What A Nightmare, Charlie Hebdo

So, today my dad came into my room at about 9 AM telling me that there’d been a shooting in Paris today, and not of the fashion kind. It wasn’t until I got out of bed and went online that I read about the casualties; seasoned journalists, talented cartoonists, and policemen who had nothing at all to do with the magazine. They showed the videos on the news, but I could barely watch them. It looked like something out of Grand Theft Auto. And why?

Because of a cartoon.

Just a drawing, an image, a figment of someone’s imagination inked with pigment. Before I get into my political/non-political harangue here, let me check myself by saying, yes, Islam does not approve of depictions of Mohammed in any way, shape, or form, and that in a way, depicting him in a political cartoon is a little disrespectful of a tradition and culture of millions. But there are options. First, they don’t have to even look at it; most media in Islamic countries is heavily monitored anyway, so it’s not like people in rural Saudi Arabia or Indonesia are going to even see it. Second, there’s the option of writing a strongly-worded letter to the magazine in question, in this case Charlie Hebdo, a French humor/satire periodical. Oh yeah, and third, don’t kill people, because as we learned in kindergarten and the musical Urinetown, killing people is wrong.

What surprises me is how many people didn’t see it coming. This is the worst terrorist attack in France since 1961, which is horrible, but more people are killed in terrorist attacks every day for less, like villagers in Nigeria and Cameroon who just wanted to live their lives and educate their children, or commuters in Australia who just wanted some morning pastries. According to the news, Charlie Hebdo had previously been the victims of hacking and firebombing, for the exact same reason. Who would’ve thought that something like this would ever happen in contemporary, hip Paris?

I could name one.

Molly Norris.

In 2010, Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist drew a picture of a box of pasta, a coffee cup, and other random items shouting “I’m Mohammed” in a Ryan Stiles-does-Carol Channing kinda way, with the headline, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

It was kind of cute and a little funny, but free speech didn’t fly with Islamic fundamentalists who drew the cartoonist in their cross-hairs. The comic also drew attention from Internet users all over America who drew their own Mohammeds, and soon it spiraled out of control, with her name all over it. She tried to distance herself from it, to no avail, even proposing “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day,” but it was too late. The newspaper terminated her column after receiving threats, and when she took her case to the FBI, they shrugged. Her life unraveled; she changed her name, left Seattle, and stopped drawing cartoons. A woman’s career, home, and identity ruined because of just one drawing (Cashill, Goldstein).

And that wasn’t even the first time it happened.

In 2005, the Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten ran a comic depicting Mohammed, and got worldwide backlash. In fact, according to this article translated by Jacob Wheeler, the newspaper’s editor Flemming Rose made a statement.

“It sends a shiver down my spine. Thinking about the people in Paris, what they’re experiencing now. In addition to shock, I’m not surprised. If you look at what’s happened in Europe over the past 10 years, since Jyllands-Postens Muhammad cartoons were published, time after time there have been threats and even violence…Here at Jyllands-Posten we live in fear.” (Rose)

As we can see, a pattern has developed. Oddly, a five-year pattern, but that’s besides the point. I could write a pretty long list of cartoons and comic strips that offend a particular religion. Christians are the butts of jokes all the time, and how many people have reacted inappropriately angrily to those depictions? (And no, the Westboro Baptist Church does not count.) How many Jews stormed and pillaged Seth MacFarlane’s home after the controversial lyric in Family Guy’s “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein?” Answer: None. There was a backlash against it initially by some Jewish groups, but MacFarlane changed the lyric and everybody just went back to the couch. But with Islam, it’s a whole different set of characters; if a cartoon is enough to rile people up so much that they feel the need to reach for the guns and the car keys, whether figuratively or literally, on repeated occasions, what does this say about the Islamic agenda? You can talk all day long about how they are extremists, and how they’re not representative of the true Islam, but the facts remain the same: it keeps happening. And it’s the same people. And they have access to more and more ammunition, resources, money, and power.

And who is taking action to stop it from happening?

In the 24-ish hours since the event, world leaders have spoken out about today, in defense of freedom and in denunciation of acts of terror. The list is long and growing: USA, UK, the EU, Russia, Australia, Israel, the Vatican. And the words come from their leaders: Barack Obama, Tony Abbott, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But one part of the world has been conspicuously silent.

Where is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Or King Abdullah of Jordan? What about Sheikh Tamim of Qatar – what does he think?

Silence. Figures.

The question is this: with the world knowing what it knows now, as a result of today’s shootings, what’s going to change? How can we prevent this from ever happening again?

What have we learned?

Ok, ok, forget free speech for a moment; in what kind of world is it okay to go to someone’s workplace and gun them down, under any circumstance? That is the question.

I don’t think there is an answer, but if anyone reading this knows, please tell me.

For the latest info:

NPR: At Least 12 Die In Shooting at Magazine’s Paris Office, Suspects Named

Works Cited

Cashill, Jack. “First They Came for Molly Norris.” WND. 7 January 2015. http://www.wnd.com/2015/01/first-they-came-for-molly-norris/.

Goldstein, Aaron. “A Further Thought on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks & where is Molly Norris now?” The American Spectator. 7 January 2015. http://spectator.org/blog/61410/further-thought-charlie-hebdo-terrorist-attacks-where-molly-norris-now.

Rose, Flemming. “Jyllands-Posten Editor on Charlie Hebdo.” Trans. Jacob Wheeler. The Daily Beast. 7 January 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/01/07/jyllands-posten-editor-on-charlie-hebdo.html.

Taylor, Adam. “Why Would Terrorists Kill Cartoonists?” WorldViews. The Washington Post. 7 January 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/07/why-would-terrorists-kill-cartoonists/.

31 thoughts on “What A Nightmare, Charlie Hebdo

  1. I agree with everything you’re saying. These people make me angry and these acts are senseless. And I grew up a Muslim (although I now consider myself an agnostic, if even that). These people are murderers. And yes they murder under the auspices of Islam because they are brainwashed. And I think the socio-political, economical conditions of the Muslim/Arab world are just right to create these sorts of killing monsters. I’m frightened all the time. My kids tell me that they heard at school that ‘they’ve found IS people’ in Kuwait. I’m sure we have them here. And because my children attend an American school, I am petrified of a scenario like that of Sydney or Paris. I do want to point one thing out in your post though: Israel is a whole different ball game. You can’t put it in the same category with the other countries you mentioned. Acts of agression and terrorism happen on both sides there. It is an unprecedented geo-political situation that deserves its own discussion.

    • Thanks for the comment. About Israel though, not so much correct. As a former resident of the country, I can honestly say that Israel acts in self-defense, not offense. I have never seen a report of an Israeli blowing themselves up at a cafe in Gaza City, or store bombs in a day care center, or kidnap three boys and kill them, or hold a soldier hostage for over a year without being able to see the Red Cross, so, yeah, your sources have sadly misinformed you. Maybe, on your next vacation, you should visit Israel and experience the fun for yourself! I loved it there, they have great restaurants, beautiful places to hike, and an excellent bus system, you don’t even have to rent a car 🙂

      • I live in Kuwait and my family is Palestinian. You said it youself: you don’t read about the reports, because they are not reported. I read news reports on all sides of the spectrum including the Haaretz and Left-wing Israeli posts. I do NOT condone people blowing themselves up in the midst of innocents. No ifs, ands and buts. No excuse. Before you tell me I am wrong, please try to find sources and ask yourself why someone would commit such atrocious acts of violence. I could send you tons of literature (I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just your run-of-the-mill, American educated human being who has seen more than one side of this to make an educated opinion).

      • There is no reason to commit acts of violence, period. I just think that unless you’ve lived somewhere and interacted with the people, you might not know exactly what life is like there. Broaden your horizons a little and visit Israel, you’ll be surprised by how great the beaches are and how good the food is!

      • That’s funny. Telling ‘GHADAH’ to broaden her horizons. I agree that you do not have the whole picture, I am very sure Israel has beautiful beaches and amazing food, but as for always acting in self defense, I think you need to check more sources, and many more RELIABLE ones. And not by just living there, does one know everything about the country.

      • Everyone could use some horizon-broadening! For example, did you know that seahorses can change gender? Or that geraniums only bloom once a year? Or that during World War II, Girl Scouts in the USA sold calendars instead of cookies due to flour and butter rationing? Or that the largest cathedral in Africa is in the tiny nation of Cote D’Ivoire? Or that it has been proven that knuckle-cracking does not lead to arthritis? I bet you didn’t know at least 3 of those things. You should cheer up and check out some more posts on my blog, and relax a little!

  2. ‘If you fear them, they will come, leaving bits of breadcrumbs along their heinous path.’…’their path will leave a trail, a trail will uncover the cornerstone, and thus their journey ends.’

    I often tell people that i simply do not understand the mindset of a terrorist, nor do i ever care to. Anyone can pick up a gun and shoot someone, well, it is a bit easier here in America due to our gun laws. And yes, we do have hatred between religious groups, rather, intolerance. We are fortunate to have a sense of duty amongst the masses, to treat one another respectfully. I would venture to say that in most parts of the world that is a truth amongst mankind.
    How do we fight, and truly what is it that we are fighting for? I’m a military brat. It’s engrained in me to stand tall and never back down, to lead and never follow. To understand that the person beside me has my back and i have his. That, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Fear is a state of mind. Believe in what you are fighting for and your fear will take a backseat.

    We are not simply standing and holding our ground for free speech, we are standing to protect the rights that all people be allowed a voice. One that they choose to use in any manner they wish. Hopefully understood as it is represented, and if not, at least a freedom for them to speak without fear.

    This is no pipe dream. It’s worth defending. I have great trust in leaders across the Globe that seek peace and prosperity for all. For those who did not come forward, they, and only they, know the reason why they chose silence. Let us not assume anything.

    We could take the greatest minds in all the world, place them in a room and ask them to devise a plan of action for attacking the Fundamentalist Islams determination to annilate those that do not follow their belief(s). But that would prove senseless. All we need is each other, taking care of our neighbor as he takes care of us.

    There is no need to STOP the presses, change our strategies. There is a time and place for all things. “What comes around, goes around.”

    (Jacob, thank you for your post. You articulated so much, and so very well.)

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  4. Thank you for posting this (which I put on my FB page). A few thoughts: first, it seems to require a massacre like this for the general masses. (I’m not a fan of Alice Bailey or Theosophy bc she was an anti-semite but she had a good description about much of humankind, “the force of mass-negativity and short-sighted self-interest.” Most of these people are in a fog and just focus on their own day to day events. So it takes a massacre for these people to think, “Oh, I guess we have a problem here.” and then they get maudlin and say, “We’re all Charlie.” It goes against their pacifist instincts and fear of taking any unpopular stance. So they prevaricate “They got killed but we’re not sure it’s terrorism. we have to investigate further (the White House Press secretary” or, “Well, how do we know Putin isn’t behind this, funding this terrorism instead of it being a terrorist act (someone wrote this on my FB page, sorry, an annoying liberal who says he is a Republican. I wrote back, “who cares what their motivation is? If they kill someone, what do I care if it is Putin or Allah himself who told them to do it?” apologetics, “They should think twice about desecrating Mohammed,” That reminds me of comments I heard from a Greek colleague on 9/11 when we were in NYC: “The US deserved it.” Mainly though the west is just craven. You see all of these french people standing together in unity saying they aren’t scared. Well, it’s easy to say that when there are a 100,000 of you. But the fact is, they are scared and because the foreign population has not assimilated well in France, there are these areas outside of Paris where the politicians are terrified to go. It’s from one of these neighborhoods that the terrorists came from. The real guts is not standing and saying you’re Charlie, it’s passing laws against the burka and going after each terrorist harbored in Paris and London and getting the youth away from being indoctrinated and banning flights to or visa entrance back from places that are known Al Qaeda training grounds. People have known about all Islamic repression of speech since Salman Rushdie’s fatwah.

    • I agree, it all boils down to the same point: I recently found an old letter from my pen-pal in rural France, dated January 2002, in which she wrote about how 9/11 scared her so much, and how all the girls in her school were all “as long as it’s not happening here.” Wonder where those girls are now.

      • That’s very ominous, indeed. We don’t have the problems in the US that are in Europe and the UK…at least at this point. But hiding from your problems (like Neville Chamberlain) will come back to get you.

  5. Very well written
    Sadly men have used .. God as a scapegoat for slaughter and violence .. for centuries .. there is more bloodshed through history .. caused by the war/fearmongering .. the anger and hatred of men hiding behind religions.. the extremists are present in all .. the few that do damage to the many /the whole.

    I have to wish that the few don’t cause the many to choose hatred and not love .. out of fear … & I have to hope that we all …choose LOVE … all religions have that as their core … So we could / can all chose to respect each other and honour each others differences .. now that would be a beautiful world …

  6. It seems protocol for Islamic extremists to respond with this kind of violence. My recent post, A Lesson in Allowing, was intended for teaching my children but it applies to this type of brutality in the name of religion even more so. This is so clearly written, despite it’s horrific subject, I enjoyed reading it.

  7. King Abdullah, who’s silence you question, was anything but that. He was upfront and center with his wife, Queen Rania as they both attended the march yesterday in Paris, with Mahmood Abbas of Palestine, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Benjamin Netinyahu, Francois Hollande, and another 40+ world leaders. The only one who wasnt there marching for freedom of speech was the leader of the free world, Barack Obama, oh, the irony of that!

    A better revision of facts is most useful before writing. Thanks!

    Video of President Sisi of Egypt giving a groundbreaking speech and condemnation of Paris attacks infront of the imams of Al Azhar Umiversity (equivalent of the Vatican for Muslims):

    Check this out:

    Look to see if leaders of the Arab world have spoken out before assuming that they have said nothing. Muslims have come out in droves against the massacres, including Ahmed, the Muslim policeman who died protecting people’s right of soeech, which included insulting his faith and prophet.

  8. I thought that this was very well written and without sitting on the fence too, so good job! I agreed with a lot of what you said here. It was such a tragedy, I really don’t like the idea of having to censor so much just to eliminate the risk of events turning to this, there’s always other ways to deal with it. 😦

    Je suis Charlie!

    • I know right? When I was in 8th grade one of my teachers organized a email writing campaign to a cartoonist who drew an anti-Semitic cartoon that got published in The New Yorker. My whole class wrote letters and we each got individual responses from the artist (who defended his picture, but it was still nice to get an email from him). At no point did my teacher or any of us entertain the idea of buying guns and taking a field trip to New York. Ironically, we did go on a field trip to New York that year, and the only fighting we saw was at the Imperial Theatre, where Les Miserables was still playing on Broadway. That was also the trip where I tripped and fell on a crack in the sidewalk and banged up my ankle. I didn’t know I was bleeding until we got back to the hotel and my sock had some blood spots. Fortunately one of my roommates was a Boy Scout that trip.

  9. I have read a number of blog posts about the attacks in Paris. I have to say, Jacob, that yours is up there with the best of them in terms of clarity of thought and expression, and has added to my understanding of the situation.

    That there seems still to be a growing and developing problem is beyond dispute (this morning’s reports from Belgium add weight to this), as is the apparent inability of anyone to propose a workable way through it.

    Who would have thought, as little as two decades ago, that there would routinely be armed soldiers and police patrolling the streets of Europe; that the simple act of catching a flight would involve so much screening – physical and virtual – such long queues and delays, checking in so long before flights etc.; that we would feel threatened by the presence of people simply wearing the attire that their particular brand of religion recommends or mandates?

    Inasmuch as we have changed forever the way we live our lives; inasmuch as (in cities, airports and places of mass gathering at least) our day-to-day activities have been so disrupted; to that extent, the terrorists have already won.

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