A right Charlie

30th Jan 2015

One does not have to profess to be an expert of Cockney rhyming slang to understand the meaning of being a ‘right Charlie.’ For French satirical magazine renamed partly as a snub to the banning of its predecessor for mocking the death of former President Charles de Gaulle, ‘Je suis Charlie’ became a rallying cry following the insidious attack on its Paris offices. Muslims around the world joined in the mass condemnations of the brutal killings but were only to be rewarded with a neurosis of Islamophobia.

The unity message was anything but. It was more of divisiveness, of disrespect and intolerance towards Muslims, so often the unfair victims of such charges. They were called upon to prove that they were civilised and whether they be allowed to live in Western society. After more than 1,400 years, the implication has suddenly scurrilously become that Islam is somehow flawed, that each and every follower is at risk of easily being a terrorist. Throughout history religions have been exploited to create wars for other agendas like the way Christians were manipulated to journey all the way to the Holy Land to fight in the Crusades.

It has to be asked why do Western governments and the media take the terrorist propaganda of networks like al-Qa’ida and ISIS so literally to try to justify their cause. Truth is renowned to be the first thing sacrificed in any war. None of the perpetrators of such crimes have any resemblance of being pious, most are heretics and home-grown within their own countries. Their grievances are political and have nothing to do with Islam.

The reward for Muslims being innocent bystanders to latest atrocities allegedly carried out in their name was to be kicked in the teeth not only by politicians with their own agendas but by the magazine itself. Acting like a proper Charlie, it chose to pour more scorn on their beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) when printing yet another abusive caricature on the cover. Such an incendiary provocation may have been for financial gain but it could not be said to be for the freedom of expression.

France is a secular country and may have a journalistic tradition to be offensive going back to denouncing the ancient regime in the run-up to the French Revolution. But it has its own limitations like all countries on free speech. Staff themselves have been sacked at Charlie Hebdo for being accused of anti Semitism while Le Monde was also convicted of denial of Holocaust in 2005.

In any case, why does a magazine want to prove it can be blasphemous. For what reason other than to be more provocative? To achieve what? Is nothing worth respect anymore? Just because Christians and Jews seems to have no objections to have scorn poured upon their religion, do Muslims have to do the same to learn that nothing is sacred anymore as if to show that they are as ‘progressive’ like others?

With a little bit of forethought, anyone can see that the issue of being abusive about Prophet Muhammad has been deliberately picked upon by extremists in an attempt to gain recruits knowing that the issue is particularly sensitive to every Muslim. The reaction by the West could not have been more ill-fitting by maligning Muslims in their outrage. Several newspapers in the UK, including the Guardian, Independent and Times though not the Daily Telegraph, took it upon themselves to publish the latest offensive cartoon. The much maligned Murdoch Sky TV station did not show the cartoon.

The consequence of the Islamophobic barrage has been akin to the propaganda of extreme right-wing groups that led to hundreds of attacks on Muslims and mosques. Equally pernicious was a letter from Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to Muslim leaders that challenged them to prove that they were not fifth columnists and that they respected British values. The war of civilisations so dangerously becomes one step closer with the implications that Islam and the West were not compatible.

In Europe and America, there appears to have been no soul-searching of their own biases and intolerance build upon their Judeo-Christian inheritance but which is now disconnected from its religious roots. If beliefs can be watered down under the banner of the so-called enlightenment, liberalism and supremacy of secularism, does it mean Islam has to go down the same route of reformation?

Before preaching to Muslims, the British Government among others, need to look at its own ethics and principles. They have especially selected their own advisors who claim to know more than Muslims themselves to invent what Pickles is now calling “British Islam.” No doubt in the Government’s own vision.

One Response to “A right Charlie”

Chris BealesJanuary 30, 2015

Like you, I was appalled by the dreadful attack on the Parish office of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. But I am also deeply sorry for the way the magazine then ” chose to pour more scorn on their beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) when printing yet another abusive caricature on the cover”, to quote your excellent editorial. This was gratuitously offensive and inevitably not only caused offence to many Muslims but also seems to increased violence and nurtured Islamophobia. I write as a committed Christian. I am an ordained minister.As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that the love of God is big enough to include us all, and his ways of working are far bigger and more inclusive and loving than we can imagine. Muslims, Christians, Jews, people of all faiths and none – we are all children of God and called to serve him by building just and loving families, communities and nations. I started an education and skills training project 10 years ago in Afghanistan and I have immeasurable admiration, respect and love for those courageous young Afghan people- all Muslim. Of course I see God at work in the way they live, work and serve. I am involved in setting up a school in East London. Of course it will include young people of all faiths, ethnicities and cultures – what an exciting and world-shaping prospect. I am a local parish priest, and preached in my church a fortnight ago on what I understand, from my Muslim friends and from extensive research, to be the proper meanings of sharia and jihad. I have never had so many comments – all positive – after the service. In our struggle for justice, practice of love and search for truth, Christians and Muslims need to find more ways to express our togetherness. Thank you for your profound and well written editorial.

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