I want to start this post by saying that I do not want to get into a big religious debate, this blog is, and always has been a place for me to voice my thoughts.
I am compelled to write about the horrific attacks in Paris against journalists who dared to do their job and practise their right to freedom of speech.
Having spent a lot of the evening looking at the various debates that have been created on facebook, as a result of peoples reactions to what has happened, I am feeling compelled to try and put together some of my own thoughts. But I’d like to start out by saying that I am not biased, I am not even religious… not at all, not one bit. I am all about the science of things, evolution, Charles Darwin, things having a logical explanation, and theories being proven, not about somebodys imaginary friend. I have my own thoughts on religion, and while I don’t necessarily thing that they are a good thing, I am not going to judge those who follow them. For some people religion is all they have, and lets not forget that a lot of people do a lot of good things because of religion. I’d also like to make it clear, just for the record, that by “religion” I am not referring to just Islam because of what is in the news, I am in fact referring to all religions! In my eyes religion has caused more problems than people care to think about, war, conflict, hatred, racism and homophobia just to name a few. In the UK alone we don’t even have to look far from home, or in fact even mention muslims or islam to see some of the horrors that religion has caused, just look at the fighting between catholics and protestants in Ireland… I mean these are essential people of THE SAME religion, christianity… its the same God!! How much sense does THAT make?? None at all, thats how much! Yet how may people died because of it? Too many to even think about before your head starts to hurt whilst contemplating that technically these people were all on the same side, not even a “my god is better than your god!” just plain and simple “You belong to that group and therefore I hate you, and for no other reason!”. Madness!!
This pretty much sums up religion for me…
So as horrible as the protestant/catholic thing was, things dont seem to have improved much for us now, because while the troubles in Ireland have calmed down significantly, they have been replaced with extremist muslims acting out various atrocities in the name of their god, while a whole bunch of regular people all genuinely believing in this god get pointed at and persecuted because they supposedly fall under the same heading, if you’re going to start labelling groups of people based upon nothing other than which god they claim to pray to! I say “claim” as I find the religious aspect of these attacks highly questionable, as do most muslims by all accounts, and rightly so. I would really struggle with the thought of any muslims who didn’t condemn these attacks because they might have had an ounce of sympathy for the attackers after someone had dared to draw a picture of their prophet! Which brings me to my subject of freedom of speech.
Surely in a modern, democratic, fairly liberal society we can be fairly open in our thoughts and exercise our right to freedom of speech? Its a very basic right that we must value and never overlook, its our right in western society, always remembering that there are many oppressed countries around the world where having an opinion and voicing that opinion is simply not tolerated. Try exercising your freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Somalia and see how far that gets you!
Then there is this theory, which must be carefully considered, although in my view a little far fetched, but not impossible… written by Michael Deacon in todays Telegraph.
Here’s a theory. Terrorists aren’t offended by cartoons. Not even cartoons that satirise the Prophet Muhammad. They don’t care about satire. For all I know they may not even care about the Prophet Muhammad.
Instead, they merely pretend to be offended by cartoons, in order to give themselves a pretext to commit murder. Murder so horrifying, on a pretext so unWestern, that non-Muslims – blinded by grief and rage – turn on Muslims. Blame them. Persecute them. Burn their book, attack their mosques, threaten them in the street, demand their expulsion from Western societies. Actions that, in turn, scare Western Muslims, isolate them, alienate them. And thus drive some of them to support – and even become – terrorists.
Result: terrorists swell their ranks for a civil war they long to provoke non-Muslims into starting.
In our angry innocence, however, we persist in thinking this is somehow about cartoons. In thinking that the terrorists “win” if we don’t reproduce those cartoons, and “lose” if we do. As if, at this very moment, terrorist leaders across the West are privately wailing in anguished disbelief because satirical cartoons have been reproduced this morning in several European newspapers.(“Disaster! Our plan has backfired in a way we couldn’t possibly have foreseen! Ink really does beat Kalashnikovs! Satire defeats us once again!”)
On the whole, I’m not sure that’s very likely. I don’t think the terrorists “win” if we fail to reproduce cartoons. I think the terrorists “win” if we leap up, gulp down their bait – and hate Muslims.
Food for thought, for sure, but what is the answer? I know my answer will probably mirror that of the majority, in that we carry on and not let these people beat us… but at what cost? I know there are 12 people in Paris that can no longer argue the merits of free speech any more! I even had a debate with my wife tonight, who believes that while freedom of speech is important, and most definitely our right, if we simply know that there are people out there who will kill us if our opinion offends them or their “religious beliefs” then why would we go stirring up their anger? For me, that just means that our speech suddenly isn’t quite so free any more, and we are simply hiding in the shadows, from some masked bully who won’t let us say or do what we think. It takes me back to the playground, and the school bully marching over, thinking he can has some power over us because he intimidates us, forcing us to give in and do as they demand. Are we suddenly in a position where we are going to start giving up our freedom of speech and reconsidering what we say just in case we offend someone?
I know all this is a sharp contrast to my regular kind of blog post, but this weeks news disturbs me, it almost feels like there isn’t an answer. Almost like we’re shrugging our shoulders, looking and the person next to us, and saying “well, what now?”.
What is the answer? Does Bill Maher have the answer? Its certainly a very extreme view point!