Nothing excuses the attacks. Going into a building and shooting people because somebody said or wrote something that deeply hurt, offended, and humiliated you isn’t consistent with the sort of society that we’ve developed.
Does it follow from the above that any response towards the situation is valid and legitimate? In the minutes that followed the news breaking, my Twitter feed was flooded with the most disgusting array of Islamophobic nonsense — including that we needed to protect democracy by banning Muslims. Others were clinging to tired rhetoric about freedom of speech — that this was an attack on liberal values and that we needed to do all that we could to show that our liberal values were safe (by making sure the world’s Muslims knew that we have every right to marginalise them whenever we feel like it).
All of this long, long before we have any real details about what’s happened.
We don’t grieve well. We don’t mourn. We can’t take even half an hour to experience genuine horror and disgust. We must respond. Worse, we’re encouraged not to analyse our bellyfeel reactions: by getting something out into the world first, we show that we’re on the right rhetorical team and that we’re the right kind of person to exist in our liberal society. It’s a weird form of jingoism: patriotic fervor for an ideology. My liberalism, right or wrong.
As such, there’s no room in the discussion for basic questions without looking like you’re trying to exonerate extreme violence. You can’t ask whether there was something that we did that contributed to radicalisation without suggesting that Charlie Hebdo deserved what happened. You can’t ask whether ‘satire’ is being used as a shield to protect the powerful against the weak without suggesting that we need to restrict satire for the benefit of religious extremists. You can’t question the narrative that liberal society is an innocent victim — even despite Abu Ghraib, despite bans on Islamic attire, despite extrajudicial killings outside the theatre of war — without suggesting that the gunmen aren’t guilty.
Following a crisis, we have to hunt down the unorthodox and make sure they get back to singing the right hymns. There’s no room for grey, or depth, or analysis following atrocities: we have to be polarised or we’re not playing the right game.
I’m still in shock. I have no idea how people have come to such concrete, resolute positions on this issue so quickly. I can’t digest it.
4 responses to “Quick Post: digesting my thoughts about the Paris attacks”
Aren’t you doing the exact same thing that everyone else is doing? Racing to get your opinion in the mix? and semi-abusive tweets??? didn’t see that at all.
What makes me mad is when people like you race so quickly to try and find the “other side of the debate” (cos that makes you seem more reasoned/rational somehow) and forget that there are real victims and serious problems to deal with. Just wake up and admit it – stop trying to pander and paint out the perps like they’re the victims. The same thing happened with the Martin Place attacks (which I am sure you did the same thing for) – 2 people died and people are worried about a racist reaction (that, mind you, never happened – certainly not in any mainstream or vocal way – if you’re surrounded by racists in your Twitter feed, maybe change your circle of friends – you can judge someone by the company they keep after all – or maybe you like being surrounded by bigots cos it makes you feel superior???).
Analysis and underlying causes are all fine to look into…but give people time to react, grieve and pay respect to the dead FFS.
Exactly what Liz said. 2 men massacred cartoonists (cartoonists!) in cold blood, to avenge some supposed slight against their god and/or prophet.
Perhaps, after a consecutive pattern of similar terrorist attacks across many countries (including many western ones), it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room: that here are civilisational (note: not religious) tensions that are going on that cannot be reconciled with western, liberal culture.
Perhaps it is nihilistic Islamism succored from reactionary Arabic culture (whether it be ISIS, Wahhabism, Al Qaeda or even Jemaah Islamiyah) which is the true enemy of Western culture. And maybe, we should acknowledge this and tackle radical Islam as the issue, rather than kowtowing and deflecting that Islam (apparently each and every 1.2 billion of its followers) is a “religion of peace”. Plainly this is not the case.
We need to push moderates to take our side and marginalise (and reject) the extremists in their midst. If this means that Muslim Westerners feel uncomfortable, and blamed by extension, well then so be it. We are exceptionally tolerant societies, but the pressure has to come from within to both shame, isolate and reduce the temptation to follow radical, hateful and evil religious cults.
This requires Muslim communities – especially in the West – to step up and fight for the kind of society and culture that their ancestors aspired and/or migrated to. And to demonstrate that “not all Muslims” are like (or represented by) these murderous savages.
Sorry, that should be “If this means that Muslim Westerners feel uncomfortable, and blamed by extension (at least in the short term), well then so be it.” Clearly a move towards prejudice and intolerance is neither helpful nor conducive to tackling Islamic terrorism, wherever it occurs. Just to clarify.