The Paris attacks have sparked debate about the possible causesby Prospect Team / January 9, 2015 / Leave a comment
Each week we ask a panel of experts, and our readers, to come up with answers to the questions dominating the headlines.
On 7th January, a tragic shooting at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killed 12 people—10 journalists and two police officers. The attack, carried out by two men who claimed to be from al Qaeda in Yemen, sparked a chain of tragic events. The magazine has regularly courted controversy for its sometimes obscene and scatalogical images mocking religious figures of all faiths including the Prophet Muhammad.
Every time one of these attacks takes place, questions are raised about what was done to provoke it: should we have pursued that foreign policy or, in this case, published those cartoons? Or are such questions beside the point when the human right to freedom of expression is at stake?
Stop being cowards
A reason why Charlie Hebdo could be singled out for attack is because the rest of us have been cowards. There should, of course, be satires on Islam as on Christianity as on capitalism as on Russell Brand. But there aren’t. Part of this is because of a misplaced decency but most of it is fear. We who don’t publish what may offend Muslims but would offend no one else, act in in effect to abnormalise what should be normal—we help to make peculiar that which should be banal. David Aaronovitch, Columnist for The Times
(This quote was adapted at the writer’s request from a longer piece in The Times)
Don’t blame victims
Blaming victims for terrorist attacks is offensive. The grievances set out by Islamist extremists to justify their barbaric actions are not to be taken at face value. It is a series of line drawings this week; it was international relations decisions taken by democratically elected officials before; it may well be gender equality or habeus corpus tomorrow. Grievances, whatever they are, are manipulated to fit Islamist extremist narratives, underpinned by cherry-picked and often violent excerpts from religious scripture, and used to push a notion that an Islamic State is the answer to all of the world’s problems. And of course, this is…