#JeSuisAhmed: The World That Fears Muslims

Ahmed Merabet Charlie Hebdo Terrorism Kouachi brothers

A couple of days ago, I decided that my reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack would be to share the covers that had those journalists killed. I didn’t say whether I agreed with their content because that wasn’t the point at the time, and freedom of speech, to me, was absolute, with satire at its heart, as it aims to reconcile reason with power. Enforcing limitations puts us on a slippery slope until Paris on January 7th becomes conceivable. The world isn’t where it is today because visionaries cowered from challenging their dogmas.

In today’s world, however, freedom of speech is a reflection of the hypocritical scope with which we view things. In this relative specter, even satire becomes cruel when it’s aimed at the weak who aren’t allowed to answer back. Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, this is our chance to sit down and talk.

Everyone’s up in flames over how Muslims aren’t condemning the Charlie Hebdo attacks enough. Over how they haven’t condemned ISIS enough. Over how they aren’t condemning themselves enough. Well, they have over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

Where have you been throughout all of this? Thinking Muslim was a member of a small village of 1.57 billion where everyone’s alike: a terrorist, a pest, an apostate to modern values in need of serious reconsideration of his religious views. But never a person who could be a victim and who is, in fact, innocent  – at least until proven guilty.

And then you call them off when they actually do what you’re asking of them.

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The victims of every attack carried out by extremists are not just those who died and whose memory perseveres in us, the media and then, when the calamity subsides, every bigot who uses their name to propagate their own version of extremism that is as toxic, but less deadly, perched on top of podiums, preaching about liberties while advocating for many to be denied of them.

The victims of the Paris attacks are that Muslim, whose kebab shop and Mosque were burned, who had absolutely nothing to do with the attack except in some amalgamation of Ahmad and terrorist.

They’re that Muslim who was afraid of going to the vigils to honor the dead of a publication that offended again and again, who was petrified at how people would view her hijab or his beard now, terrified at what it would mean to be on January 8th, 2015.

They’re that Muslim who watched in horror as the news of Paris unfolded, who gasped at the video showing the Muslim cop Ahmed Merabet being shot to death, told his children to go into their room to prevent them from seeing what he was seeing on TV and is worried daily at the poison they’re getting exposed to.

They’re the Muslim who has nothing to do with France but is told he is responsible for the actions of some French Muslims. They’re your Muslim friend at whom you looked with different sight today.

They’re that Muslim that is slowly being driven over the edge and who will come to endorse – nay, want to participate – one day in actions like those that took place in Paris yesterday.

They’re that foreign student who is now worried about what this means to his future. They’re that person trying to seek a better life for his family, whose chances are now completely in tatters.

What we demand of every single one of those Muslims is to condemn, apologize, and shout from every minaret how they are against what some of their lot are doing today, because if they don’t, then they are terrorists too.

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Defending free speech by telling someone exactly what to say. Isn’t that ironic given that whole shenanigan involving sin and first stone to be cast?

In today’s world, I – born Christian, now who cares – am never lumped with the Christians who have caused two world wars, a holocaust, several other wars, the endless support for the state of Israel and the massacre of Palestinians, the endless encroachment over the riches of Africa, the rise of Neo-Nazi parties across Europe and the many attacks they have been committed in my name.

I am never asked to condemn en masse those protests in Germany where it was called for the expulsion of impure breeds, whose religion is not original to Europe – ironic as that is – and whose skin color is not as fair.

I am also never faced with existential questions about Christianity when those Neo-Nazis kill for their brand of extremism, as has happened in Norway in 2011, an assault which ended the life of 77 people.

I am never asked to apologize for Aurora, Sandy Hook Elementary, to assess Christianity’s potential for the modern world after the 1 million in Iraq that died, because of a war that is there to defend my freedom, my rights, my security, my Jesus-given right for oil.

I am never considered as violent for contributing to the instability of Pakistan and leading to the loss of 140+ of its children in Peshawar. Those are just Muslims killing other Muslims.

Jews are never faced with retribution for their continuous slaughter of Palestinians, the last of which was in Gaza this past summer, where 600 Palestinian children died. They are never asked to apologize for their constant rape of Palestinian land, for never-ending settlements, for their constant erosion of the rights of the people with whom they are forcibly sharing the land.

In today’s world, that same Muslim we are more than willing to burn at the stake is never allowed to be offended or else he’s deemed an extremist as the world-given badge of modernity gets taken away.

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Meanwhile, holocaust portrayals can cause uproars; Charlie Hebdo in 2009 fired and had that same artist sued for hate speech for drawing a Jewish caricature of Sarkozy, and even Christians are allowed to be offended by portrayals of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

We think so little of the world’s Muslims that their deaths are a natural event, never worth a discussion. We think so low of them that we believe it’s unfathomable for them to comprehend our cherished values of freedom, democracy, and autonomy, despite those concepts – in the same context of worldwide hypocrisy – being relative: only given to those who can afford them, to those powerful enough to claim them.

How can we explain, for instance, to the Muslim Palestinian in Gaza what human rights are or what freedom is, while that same Palestinian is genuinly expected to wholly understand how it is to be a French free man in France?

How can we explain to the Muslim women of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that they can do whatever they want with their bodies when their own governments that keep on oppressing them are maintained by the same countries where women are, in theory, liberated, open, sexual, and can drive?

How can we explain to that Saudi blogger who is now facing 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes for speaking up what freedom of speech actually means?

How can we explain what freedom is to Muslims living in dictatorships, under systems that are kept there by the same countries demanding of those same Muslims to be free and worldly and Western?

We are so blinded by prejudice and hate that we can’t see who actually benefits from the attacks in Paris on January 7th.

Those are people like Marine Le Pen, who doesn’t see how the construct of modern French society has a lot to do with why January 7th happened, whose message of hate will now resonate clearer in the minds of the French and who will spear-head a regression of the theoretical values of the French state. She has already started sharpening her harpoon.

They’re people like the far-right in every corner of the world whose flags might as well be those of ISIS with inverted colors. They’re people like Netenyahu whose own brand of terrorism is never labeled as such and who will use the attacks in Paris to further advocate for the need of escalation in his terror.

They’re heads of nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who proclaim moderation for the world to be fooled, and spread hatred wherever they go, as they buy their way to a majority share in the European continent.

Imagine for a moment that this had been a parallel world, where we are an impoverished minority, whose countries are taken up for their natural resources, whose heads are so blinded by wealth and power they can’t see themselves being manipulated, whose poor are among the poorest of the world, whose children die of famine and war, whose lives are not judged in absolute value, whose lands are a matter of debate, whose opinions are not free, would we be asked to condemn too?

I do not understand Islam nor do I pretend to do so. I don’t know what true Islam is, the same way I don’t know what true Christianity or true Judaism are, and I don’t believe anyone truly knows – all three remain ideological constructs that are open to interpretation within frames that are entirely individualistic. Hence,  I cannot defend religions as a dogma nor am I doing so.

We say that we can root out Muslim extremism by force: by forcing them to be apologetic, by forcing ourselves over their homes, by launching missiles, armies, and rockets. That is not the case. The only way to weed out the Islamists, extremists and terrorists is to empower those Muslims who are being killed by those same extremists when they speak up, whose voices are being silenced by the mainstream voices around the world that refuse to listen, and who are not allowed to fill the vacuum in their reputation as it’s slowly eaten away by the mole in their midst. We empower them by listening, by not taking away the stability in their countries, by not making sure their countries, communities and societies never amount to anything, and by not believing the cause of their hardship is the religion they worship.

There are three ways this can deconstruct. We can either maintain things as they are, ignore any lesson Paris is trying to teach us, and carry on. We can make things worse, lump 1.57 billion Muslim with ISIS, Al Qaeda, or Taliban and assume that they’re all out there to assassinate freedom, democracy, and human rights.

Or you can ignore the hate speech, tell that terrified Muslim that there’s someone who gets it, doesn’t require him to condemn, doesn’t attribute 1.57 billions to the actions of one and understands that the actions of that one are more related to societal constructs than to religion, who knows that he too has autonomy, and needs freedom, and seeks a better life for his children, and that praying while looking at Mecca and kneeling down is essentially the same as looking at an altar and standing up, and that this world is very cruel to anyone who is different from the norms, and that it is okay to be angry and not to be okay with how things are, that you should be Charlie, and Ahmed and all shades in between, and that it is okay to be a human who just happens to be Muslim.

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16 thoughts on “#JeSuisAhmed: The World That Fears Muslims

  1. I admired your courage to publish the cartoons in your previous post.
    But now you’re just being apologetic and politically correct. I do not blame you. You don’t truly understand the essence of Islam.
    We, Arabs, really love conspiracy theories and we look for them under our carpets. We go sewing and coming up with the most absurd theories to cremate our failures and spread the ashes of religion’s unexplained behavior. The majority of us, probably including you, still believe that ISIS is of US or Israeli’s origin and plot. It is not. The Islamic state is actually the ultimate goal of the religion Islam. Muslims dedicate their lives for it and will not hesitate to support it and join it. What you probably know, in your own neighborhood and connections is only the moderate apologetic Islam which is considered to be heretic in the eyes of god.
    You have published the drawings yourself, now tell me how would you dismiss them as victims of mainstream media, and oppression if you got shot for it. And trust me on it, many people in Lebanon are more than willing to do so. It’s only Lebanon, which is considered to be the most liberal Arabic country.
    The palestenians keep falling for their own mindset over and over again. Their children are breastfed with death philosophy till the day they ca carry a gun. Co-existence does not exist in their books. It is them or the Jews on earth, and that is their life motto.
    You speak of KSA’s oppressive laws as if it’s the product of the countries maintaining them. Tell me how is an American military base and an American oil company responsible for flogging Raif and disallowing women driving. The presence of the west in the Gulf is merely a financial and strategic rip off. They’re there only for resources and military presence. Did any of KSA’s Wahabi religious leaders truly condemn the killing of cartoonists?
    You are worried about Kebab shops, mosques and muslim students abroad, but if the muslim countries were even close to being good enough, there needn’t be any muslim abroad.
    You can mock Jesus all day long and no one would consider shooting you for it. But the problem lies in the religion itself. And I’ll tell you the truth straightforward, because I’ve seen it: Islam commands you to kill for the dignity of the prophet. You have the right to kill for it.
    When the first prophet mocking cartoons appeared, chaos spread in every country with muslim majorities and even minorities. Did any major muslim protests against the Charlie Hebdo attack make contact? Did you not hear gunshots in the air celebrating the attack? Did you not see all these statements excusing the attacks? This is a great divide my friend.

    Reply
    • Wow. I’ve never seen this much disillusion or ‘conspiracy theories’ -whatever you call them- grouped together in one place.

      Reply
    • Both posts have nothing to do with each other. They do not contradict one another nor are they mutually exclusive. As I said in the first paragraph of this one, I find freedom of speech to be absolute. When you start to enforce limitations, sensibilities, care for offending people is when you start slipping towards self-censorship, which is a slippery slope until what happened in Paris on January 7th becomes something you can fathom.

      I’ve had many people tell me I shouldn’t have published the comics – many family members included, telling me I was “stupid” for doing so – but I stand by that and I think it was the right thing to do.

      By the same token, I found this post to be the right thing to do given the current discussions taking place. It is my opinion, not apologetic and not politically correct. As I said towards the very end, I don’t understand Islam and so I can’t defend it. There are verses in the Quran that no one can spin favorably, as is the case in other religions too. I understand that the militants of ISIS and other terrorist groups have their ideology also rooted in such verses, but the Bible and the TOrah have similar content: hate for homosexuals, women, etc… and many other factions around the world apply that very well.

      I don’t think any of this post contains any conspiracy theories. I’m just stating observations. I believe that international politics have a great deal to do with why the Middle East is unstable. Certainly, a big share of the problem also falls on the people, but this is a circle, not a disjointed figure.

      I believe that the image of any religion is that of its majority, which is a point I also tried to make towards the end. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all vague concepts that exist in the context of individuality – how one person interprets them. As such, it is your interpretation of Islam that led you to write this comment, whilst it is the overall interpretation of Islam by most Muslims – the moderates, and heretics in the eye of Allah as you’ve called them – that should be what their religion is all about. The fact that they are not standing up to that reputation hard enough out of fear, out of retribution, out of the many reasons I tried to show here, is telling enough about the injustice we go through.

      I understand that many Muslims may not be the way I tried to put in this post. But compared to Christianity and Judaism, Islam is a much younger religion. The theory goes that these are the dark ages of Islam. Christianity had them before – the dark ages, the Crusades, the persecution of scientists by the Church. Almost everything that’s happening today happened verbatim a few hundred years ago. Except we didn’t have social media then, and we didn’t have blogs to write super long blog posts about.

      Regarding KSA: the presence of the West in the Gulf and their need for the area’s financial resources means they will do what’s in their power to keep those countries stable and secure, politically. As long as those regimes give what they’re supposed to give, who cares about human rights, the flogging of Raif of whichever other gross violation of human rights?
      Again, it’s not an imperialistic Western agenda against the poor Arab in the Middle East. It’s business as usual for most of these countries, but it’s worth highlighting in my opinion.

      The great divide you speak of towards the end is one that exists within Muslims. Just because groups in Ain el Helwe fired doesn’t mean the woman sitting in her house in Tripoli with her family and shocked at what was happening approved of either the shooting or the celebration. When it comes to Islam and Muslims, we view everything through the scope of those who err on the side of wrong, but never through the scope of those who sit at home and do nothing – like everyone else basically.

      Reply
  2. Best article I’ve read so far about this. This should be submitted to huffington post or mashable so it can reach a wider audience.

    Reply
  3. Thank you Eli for this article, it really moved me. Thank you for being honest, courageous and for putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes.

    This is a very polarizing topic, and I personally have found myself wondering whether or not I should hashtag #iamcharlie, I chose not to, because despite the fact I am absolutely against these barbaric terrorist attacks, I don’t agree with the provocative content of Charlie Hebdo, however that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their right for freedom of speech, my stance is that as long as it is not physically hurting someone, freedom of speech should be limitless, so I respect their opinion, it’s their, it’s not hurting me, so why should I care?

    One more thing, one argument that I have heard a few times since the incident, that has really pissed me off, is the victim blaming argument. The “they had it coming for publishing such provocative cartoons” argument, amazingly enough I have heard this argument from both Muslims and Christians. Seriously! When will ppl stop with this victim blaming BS!!! Aghh!

    Reply
  4. Pingback: #JeSuisAhmed: The World That Fears Muslims | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog | Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News

  5. I read and read and try to make sense of what I am reading, whether your post or the comments to it. I think I have a conclusion to the complete chaos we are living. I think we are living in a mad house… We try to analyse and logically come up with an explanation of what is happening. I am sorry to tell you that I personally think it is simply IMPOSSIBLE to do that. Blame it on religions, on wars, money, power… ISIS, ISIL, Charlie Hebdo, Yves Nawfal, the Jordanian reaction to the murder of its pilot… I read and I read and I try to make sense of it. And it simply impossible. We entered the third millennium and some people still find excuses to murder, child rape, slavery, executions… in the name of God, in the name of revenge, in the name of survival. It’s a mad house where 7.8 billion person are living there.

    Reply

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