The home-grown terrorists’ attempts on CharlieHebdo ignited a growing number of seemingly apologetic comments and publications I read last few days. Which perhaps is not intentional. Many of them just aim to put the crime in perspective. To put the role of religion in perspective. To put the scale of the crime in perspective. And to put the public indignation in France and neighbouring countries in perspective.
Yet I tend to question them.
(1) The victims by their extremely provocative cartoons, by not taking care of the limits of their civil liberties, knowingly defied true believers and caused them to take resort to this abominable act of crime.
In the face of ten dead editors and cartoonists, can ridiculing religion ever be relevant enough motive to kill?
(2) Terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the same monotheistic religion commit much more serious mass murders in countries like Nigeria, Somalia, Philippines and many others. Paris media coverage is disproportionate.
Is that relevant in relation to West European reaction to CharlieHebdo? Should the measure of these atrocities in other parts of the world, mitigate the indignation, anger and fear in West European public domain?
(3) Western non-Muslim terrorists, say KKK and Breivik, claiming to act on behalf of another monotheistic religion, committed mass murders too. They didn’t spark outrage of comparable dimensions. And even though one (well, I) may doubt the assumption that these criminals were acting in the name of a religion, it definitely is true that in history Christian Crusaders, Roman Catholic Inquisition and the SJ, Evangelical Anti-abortionists or Protestant and Catholic terrorists during the Ulster ‘troubles’, were killing in the name of their religion.
Is that relevant in relation to CharlieHebdo? Does the fact that people of a Christian denomination were in the habit of terrorism in some way, to some extent, also, neutralize the fact that the killers of Charb and his colleagues were Muslims?
(4) Terrorists claiming to act on behalf of their monotheistic religion killed more people in New York, Bali, in Madrid and in London in recent years than they did in Paris.
Is that relevant in relation to CharlieHebdo? Does that add information in order to see the assassination in a clearer and softer light?
I wonder, are these willingly or accidentally apologetic arguments relevant here and now?
As for me I think I understand the urge of some, or many, to fit “CharlieHebdo” in their mental frame. To criticize selective indignation. To safeguard 1.5 billion people from the world’s condemnation because of a bunch of guys and dolls gone berserk – be it that the bunch is pretty widespread and not small.
I understand, if only because that’s an urge I experience myself. And I understand that perspectives may differ in relation to where you are, what you are and who you are – literary and metaphorically. What is huge at a distance of a few hours in a train may appear to be pretty small from ten thousand miles away.
But apart from all that, do these apologetic remarks really cut any wood?
I don’t think so. The bottom line in a secular state of law is that you’re safe expressing your opinion , whatever it is, in whatever peaceful way, be it subtle or blunt, without running any physical risk. You may only be held responsible by secular law. Frontier justice is off limits. Whether or not you think a Holy book, a prophet or God herself has been insulted. Period.