Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blind bats and parrots: in which the author insists he doesn't hate Muslims

            A little more on Charlie Hebdo, before it gets too old (though I will argue that this issue will never get old, because no sooner will the dust settle on this atrocity than there will be another one, mark my word).

            The apologia continues from the usual suspects: writers, academics and generally well meaning people who cannot bring themselves to condemn a mass killing without attempting to shift the blame to some wider social issue which would ultimately relieve the perpetrators of any real responsibility. As if the gunmen were helpless puppets of fate, pushed unwillingly into their situations by circumstance.

            I’m going to turn things around a little bit: when I condemn an atrocity, why is it my job to reassure everyone I don’t hate Muslims?

             I do not. I do hold all Muslims responsible, I will not vote for some war-monger politician calling for the bombing of Muslim countries, I will not call for the banning of religious headgear, I will not be joining in any of those despicable neo-nazi pogroms against people who had nothing to do with the crime.

            Now that we've gotten this out of the way, I have to ask, why does this even need to be said? When did speaking out against murder become culturally insensitive? Even prejudicial?

            The last few generations of liberals have worked hard to develop a healthy allergy to anything that might contribute to xenophobia, scapegoating or oppression. This is for the most part, a good thing. But over the years, tolerance has turned into a refusal to make any sort of value judgment ever, a moral equivalency which excuses any practice at all if it can be linked to culture or religion.
Thus has Islamophobia become the climate change issue of the left - where opinion is determined by one's place on the ideological spectrum. No ground can be given, lest it give comfort and succor to the enemy - in this case, the warmongers of the Bush II camp.

            But the system collapses when incompatible values do come into conflict, and judgments must be made. Every now and then, there comes a case where the standard analysis doesn't work; where it's not the west's fault, where capitalism an/or imperialism might, just might, actually be the lesser evil. This can be painful, but when the bullets fly, sometimes it's alright to blame the shooter.

            It is undeniable that Muslims have legitimate grievances. The Charlie Hebo massacre was immediately followed by hate crimes all over France against Muslims who had nothing to do with it. Right wing parties are on the rise all over Europe. Western countries bomb Muslim countries with impunity, and the occupation of Palestine goes on and on and on. . . Let us not forget either when we look at ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the playboys of Saud, that most of their victims are also Muslims (which makes me wonder how condemning them became an act of Islamophobia). All very true, all very serious. But why should sensitivity to all this necessitate surrendering the right to think and speak freely? To criticize? That is what we do when we quibble.  

            The question here is very simple: either Charlie Hebdo had the right to draw those pictures, or they didn’t. Nevermind the wisdom, or even the morality of printing them: either they had the right, or they didn’t.

            A “yes, but. . .” answer is really a “no”.   To invoke the whole “hate speech” argument, as if drawing a picture were comparable to pulling a trigger, is to declare that some ideas are indeed out of reach, and beyond scrutiny. In this case, it is to suggest we are all subject to certain religious prohibitions whether we follow that religion or not (and its most backward, reactionary interpretation at that).

            So in short, I don’t hate anyone. But their God is not mine, and their rules don’t apply to me. And I’ll not take kindly to any attempt to make me follow them. 

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