Thursday, January 8, 2015

What Does Charlie Hebdo Mean For Us?

The free press and the right to report, dissent or satirize without fear of criminal prosecution is often confused with the right to do so without facing the consequences of those actions. Terrorists aren't constrained by the law. I look forward to reading comments on political sites and blogs. The passion that some people write with is palpable. With that said, trolling a blog or social media sight is quite different than attaching your name and identity to an article or cartoon that terrorists find offensive. The tragedy that unfolded at Charlie Hebdo in Paris was a brutal wake up call to those who choose to stand on principle.

I'm willing to admit my intellectual limitations, but saying all Muslims aren't terrorists is akin to saying all black people aren't criminals: no serious person disputes this sort of claim. But where are we? In the face of rising fears in the western world, attacks like the one in Paris validate (for some) the distrust and hostility directed towards young Muslims. This is a negative synthesis. If stricter laws are imposed, more Muslims will feel pushed to the margins of society- which creates an atmosphere where further radicalization can occur. 

In my opinion we suffer from a lack of critical thinking and brutal honesty.
Religion, like race, is such a sensitive issue that important questions are often trivialized or outright avoided. Telling the truth isn't a Pat Robertson one size fits all jingoistic rant, nor is it a liberal utopian diatribe about getting in touch with the feelings of the perpetrators of these attacks. Any attempt to tell an "objective" truth, or set of truths, about radical Islam has to be focused on historical context. We didn't just arrive here. This doesn't mean the west should be punching bags for past offenses, but we shouldn't disconnect their influence on today.

I could be wrong, but the message I took from Charlie Hebdo was that standing on principle in the face of violent opposition can end in tragedy. I understand the willingness of some to put their lives on the line for an idea. Comedy has a way of broaching taboo topics in a way that straight dialogue can't, but the truth is: everyone wasn't laughing or willing to laugh. Now, fear has taken hold, and when we get scared in the west we cede more of our freedoms and double down on hatred. I sincerely mourn for the families affected by this tragedy. Sadly, this won't be the last clash between civilizations and ideologies.

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