prophet for that matter!
In addition to these, Muslims are enjoined to show reverence for and, defend places of worship which, to them are mosques, churches and synagogues. Even in times of war, those who seek refuge in these places are free from being attacked. It is in the spirit of these and several Qur’anic injunctions that mainstream Muslims condemn and dismiss as non-Muslims and apostates extremist groups such as Boko Haram that target Christians and their places of worship. Muslims have several issues with the way the West treats them and their religion. In fact, there is this general perception among even the most liberal Muslims that the West deliberately seeks to undermine Islam. The point is not that this charge is easily brushed aside; what is at issue is that Muslims worldwide just cannot understand why Westerners fail to understand the Muslims’ dilemma after several centuries of direct contact between the two worlds. It is this failure, which Muslims perceive as deliberate, that has been at the heart of the persistent Muslim anger at the West.
What this boils down to is that since his religion does not permit him to make a bonfire of revealed books and depict Prophets, the Muslim is left with one of three options when his dilemma pushes him to the point of frustration, to the point of getting even with the West. One, and this is favoured by majority of Muslims, is to ignore those who deliberately seek to undermine Islam through depicting Prophets in cartoons and amateur videos. Two, and this is favoured by adherents of Shi’a sect as represented by its elevation to state policy in Iran, is to promote holocaust-denial to state policy. The third, as with Charlie Hebdo, is the recourse to taking up arms to ‘avenge the Prophet.’
Muslims have reasons to believe that the West has a deliberate agenda to undermine Islam. And there is a long-standing historical narrative behind this feeling. According to this narrative, going back to the Middle Ages, Christian forces from the West have persistently sought to break the grip of Islam on its people. By holding fast, Muslims believe, they were able to flourish as a civilization, at times superseding the West in many dimensions. With the desire by the West to turn the blind eye or even encourage Islamophobia, Muslims today, increasingly feel justified in their belief that the onslaught on Islam has assumed a more threatening dimension. The fear is reinforced by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction which they easily deploy in defence of Israel at the expense of the Muslim world.
Contrary to the popular misconceptions in the West, very few Muslims subscribe to the warped ideas of Al Qaeda and ISIS. In the same vein, many Muslims subscribe to Western liberal democracy that seeks to undermine their religion. What is more, a referendum in Muslim communities would reveal that majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the idea of wiping Israel off the surface of the earth.
It is the failure on the part of the West to do what it ought to do that fuels the terror machine of Al-Qa’eda and sundry groups. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but truth is that the Palestine is central to the problem of terror that has gripped the world. And doing what the West ought to do is to resolve the Palestinian question. Otherwise, the world is not about to see the end of more Charlie Hebdos.