Friday, January 9, 2015

The thundering Islamic silence

Photo source:
People call the cartoons Charlie Hebdo printed "satire". Occasionally the label fit. Other times, a better label would have been "sophomoric nastiness". Because they held nothing sacred for themselves, they had no qualms about stepping on the sensitivities of others.

I say this, of course, because some of the cartoons "Charbo" (editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, one of Wednesday's victims) drew for the magazine went beyond disrespect for Catholic leaders into childish blasphemy, such as the one that had Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a gay ménage à trois. Doubtless he thought there was a point to be made by such a representation, and that it would feed into the magazine's article about same-sex marriage. From my experience, though, when you deliberately set out to offend someone, you've reduced to almost 0% your chances of bringing that person to agreement. 

So yeah, I'm not about to paint the people of Charlie Hebdo as Catholic heroes. But the people who tore their offices apart with AK-47s didn't walk out saying, "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritu Sancti," either. 

Whatever else was true about the staff of Charlie Hebdo, they were close to unique among Western anti-religious in their criticism of Islam and willingness to satirize Mohammed. They were equal-opportunity offenders. Other groups pick only on Christians, because Christians don't form terrorist cells to strike back.

It didn't take a full day for the news of the massacre, which took the lives of ten journalists and two police officers, to sink in before the blue chatterati started warning of "Islamophobia". Holly Watt, writing for the Telegraph, said (after briefly mentioning the attack in the lede, so people would know what prompted her story), "The success of Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National leader, has been the most visible sign of the rising tide of Islamophobia in France, which increased again in the wake of several attacks in December." And Richard Seymour wrote in Jacobin, "The uses of 'terrorism' in such contexts ... functions as a narrative device, setting up a less-than-handful of people as a civilizational threat evoking stoic defense (of 'British values,' 'la république,' 'the West,' etc). It justifies repressive and securitarian responses that tend to target Muslims as such, responses which in the United Kingdom chiefly come under the rubric of the government’s Prevent strategy."

And Bill Donahue blaming the attack on Charbonnier's "narcissism" was simply facepalm-inducing in its stupidity. STFU, Bill, or I'll cancel my membership in the Catholic League.

Seymour's reference to "terrorism" as a "narrative device" is especially ironic. As Tom McDonald points out in God and the Machine, "Islamophobia" itself is "a way to pathologize those who disagree with a dominant narrative." Perhaps, if the gunmen had made no reference to Mohammed, we would be treating this as your average, garden-variety Sandy Hook-type mass murder. ... Or perhaps Seymour, wishing to be fair and not-racist, is willfully blinding himself to the fucking obvious. Hell, Islamic scholars saw the connection and condemned it; why is Seymour pretending it's merely a meaningless coincidence?

Here's what's been the source of frustration in the past: When Islamic terrorists gun down or blow up innocent people, the first thing we've heard from Islamic leadership is not, as Dr. Khaled Hanafy stated: "I call on Muslims to stage demonstrations that denounce this aggression." No; we've heard, "But Islam is a peaceful religion!", with little to nothing memorably said against the terrorists themselves. Perhaps there's nothing in the Middle Eastern culture that's equivalent to the old Roman legal maxim, "Silence gives consent." But it's that very silence, that damning absence of boisterous, outraged condemnation from the peaceful majority, that paradoxically thunders louder in our ears than all the protests that "Islam is a religion of peace".

This is what we need from the peaceful majority: Stop being so timid and start yelling like hell. If you're going to be intolerant of anybody or anything, be intolerant of the extremist nutjobs that are making you all look so bad. If you're really that goddamned worried about Islamophobia, then start cleaning up your own damned house, because it's the nutjobs that are provoking the anti-Islamic reaction. Otherwise, we'll start thinking that the talk of Islam as a "peaceful religion" is just talk, and nothing else.