Saturday, January 17, 2015
Daily Times Editorial Jan 18, 2015
Rage against the machine Around 200 protestors of the religious parties in Karachi joined protestors throughout the country on Friday against the caricatures published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine’s journalists and cartoonists were among those targeted in the attacks in Paris recently that killed 17 people, including 12 journalists. Condemnation of the attack and expressions of solidarity and sympathy with the victims lasted only so long as Charlie Hebdo’s next issue, which chose to replicate the caricatures in a show of defiance in the name of freedom of expression. Although the issue sold millions of copies in France, arguably the decision also sparked off protest throughout the world against such insult to religions and the deeply held beliefs of millions of Muslims all over the world. Fortunately, most of these protests have been peaceful so far, the exception being a clash between protestors of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), and police before the French consulate in Karachi in which one photographer was shot and wounded while others, including policemen, suffered injuries. Despite denials by the IJT that its members opened fire, eyewitnesses say the agitating crowd is where the bullets came from. Some violence was reported against a French consulate in Niger, but other than that, the protests throughout the Muslim world and beyond passed peacefully. And that is as it should be. The moral high ground belongs to he who in the face of extreme provocation, remains calm and peaceful and employs the weapons of language and argument rather than the language of weapons. But this distinction is lost on parties like the JI and its notoriously violent student wing, the IJT. The black day announced by the religious parties is to be followed by another day of protest on January 23 throughout the country again. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan has warned that events since the Paris attacks are moving in the direction of fulfilling the often-derided concept of ‘clash of civilisations’. To the extent that the gulf between the absolutist protagonists of unfettered free speech and those advocating a responsible calculation of the consequences of expression of derision or mocking of personages or beliefs regarded as holy, incapable of being rendered visually, and beyond such frivolous tomfoolery is widening by the day, President Erdogan may have a point. In Europe and the wider western world, the response to the Paris events has been confined to a reiteration of freedoms and values held dear by developed societies and a firm resolve to crush any attempt to foment terrorism in Europe or the west. As a consequence of this position, a widespread operation is in progress in Europe to round up suspects and pre-empt any terrorist plans. In this latter category falls the killing by police of two men suspected of planning attacks on police, etc, in Belgium. In parallel, security, surveillance and the deployment or readying for deployment of the military are in evidence. ‘Fortress’ Europe may be raising the metaphorical drawbridge in preparation for a siege of the castle, but whether the continuing provocations of Charlie Hebdo and other publications repeating the caricatures is serving any meaningful purpose or simply stoking the fuel of hatred for such acts amongst even moderate Muslims who do not like their Prophet (PBUH) or religion mocked, yet condemn killing because of it. Racial and religious profiling, already in evidence since we entered the brave new world post-9/11, now seems not only a certainty but a spreading action that will no doubt exacerbate the alienation of young Muslims in western societies and may even impel them precisely in the direction of the jihadis that most governments want to wean them away from. US Secretary of State John Kerry put in an appearance in Paris to make up for the absence of any senior US official at the solidarity march fielding 40 heads of state. However, what French President Francois Hollande said after their talks has a deeper meaning than perhaps even he was aware of. Calling the Paris attacks “France’s 9/11”, President Hollande argued for an “appropriate response”. Now what that appropriate response might be is for world, and especially western leaders, to ponder. If they do not come together to heal the wounds that have opened up on both sides after Paris, they will have fallen into the trap set by the gunmen to stoke a worldwide conflict between faiths in the name of their perverse and extreme interpretations of Islam. Gentlemen, do not bring grist to the mill of the fanatics. Transcend knee-jerk and emotional reactions and move towards a global architecture of anti-terrorism. The failure to do so will prove very costly.