This post will be a two part post about the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the world response to the Boko Haram massacre. I had a series of conversations (perhaps a better word will be debate or even arguments) with my mom, sister and a couple of friends. I’m sharing their responses along with mine via this two part blog post. These responses are by no means facts but rather a series of opinions. I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions no matter how ignorant it may be as long as it doesn’t explicitly incite violence. I was tempted to write a mega post about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent attacks in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram but I didn’t want to engage in online debates or arguments as I had already done so with my mum, sister and a couple of friends.
Besides I’ve already been told that I am not an expert [on people and religion] so it is best if I kept my opinion to myself. Additionally, I tend not to get personal and often play devil’s advocates during arguments which enrages others. Throughout the debates with my family and friends, I discovered very interesting tidbits about them. For instance, for a well educated woman, my mother is very islamophobic, my sister is not a fan of “free speech” and some of my friends revealed themselves to be very xenophobic. I was genuinely surprised by the opinions they had. Granted they were able to “defend” their stance, I didn’t know how to feel once they voiced their thoughts and opinions. They haven’t become lesser people in my eyes but I was certainly entertained .
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to write what I thought about the aforementioned attacks after speaking about it with my family and friends. After careful deliberations on my part and reading various commentary on the attacks, I noticed an emerging theme to which I have dubbed “The Blame Game”. I say “The Blame Game” because everyone appear to be blaming others for the terrible things that happened. No one is taking the blame. Its either blaming France, free speech and Islam for the Charlie Hebdo attacks or blaming the “West” for not reporting on the massive slaughter that happened in Nigeria. Everyone seem to be blaming other people for the things that happened yet the fail to look at the problems and issues that are plaguing their respective societies and ideologies. I am truly trying to understand why we keep playing the blame game instead of coming together to solve what ever problems we have. I am not naïve and know that the world is a very complex place and solving these issues will be very difficult but I believe as humans, we are up for the challenge (or are we not?).
I am going to write a series of “Blame Games” based on the debates I had with my family and friends with additional insights from me. But before I start, let me preface by stating that these words are purely opinions and they may ignorant but I think it is necessary to hear such opinions so we can get to the roots and hopefully re-educate people or make them rethink how they view others. Additionally, the insights I provide are also my opinion and not facts. It is based on things I have read and learned through my educational career as well as from personal conversations I have had with a wide array of people I have met.
When the attack on at the Charlie Hebdo offices happened, most people were quick to lay the blame on Islam because the attackers mouth Allahu Akbar before (?) they went on their ghastly rampage and murdered the cartoonists. Furthermore if Islam is a peaceful religion as it claims why would it allow for such atrocious things to happen? Additionally, why didn’t “normal” Muslims denounce such acts? Why did they remain silent for a long period of time? Do “normal” Muslims fear being attacked by the extremist Muslims? Do they “secretly agree” with the actions of the radicalised Muslims but don’t want to be openly associated to such violence in case of retributions from the countries in which they reside? Why is that Muslim leaders and countries rarely seem to condemn these attacks and, why have they never offered any manpower in preventing further attacks in the “West” or even in other Muslim countries? Would Mohammed himself have done what the attackers are doing?
These are some of the questions my mum and some of my friends posed when we were discussing the Charlie Hebdo attacks. I was particularly intrigued concerned with the lack of “official” Muslim condemnation of the atrocities just committed in Paris (and elsewhere) in the name of Allah & Mohammed. But the fact that all Muslims are being tainted with the same brush and the growing Islamophobia around the world is extremely problematic. I dare say that about 98% of Muslims are will condemn the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks yet I also believe that when the 2% of the radical and extremist Muslims shock the world with barbarity by killing innocent people, Islam itself is stained and may be held to at least some degree of responsibility. I am by no means blaming Islam for the attacks because that will be very ignorant of me but I also cannot sit here and claim that Islam is completely guilt free. I also don’t think Islam is a violent religion. Talking about the “evils” of Islam is as useful as talking about the “evils” of white people. It is stupid. It is most unfortunate that some hard-core radicals and extremist belonging to Islam have perpetuated a culture of violence on a global scale and inflicting maximum damage to Islam.
Blaming Islam for the attack is not right because we really can’t judge the religion of about 1.6 billion by the actions of the 2% radical extremists. Heck we do not blame Christianity for most of the atrocities that happened in the world in earlier centuries. Yet if Islamic leaders refuse to be vocal and start engaging with their religion, it is going to be tainted by the extremists. Some of my friends claim that Islam needs to go through a period of renaissance and critically engage with it adherers. I tend to agree with what my friends are claiming but I fear the intellectual class in Islam are not as nearly powerful or influential as the Imams and Mullahs who are mostly very conservative. The majority of scholars and the adherents say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims — most notably President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt — have argued that the contemporary understanding of Islam is infected with justifications for violence. He states “It is unbelievable that the thought we hold holy pushes the Muslim community to be a source of worry, fear, danger, murder and destruction to all the world,”.
Blaming The “West”
Well if the “West” (aka the US and its allies) didn’t go bombing Iraq and other countries, none of this would have happened. It is the price the “West” is paying for its wars. Everyone is quick to point fingers at Islam but US actually nurtures these terrorists. Take a look at Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. It is all the handiwork of the West. Millions are dead in operations carried out by the West with its army and drones. You can’t expect those who live there not to retaliate somehow. When people people lose hope and feel defeated, they will mostly certainly turn to extremism because thats what’s left for them. Its the effects of the neocolonialism (imperialism?). The West surely knows this yet they keep interfering in places where they are most certainly not wanted.
The aforementioned statements were made by some of my friends who explicitly blamed the US and its allies for the increasing terror related attacks across the world. While this perspective is not new, I was glad they could see past their patriotism and criticise the actions of the US in other parts of the world. As most news reports from the Middle East can attest to, the West terrorises many Muslim communities/countries on a daily basis with its drones hovering over those communities/countries,with the populations never knowing when the drones will fall and attack them. I don’t want to do a comparison of the deaths by extremists to the gratuitous murder of people by the West in Yemen, Afghanistan etc. Yet I also feel it is quite convenient for people to blame the West for allowing it to happen. My friends insist that the sources of the extremist violence are alienation and resentment, not theology or religion. They argue that the aftermath of US invasions certainly leads to a radicalisation and revenge.
One can also look at similar “Western activities” (i.e invasions and imperialism) in the South America, Asia and some parts of Africa yet those who remain did not resort to radicalisation and extremist behaviour and the desire to enact revenge on the West. Why is that? As my mum asked “Why do these Muslim countries sometimes turn to violence, when many other countries and faiths also suffered similar atrocities from the West? I couldn’t answer her question because I honestly did not know what to tell her. Her question really got me thinking. If it is not the fault of the West or the Islam then who is to blame? What I am saying here is that, there needs to be more honesty and transparency in this very important discussion. Clearly the Muslim world must examine the violence committed by the extremists in the name of Islam. But it would be quite unscrupulous for the West to pretend that extremist violence is not also a Western problem.
To Be Continued…