Most people commenting on the murders of Charlie Hebdo staff last week have said, unequivocally, that there is no excuse for the killings. However, there was a body of opinion that claimed that they “brought it on themselves” by being “offensive”.
A simple counter argument could be that I find religion itself offensive, and my solution is to refrain from taking part in it. Maybe the murderers, who claimed to be acting on behalf of their prophet, Mohammed, should have taken the same stance, and refrained from buying the magazine that so upset them. That’s assuming they even saw it. The violence that followed the publication of cartoons in Denmark was stirred up, largely, by people who hadn’t seen them.
This is the cover of the first edition of Charlie Hebdo since the murders (My own take on it is above):
A few people have whined about this cover. (“It’s not exactly hilarious, is it?” missing the poignancy, and the point.)
There have also been more people asserting that the magazine staff were, at least partly, to blame for their own deaths. “They should show some respect, there are millions of Muslims who will be upset!”
The kind of offensive behaviour that should be illegal already is. If the cartoons about Mohammed had been pasted on the walls of a mosque, that would be harassment, Going into a mosque and shouting abuse would be the same. Calling for Muslims to be assaulted, or even killed, is illegal.. Laughing at Islam should not be illegal, and cannot be a justification for murder. The same applies, of course, to any religion.
One of the most ridiculous apologies for religious terrorists was that, if it’s OK to mock Islam, it should be OK to mock the Holocaust.
I’m undecided on whether the Holocaust should be open to mockery. I certainly don’t find any humour in it, but I can appreciate the argument that, in the interest of free speech, one should be free to say pretty much anything, short of incitement to repeat any of the atrocities. In any case, the two subjects are not in the same category.
The Holocaust saw upwards of 6 million real people slaughtered, while Mohammed is a fictionalised version of a man who lived and died in the sixth century. Even now, there are people who can remember the horror of the former. Nobody alive can have met the latter.
Blasphemy is a victimless crime. If there really was an all-powerful god, he would be perfectly capable of fighting his own battles. That so many adherents, of various versions of the delusion, have felt it necessary to kill in his name suggests to me that they don’t really believe what they preach. I couldn’t possibly respect such hypocrites.
There are some religious people I can respect though, like Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer, killed while upholding the values the murderers despised so much. I don’t respect his religion, not one bit, but his integrity in upholding French secular law is another matter.
If all that appears muddled to you, try this post from “The Gerasites”. It’s much clearer!