Bennett Morgan writes
The callous murders of twelve Charlie Hebdo journalists have shocked, angered and even motivated millions, including world leaders, to take to the streets in solidarity for the fallen. Recently in Paris French president Francois Hollande was joined by global heavyweights with government representation from Israel, Palestine, the United Kingdom and Germany. Whilst the hypocrisy of some, if not all, of these leaders is worth discussing, it was undoubtedly good to see leaders from Israel and Palestine united for a common cause, arm in arm.
It goes without saying the recent events have attracted the attention of the odd fruitcake. Some conspiracy theorists leaping to conclusions, in their desire to make current events and history more interesting, have suggested that Israel plotted the attacks. “Join the dots, sheeple” they tell us, pointing to the recent legislation passed by France’s socialist government to recognize Palestine. But we know that current events and history is already interesting enough without the addition of conspiracy theories. It is understandable that an Islamic person would take offense at the recent Charlie Hebdo cartoons. It is understandable too that there is Islamic extremism at all.
Here are the two things which have disturbed me recently.
1. How we decide what is ‘terrorism’.
Recently a relative of mine showed me an internet meme which I found interesting. At first we were both unsure about its message. But the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. Roughly the meme wrote ‘One Islamic terrorist holds a siege = entire religion to blame. One black man shoots someone = entire race to blame. One white man goes on shooting rampage at campus = crazy outsider’. That struck me. It was true, and I had never truly thought about how daft that fact is. There is just no denying this is how the majority of our media reports the news, manipulates the story and twists the title. Really, the three situations above are more or less the same. In fact, before the Sydney siege gunman was found to be muslim the word ‘terrorist’ wasn’t actually brought up.
I recall watching Fox News just days after the killing (and if you ask me, murder) of Eric Garner. The show included two white hosts, two white guests and another additional guest – a black man. In summary, by the end of the discussion, the white panelists had all successfully forced the black panelist to admit the black community in America had problems it needed to sort it out. Wow, how strange it is now looking back on it. When do we, as white people, ever take the load when someone with the same skin colour as us kills someone? Why do we never get together as a ‘white community’ and discuss what we need to do as we so often demand others to do?
When people see the ‘Islamic state’ fighting for the liberation of Islamic people worldwide they jump to the conclusion that this must be the desired outcome shared by all Islamic people. Surely, if that were the case, and all 1,800,000,000 muslims in the world wanted to kill the non-believers, we’d all be dead?
And of course Islam is not the only religion to deal with its extremists. Christianity, in particular Catholicism has had its share of vicious and callous terror groups in the past. In the United States the Ku Klux Klan originally, and to this day, insist their mission, to separate the races in America (originally to exterminate all non-white races) is one given to them by God. Similarly with the IRA in Ireland, which outlined their purpose to liberate all Catholics in Ireland. The parallels with Christian extremists and Islamic extremists are stark.
But never do I recall Catholics being told to get together and discuss ‘their’ terror problem. Never do I recall Christianity being viewed as a religion of instability and terror, as opposed to Islam.
Of course, the armchair experts who insist Islam is all dangerous, all radical and far worse than any other religion will bring up their two classic arguments. Those being;
1 – The Quran preaches hate and the murder of non-believers.
Yes, indeed it does. But, like extremists in Christianity, it is only extremists in Islam that take every word of the Quran literally. You don’t see all 1.8 billion Muslims gleefully killing infidels; just the same as you don’t see every Tom, Dick and Harry of the Christian faith stoning children, women and non-virgins to death. Hands up here who would be dead already if that was the case?
2 – The Middle East is where all the fighting is and the dominant religion there is Islam – coincidence?
Well, let’s just say, if the world’s most powerful armies invaded your country in pursuit of oil, how long would it take you to fight back? Terrorism in the region is more politically motivated than religiously.
So, what’s the second thing that has disturbed me recently?
2) The perceived defense of terrorism.
Before I start this section I would like to express that I do understand those using the ‘#ImNotCharlie’ hashtag are not intending to defend terrorism. What it does sound like, to many, is the legitimization of terrorism through the expectation that, when someone is offended, they retaliate in a violent way. That is not true. No offended person, in sound mind, ever retaliates by killing the person who offended them. That is completely unusual and should be discouraged as strongly and as passionately as possible.
The hypocrisy of those world leaders marching with Hollande in Paris is, as I said, worth discussing. Indeed we all had a good laugh at John Key’s latest offer of idiotic comments that journalists should be ‘free’ to do their work. This coming from the man who obviously had no respect for the journalistic routines of Nicky Hager. But it is no less hypocritical for people who claim Charlie Hebdo is ‘racist’ to demand the magazine cease publication. I am a great believer in freedom of speech, the quote “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” has been the source of much of my stances. A society which silences someone’s opinion, no matter how obscure, is no society at all. A world where we live in fear for our opinions, or heaven forbid a harmless joke we make, is no good world to live in either.
Countless cartoons, published by Charlie Hebdo and the like, have poked fun, often viciously at other religions too. Christianity and Judaism are perhaps the most common targets. Just a few weeks ago popular US show Family Guy had an entire episode where the plot was Jesus, the pillar of the Christian faith, was a womanizer. Had that been Mohammed, the prophet of the Islam, the outrage would have been far greater than a few disapproving comments online.
Not all Jews are villains plotting global domination (are any?), not all Christians are pedophiliacs and not all muslims are terrorists. But if you want to write a cartoon saying that they are, even for a joke, I will defend your right to do that.