I wholeheartedly condemn the despicable and tragic killing of 12 people in France at the hands of Islamic radicals. This tragedy has been followed by an outpouring of immense grief and outrage. Many cartoonists have pledged to keep fighting the good fight for freedom of speech and to flood the world with caricatures of Muhammad. But there are two things that I don’t get, what are we going to achieve by making more caricatures of Muhammad, other than alienating Muslims and providing fodder for the creation of more radicals? And why do we keep asking how Muslims get radicalized so easily? Isn’t it already clear why this happens?
I don’t claim that Charlie Hebdo didn’t do an exceptional job of satire or that they were not challenging the status quo through their artwork. Satire is a powerful tool to shake up the powers that be. It has been used to fuel revolutions and to keep that little spark of dissent going, so that the rulers don’t get too complacent. Charlie Hebdo Is Heir to the French Tradition of Religious Mockery, proclaimed the Wall Street Journal. Further on, Stéphane Charbonnier (former editor at Charlie Hebdo and one of those killed in the attack) goes on to say that Catholicism is now a banalized target and that it doesn’t generate any reaction when it is mocked at. However, Islam is not there yet and that they will have to keep at it until it gets there.
But Islam is not the same beast as Catholicism. When they targeted the Church, they were targeting the powerful head of an organized religion. But when they target Islam, who are they targeting really? They are targeting a much more decentralized religion and hence, they are essentially targeting the people who follow that religion; the Muslim people.
I appreciate satire, but I don’t think it should be used to marginalize an oppressed people. It should be used to target those who consider themselves beyond the reach of traditional media. It should be used to blow the whistle on them and not to rub salt into the wounds of people ravaged by strife. At Charlie Hebdo, satire was being used to mock and provoke a helpless people and to provide an opportunity to an intellectual elite to laugh at those who don’t know any better. Those who can’t really afford to know any better.
Let’s face it world, ours is not a just and equal society. While there are lands of plenty and opportunity, where the most notable conflict is the war between Android and iOS; there are also places where people are dying of cold and hunger and don’t even get to lay their claim to a miserable existence. While we talk about the rights of the cartoonists to express their opinions, what about the rights of these people who have been oppressed beyond recognition and whose rights are being trampled upon without so much as a whisper of protest?
But there is one good thing about our world; it allows even the people from such places to dream about a better life in a better place. However, when they arrive in such places, they find that it wasn’t really what it was made to be. They find resentment and racism and so much more in between. Sometimes orphaned and alone, and sometimes away from their family stuck in the ravages of war in the place they left behind, they find themselves isolated. And if they are Muslims who were born in these countries, they suffer from the immense effort of trying to reconcile their religious beliefs and duties with their prevalent lifestyle that indirectly funds the oppression of their brothers and sisters in Islam. In their eyes, this is a grave injustice and they feel that they have been made to be a part of this without their consent, but they can’t speak out against it, or if they do, it has no real effect. In their eyes, this is grave injustice and leaves them marginalized.
Most of these Muslim people in the Western Civilization are desperately trying to make a life in an alien world. They have neither the money, the power nor the kind of influence that people mocking them have. All that they have is the dignity of their faith. And when France decides to ban headscarves and when Charlie Hebdo decides to caricature their Prophet Muhammad, even that dignity is taken away. When such a marginalized people are bombarded by news about atrocities of war by the US and its allies and propaganda videos on YouTube by fanatics, it doesn’t take them long to join the other side, where they hope to discover their sense of identity; where they believe that they belong.
Of course, that doesn’t happen. They find that they had been duped. But by then, it is too late. They are too embroiled in this messy game of terrorism and counter-terrorism to get out of it and they too get martyred by the drones, thereby creating another story for the fanatics to spread so that 1000 other such men can be recruited.
But the fanatics don’t even need that. They just need your cartoons to make people realize that the west not only destroys their homes and their lives, but also mocks them for being so helpless against their tyranny.
One can make a joke about a people, but one can’t force them to laugh. It must take tremendous indifference to not get riled up when someone spits in your face when you’re down and out. Religion is the opium of the masses. Likewise, Islam is a source of solace for Muslims who suffer the indignities of life day in and day out. Thus, it is nothing less than a slap on their face when they see the symbols that they hold so dear, being vilified just because ‘nobody should be spared’. It makes them angry and it pushes them to do horrible things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. It gives the fanatics and terrorists the necessary tools to create entire armies of people willing to kill the infidels for their offences against Islam.
Spare these millions of Muslims and don’t strip them of their dignity, and you might just spare the world another massacre.