As the world continues to reel from the vicious terrorist attack that left 12 dead at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, for some in the West the inevitable finger pointing and blame game has already begun. In one corner, right-wing blowhards attempt to smear the entire Muslim faith of over 1 billion people with the heinous acts of two fanatics. While in another corner, politically-correct ninnies minimize the horrible killing of these writers and cartoonists by referencing the paper’s history of “xenophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia” and claiming the publication somehow “provoked” the violence from Islamic extremists.
Both of these reactions are an affront to civil society. We cannot blame the whole of the followers of Islam for the actions of a group of marginalized individuals. Painting with this broad-brush point of view is a major contributor to the ease with which an entire society can label Muslims as “the other”. It’s this mentality that helps support military imperialism and the wholesale torture and killing of people in far off countries. The second mind-set, one that would explain away the barbaric nature of these killings by limiting freedom of speech, takes away one of our most potent defenses against fanaticism on all sides of the spectrum: Humor and Satire.
[read the rest here on J.T. Eberhard’s1 Patheos blog.]
What do I think about the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks and the aftermath?
I’ve been trying to stay out of it until the noise dies down. I hear a lot of voices saying what’s obvious and true: this was a sad, terrible act done by some extremists; this is a predictable outcome of blind, extreme faith; the few extreme members don’t represent the whole of any group.
One thing I believe: it is the groups who feel their beliefs are above criticism who are in need of being deflated a bit with humorous satire. This idea that some beliefs can’t be questioned is a cancer. But let’s please try to confront it in a positive way.
There was a great interview on NPR this week with a man who has reversed his radical views and is now fighting against the underlying causes of extremism. He makes the point that in Islam there is a core belief, even amongst many moderate members, that the prophet Muhhammad can not be criticized or joked about, and that this is at odds with modern democratic society where we demand the right to poke at our institutions/leaders/beliefs. Definitely worth listening to if you’ve got 30mins. Here’s the link: How Orwell’s Animal Farm Led A Radical Muslim to Moderation.
1. Side note — Early FSM people may remember J.T. Eberhard from the Missouri Pastafarians group. I was always a fan of his — one of my favorite things he did was building a box-fort in the middle of campus as a statement about religious discrimination.