Vanity thought #1236. Jesus, Charlie!

For a second there I thought that’s what “Je suis Charlie” means in English. Obviously, I was wrong, both factually and in terms of the message. TBH, I’m still not very clear with it. Everyone says that it’s just an expression of solidarity with the victims of Charlie Hebdo magazine shooting, and it means “I am Charlie”. There was no Charlie among the victims, though, the magazine isn’t named after its chief editor or anything, it’s named after a Peanuts character Charlie Brown (the comic appeared in “Charlie Monthly”) so they started “Charlie Weekly”, as an inside joke about Charles de Gaulle that caused the ban of the original publication by the same editorial team. God, they DO know how to insult people!

For a second there I thought that “I’m Charlie” could be the last words by the magazine editor when terrorists appeared at the office and started calling the names from their list. I was obviously wrong but I still believe it would make a compelling message to the terrorists – people are not afraid of them and millions would stand up next to this “Charlie” in solidarity.

On the second thought – would they? It’s one thing to plaster you tweets with #jesuischarlie hashtag, it’s quite another to stand up to a masked man pointing a gun in your face. I know my bravery wouldn’t last that long but, perhaps, it’s a staple twitter heroism.

Regardless, eight magazine employees, including their leading cartoonists, were killed, and the total tally is well over a dozen now if we add all the aftermath killings. Terrorists themselves had their last stand and it ended predictably, with seventy virgins in heaven… Not.

The whole story is a testament to the sorry state of the world. In a flurry of comments I probably won’t add any actually new perspectives but, in general, the opinion on this has become split and polarized. There’s massive expression of solidarity and powerful drive for even more free speech. Next issue of Charlie Hebdo will be published on time, with a million more copies and, not unthinkable, even nastier cartoons about Muslims and Muhammad. This group insists on refusing to learn anything and adjusting their behavior to accommodate Muslim sensitivities.

The other group forms “blame the victim” brigade and they, generally, say that Charlie Hebdo had it coming. In its essence, this is just an actual observation, Charlie Hebdo wasn’t selected randomly and they had been attacked for these same cartoons before, and so if terrorists decided to teach any French publication a lesson, Charlie Hebdo would top their list. I don’t see any controversy in stating this but somehow it fills eyes of the first group red with rage, and it’s this first group that really worries me.

Personally, I hope, general public would take note and tone the fervor of their attacks on Islam down but this first group insists on carrying their mission of forcing Muslims to take insults submissively and vows to increase the level of their offense. For them it’s a matter of principle, they cannot live in the world where Muslims, or any other religious people, dare to reply to insults with anything other than words.

I don’t think they thought this through, though. In their drive for Freedom Of Speech, arguably the French invention, they forget another slogan born around the same time and on the same topic – “pen is mightier than sword”. It wasn’t just a play of words, it was also born our of observation – well articulated ideology is more persuasive than violence. It also implies that in struggle for control both methods are comparable.

Well, terrorists’s Kalashnikovs proved mightier than pencils at Charlie Hebdo but the idea would, of course, live on and each broken pencil will be sharpened into two new ones. Your move, terrorists! They will, of course, make their move and more people will die and that’s where FOS brigade will not take any responsibility neither for inciting nor for inviting the violence.

Their actual slogan is “my way or highway” and they won’t stop until all Muslims get into their heads that they have to surrender to FOS unconditionally. It might happen, it is already happening – with lots of Muslims joining in the outrage against Charlie Hebdo attacks, but I seriously doubt it would be a comprehensive victory. The remaining holdouts, say five percent, would still form a group millions and millions strong and even more determined to stand their ground against blasphemy.

Let’s not forget the Islamic world where blasphemy is outlawed and will stay outlawed for a long time to come. There will be no FOS there ever, regime changes won’t help anything because legitimizing blasphemy is simply not under discussion in Islam. Atheists insist on arguing for it again and again but they argue with themselves. No Muslim would ever accept it, period.

Right now a blogger in Saudi Arabia is being canned for blasphemy, his 1000 strikes being spread over twenty weeks. Medieval? Yes, but also perfectly legal and lawful there.

And it’s not only Islamic countries, of course. Half the Europe has some sort of an anti-blasphemy law on their books. Sometimes they don’t call these laws “anti-blasphemy” but their legislation acts in the same way.

There’s one crucial divergence from Sharia but it makes no practical difference. Religious laws, especially in Christianity, are meant for correcting the blasphemy and for clearing the sins of the offenders. Secular laws are meant to prevent it from happening and address not offenses against God and His prophets but wounded feelings of regular believers. As I said, as long as offenses are not being committed, there’s no practical difference.

Blasphemy laws in Europe are rarely enforced, Denmark has one and it was the birthplace of anti-Muhammad cartoons, for example, but there still is a general understanding in the societies that it simply should not be done. Note how many mainstream media outlets refrained from publishing those cartoons. BBC didn’t, and NYT editor went on record that they are just too offensive to be printed. I hope that this understanding will only strengthen after Charlie Hebdo massacre and hotheads pushing envelopes would be seen as outliers, but that’s not what FOS brigade wants to see.

I hope sanity will prevail but I’m afraid that radicalized atheists and intolerant Muslims will clash again and again and so more and more people will die. I’m afraid it’s just starting. Well it started long time ago and Charlie Hebdo killings didn’t come out of the blue, but what we see is a serious escalation, taking angry Muslim responses to the entirely next level – machine gun and RPG attacks in the hearts of European cities. I’m afraid this will become the new normal.

There’s more left to say about this whole situation but I’ll stop for now.


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