The case of the Charlie Hebdo massacre epitomizes a “clash of civilizations”: on the one hand, Democracy/Freedom/West and on the other, Extremism/Terror/Islam. As the Charlie Hebdo massacre recedes quickly into yesterday’s news, the questions surrounding the rights and freedoms of Europeans and Muslims are echoing louder.
The main question remains: “Should the freedom of speech in a Western country be stifled because of the perceived religious feelings of others?
From a Western point of view, the answer is a resounding “Yes”, since the freedom of speech is the foundation of a democratic society as long as that freedom remains equally available to minority groups as the majority.
Muslim extremists have their own clear answer and it is an angry “No” for two reasons:
- Because sometime in the very distant past, Islam forbade criticizing or satirizing the Prophet Muhammad, and those who do should be punished by death since they “corrupt the earth” with their words and acts.
- Because in the present, the governing bodies of some Muslim countries are led by religious extremists who place the laws of Islam above the freedom of choice of their citizens, stifling any form of criticism or satire against the Prophet or Islam.
The conflict between cultures occurs once Islamist extremists try to enforce the laws of Muslim countries in the Western countries they live in – just like the Kouachi brothers.
Muslims Reaction to Charlie
All over the Islamic world condemnation of the terrorist act was balanced between denouncing terrorism and blaming the victims’ pens and imaginations as well as blaming their government’s policies in Syria and Iraq.
As outlined in our previous post, Rouhani might be leading his WAVE (War Against Violence and Extremism) initiative but that did not stop Iranian clerics and politicians siding with the terrorists on the Charlie Hebdo massacre. These same leaders easily condemn ISIS for the horrors they have committed in the name of Islam just across the border in Iraq and in Syria, but once the victims are Europeans, they cynically believe that terrorism might be justified.
Not only were the victims blamed but showing solidarity with them was forbidden: newspapers, journalists, bloggers and politicians were warned and those that did not heed the warnings, such as Iranian newspaper Mardom-e-Emrooz, were shut down. Muslims, the extremist Islamists argued, should not show solidarity with people who satirized the Prophet although some brave Muslims did just that.
Not surprisingly, the Islamist extremists were supported by none other than the Pope, who obviously feels that religion should be above criticism – perhaps he too longs for the days when the Vatican was an integral part of power and government.
Europeans React to Muslim Reactions
Were such a massacre to happen in Tehran, as it does daily in smaller doses, the French might tsk-tsk for a few seconds but they would continue to believe in the freedom of speech even if it is not universal. But the fear of Muslim extremism has everybody rethinking priorities and in so doing are handing Europe on a platter to a minority of Muslim citizens.
Over the past week, millions of Muslims all over the world (Iran, Chechnya, Somalia, Niger, Pakistan, Algeria, Gaza etc…) joined their leaders in blaming the victims and martyrizing the terrorists, while back in Europe, the millions of protesters identifying with Charlie “sobered” up to a future filled with Islamic extremists. The millions of people who protested with “Je Suis Charlie” signs are being replaced by people who are willing to trade basic freedoms for a removal of the threat from Islamist extremists: In a recent poll, 42% of the French felt that the press should not run any content that may offend overly sensitive Muslims.
Those same 42% might not be able to see far enough into a future in which Shaariah laws can take precedence over French laws. In much the same manner, Muslim extremists can “legitimately” demand that French women wear hijabs and that offices, stadiums and coffee shops become sex-segregated.
The Lines are Being Re-Drawn
The Charlie Hebdo massacre has woken the silent European majority out of its sleep for a few moments only to place their heads in the sand. Unfortunately for them, extremists from all sides don’t want to remain silent: Muslim extremists know that they have the European majority on the run and nationalist fascists are horrified to see their worst nightmares come true and their national identities dissolved in a myriad of religious sensitivities.
And from afar, Khamenei is hoping that the time for a long-awaited global Islamic Awakening, with Tehran at its front, has arrived. Leaders like Khamenei believe that democracy is overrated and that a religious leader should set the tone. Yes, there are so-called democratic elections in Iran for the presidency but the Supreme Leader is elected for life and his word is…Supreme.
For years, the Western democracies have preached for acceptance for their minority citizens simply because that is the basis of democracy. But when the minority becomes a threat to the principles and physical being, will they continue in the same way? Whether the answer is yes or no, democracy as we know it will cease to exist.
Related post: tehran-je-suis-charlie-but