Like Karol I was shocked to wake up and read about the killing of staff at Charlie Hebdo and also the killing of two police officers, one of who, Ahmed Merabet, was reportedly of Muslim background.
We should suspend full judgment on what has happened until we have more facts. Leaping to judgment has previously been shown to be a mistake. Early speculation about the Sydney Siege was shown to be incorrect, not to mention damaging.
The report from one of the survivors suggests that the killers may have been French born adherents of the Muslim faith and Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the prophet Mohammed was clearly the cause of the attack which appears to have been well planned. There are reports that the attackers claimed to be from Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Suspects have been identified.
It is not as if acts of terrorism are unknown, it is just that acts of terrorism involving Muslims appear to receive extra coverage. For instance the recent firebombing of NAACP offices in Colorado received little local coverage although admittedly no one was killed. The killing of seven journalists during the recent Israeli attacks on Palestine received little coverage. But any “Muslim” involvement seems to make the event that much more newsworthy.
There are three implications for our society from these events:
As to the first there will be a chilling effect on the media. But we need to protect their right to publish information, even upsetting information. Satire has to be at the front of the list of what needs to be protected.
It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or sold, or bought, or read.
And a recent tweet of his:
Long live Charlie Hebdo. Long live the freedom of expression. Down with the acolytes of stupidity and hatred.
— Philip Pullman (@PhilipPullman) January 7, 2015
“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.
Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
Some have suggested there should be a mass publishing of the offending cartoons. But I do not know why. I agree with Stephanie Rodgers that in terms of quality they are poor. And why exercise the right of free speech just to offend? While we should have the utmost right to say something this does not mean that we should use it to intentionally upset.
The “break down of tolerance” has been happening for a while. Attacks by the extremist fringe of a particular society are said to be justification for condemning that society as a whole. This is as nutty as blaming Christianity for the actions of the Klu Klux Klan. But if we allow tolerance to break down then the terrorists are winning. The best thing we can do is reach out to the various Muslim Communities to show that all we have interesting cultural differences there is so much that we share in common.
And besides there is a diversity amongst the Muslim Communities as strong as there is amongst the European Communities. As an example anyone who thinks that the good people of West Auckland are the same as the people of Remuera need their heads read.
Journalists, there's no such thing as The #Muslim World. There are diverse Muslim communities around the world. The Borg we are not.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 7, 2015
Finally, as for increased surveillance it is a given that the governments’ particularly the right wing varieties, will use this event to push for even further powers of surveillance. But the question whether increased powers will ever improve things, let alone justify the loss of personal freedom, is never properly answered during these bouts of power grabbing. After all the actions of a lone gunman in Sydney who pretty well published his nuttiness to the world via Facebook were not stopped. Allowing even further powers of intrusion into our lives will help how?
While on this point prepare for further cynical exploitation of the situation by this Government similar to what occurred during the Sydney Siege.
My deepest condolences to the families of the people who have been killed.