Fearless Dream

reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

The Charlie Hebdo Murders and Their Aftermath

On Tuesday, my Twitter feed was abuzz with people applauding Egypt’s president al-Sisi for calling on the Islamic world to take a good long look at itself and clean house. On Wednesday, a brutal attack by Jihadist scumbags who murdered twelve at the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo proved that they didn’t get the memo. Today: hostage standoffs where police cornered the bastards and sent them to their virgins, and it looks as if at least four hostages were killed in the process. Sadly, as terrible as such events are, they are also no longer surprising. It’s what we’ve learned to expect.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s WSJ editorial, “How to Answer the Paris Terror Attack”, struck me as spot-on and is not to be missed:

After the horrific massacre Wednesday at the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, perhaps the West will finally put away its legion of useless tropes trying to deny the relationship between violence and radical Islam.

This was not an attack by a mentally deranged, lone-wolf gunman. This was not an “un-Islamic” attack by a bunch of thugs—the perpetrators could be heard shouting that they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad. Nor was it spontaneous. It was planned to inflict maximum damage, during a staff meeting, with automatic weapons and a getaway plan. It was designed to sow terror, and in that it has worked.

The West is duly terrified. But it should not be surprised.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from such a grisly episode, it is that what webelieve about Islam truly doesn’t matter. This type of violence, jihad, is what they, the Islamists, believe.

and this:

Those responsible for the slaughter in Paris, just like the man who killed the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004, are seeking to impose terror. And every time we give in to their vision of justified religious violence, we are giving them exactly what they want.

How we respond to this attack is of great consequence. If we take the position that we are dealing with a handful of murderous thugs with no connection to what they so vocally claim, then we are not answering them. We have to acknowledge that today’s Islamists are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam. We can no longer pretend that it is possible to divorce actions from the ideals that inspire them.

This would be a departure for the West, which too often has responded to jihadist violence with appeasement. We appease the Muslim heads of government who lobby us to censor our press, our universities, our history books, our school curricula. They appeal and we oblige. We appease leaders of Muslim organizations in our societies. They ask us not to link acts of violence to the religion of Islam because they tell us that theirs is a religion of peace, and we oblige.

What do we get in return? Kalashnikovs in the heart of Paris. The more we oblige, the more we self-censor, the more we appease, the bolder the enemy gets.

There can only be one answer to this hideous act of jihad against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It is the obligation of the Western media and Western leaders, religious and lay, to protect the most basic rights of freedom of expression, whether in satire on any other form. The West must not appease, it must not be silenced. We must send a united message to the terrorists: Your violence cannot destroy our soul.

Claire Berlinski, who happened upon the scene of the shooting, wrote an impassioned response:

The assailants are as yet at liberty. I hope they’ll be dead by the time you read this. But if not: You want me too? Come get me. Because nothing short of killing me — and many more of my kind — will ever shut us up.

And if you don’t believe that now, you’ll believe it very soon. Because there are more of us willing to die for that freedom than those of you eager to take it from us. And soon you will find out that those of us willing to die for that freedom are also much better at killing than you.

So come and get me. Je suis Charlie.

On the other hand, there’s this: Ostracized by Cowardly West, Charlie Hebdo Faced the Islamists Alone. The point, I fear, is tragically valid: For all the genuinely well-intentioned chorus of “Je suis Charlie“ today, no one seemed to be saying it when it would have mattered most: before the staff of Charlie Hebdo were murdered.

My cousin wrote gloomily from Marseille:

Our democracy is also slipping away as you have seen. The crazy Islamists are here and everywhere very numerous. They were accomodated, nourished, and now they kill us.

Soon Arabs will be more numerous than native French and there will be a risk of civil war, or of a government of the extreme right that’s no better.

In this moment there is a severe malaise in France, one senses the coming catastrophe but does not dare to believe in it.

JustOneMinute: We’re all forked.

Antonio Martinez, on the widely-seen video of the Jihadists shooting a police officer who lay prone on the sidewalk outside the Charlie Hebdo offices:

Imagine if the free citizen of France who shot this video from the balcony had an AR-15 instead of an iPhone.

I’m at a loss for what else to add at the moment. For my part, I’d hoped we’d have the chance to do far worse than kill the scumbag perpetrators. I’d like us to have had the chance to hurt their delicate feelings some more — to make them feel bad about, and give some further thought to, the primitive, backward worldview they champion.

I feel fresh out of patience. I’ve begged and pleaded about this stuff before. If we haven’t seen enough by now to wake us up from our slumber of self-deception and force us to confront the reality of the enemy we’re up against, I don’t dare to imagine what more it will take…

Well, that was interesting

I must admit, nearly two weeks later I’m still in a bit of disbelief over the election results. After last time around, I hadn’t dared hope for much. I’ve grown cautious. And in the long view, I still see this as hope of a temporary slowdown at best, in the seemingly inexorable growth of the state and corresponding diminishment of individual agency. Nonetheless, the evident possibility that things can turn around, at least in the short term, has been a welcome ray of sunshine. I do feel the burden of gloom slightly lifted … for the moment, at least.

I say this with full awareness that there are no guarantees about what’s to come next. We have merely the potential to address problems in better ways now — ways that are consistent with the foundational values of the freedom-loving culture I grew up in and have always felt a grateful devotion to. We have put people in office who campaigned on a return to Constitutional principles, and it’s going to take vigilance and holding their proverbial feet to the fire to see that those notoriously fragile campaign-trail promises are kept.

The battle ahead will not be pretty, nor easily won. We are dealing with people who feel completely justified in deceiving the public when necessary to achieve their ends. The stakes are high, and nothing less than this precious free Civilization of ours hangs in the balance. But the alternative — not to put everything we have into preserving and defending what matters most — is unthinkable.

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