I’ve been thinking a lot about absolutes and nuance lately. Today marks one month since two brothers attacked the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and slaughtered twelve people, including four cartoonists, the editor and two policemen. Two days later, they were cornered by police, while their accomplice (who had killed a policewoman the previous day) took hostages and demanded their release. All three were shot dead, but not before four of the hostages had also been killed. Twenty people dead, three of whom won’t be much mourned (though some will no doubt hail them as “martyrs”), and for what? Because they didn’t like some cartoons.
That mentality is terrifying – that anyone could feel justified in committing such inhuman brutality over a cartoon they find offensive defies all reason and decency. It is tempting to think it all comes down to religious ideology, the warped and self-serving distortion of Islam akin to that of ISIS or Boko Haram (which was quietly massacring 2,000 people in Baga, Nigeria as the world was focusing on Paris). But to me, it is something deeper, more elementary and more general than that. It is a glorified bully mentality – the enforcing of your beliefs on others through violence or the threat of it. Their menace might be greatly enhanced by their numbers and weaponry, but it is still the mindless mentality of bullies and thugs, the egotistical and absolutist conviction that their viewpoint is the only valid one.
People are perfectly entitled to be offended by a cartoon of Muhammad, Continue reading