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Post 405a: Je Susi Charlie [Posted 8th January 2014]

As you’re no doubt aware, on Wednesday 7th of January at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, masked gunmen slaughtered ten members of the editorial team and two French police officers. The reason for this barbaric attack, it would seem, was a reaction to the publication, on several occasions, of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. On a personal note, I didn’t find the Charlie Hebdo cartoons to be particularly amusing, or informative, but any verbal assault on humour, politics or religious beliefs should surely lead to dialogue, not death. Sadly, this isn’t the first such deadly response to criticism, satirical or otherwise, of Islam and its envoy on earth, and I’m not referring to the previously published Danish cartoons or even Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses.

For the first example of such a violent response to criticism of the Prophet, we must travel back to 7th century Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad. Asma bint Marwan – daughter of Marwan – was a local poet who openly mocked Muhammad’s claim to be the Slave of Allah, Allah being the Arabic word for God. Vexed by the content of her verse, Muhammad had asked “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” That evening, one of Muhammad’s followers murdered Asma while she slept, and upon hearing the news Muhammad exclaimed “you have helped both God and His messenger”. If Islam is a religion of peace, then as with most other religions, it didn't get off to a very good start.
So, is it right that we, society, should be openly critical of religion? Many believers will say 'No', especially I suspect when it relates to their own chosen belief system, but on any logical basis, the answer must surely be 'Yes'. Religions, both monotheistic and polytheistic, are by their very nature expansionist, and in this respect Islam seems more determined than most. Religions are like political movements, without national borders, and their manifestos are their sacred books; Bible, Quran, Torah. As Islam’s ultimate and undisguised goal is to attract the remaining five-billion of the world’s non-believers to its fold, by all means necessary, then society has a moral obligation to review, dissect, question, and where necessary, even openly mock its policies and actions.

But, the free thinking world has become an amazingly sensitive beast, especially when it comes to discussing Islam. It’s a beast burdened by the weight of political correctness, and for this deafening silence in the face of mounting sickness, we must all accept a degree of personal responsibility. Since the birth of electronic media, the rise of Islamic violence has monopolised the limelight, but, although Islam has stolen the headlines, none of the faith based movements have been totally free from sin. Charlie Hebdo might not be funny, in my eyes at least, but at least they don’t discriminate. When it comes to being critical of faith, Charlie Hebdo are certainly advocates for equality.

No faith escaped the cartoonist’s pen, but only one movement reacted against them with violent and deadly force. Of course, the artists knew that their cartoons would be controversial, and that was precisely their point, they were a catalyst to conversation, debate and hopefully, enlightenment. They were fully aware of the risks to themselves, but they didn’t fear the wrath of Allah, to them Allah was as real as a Unicorn, what they feared, justifiably, was the reaction of individuals who’d been poisoned by his brutal manifesto.
Some will take exception to my choice of words, brutal manifesto, but as with the books of other religions, many of which are reflected in the Quran, the suras of the Quran and Hadith are no strangers to the glorification of violence. 'If they turn their backs, [on Islam] take them, and slay them wherever you find them'.

The editorial staff and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo paid the ultimate price for fulfilling their obligation to the world. But, hopefully, from their martyrdom will rise a movement, a new generation of critical thinkers who will detect the true scent of religion and identify it for exactly what it is.

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