Monday 18 November 2019

Paris attack is an assault on all supporters of democracy

Letters to the Editor

I am a Frenchman living in Ireland and I received some very kind and touching emails from Irish colleagues expressing their sympathy regarding the tragedy which took place in Paris yesterday.

However, I feel that the question of nationality is irrelevant on this matter. We should send these commiserating emails to ourselves who are supporting the democratic ideal, because when one kills the editorial team of a magazine it is the concept of democracy as we see it in the Western World that one attempts to kill.

This morning - along with the victims and their families - my sympathies go with the "Muslims of Europe" (an expression which I view as ridiculous considering the fact that if someone called me a "Christian of Europe", I would feel like drawing his/her caricature).

In France, the majority of people who have Islam as their religion are French citizens, so were their parents and, in many cases, even their grand-parents. Still, some ignorant idiots continue to qualify them as "migrants".

It is true that I am upset this morning, and I suppose this is one of the reasons why I am sending this email, as a form of catharsis.

The other reason is that it is time to react and, as Sartre stated, saying nothing is also acting. The victims included a well-known economist and four great cartoonists. I loved their work. I loved their irreverence. I loved their courage. I loved them. They taught me far more about life that all novelists or academics put together. Cartoons are revered in France; it is considered an art.

I listened to a cartoonist yesterday morning on RTE Radio 1 who said Wednesday's event would stop him expressing himself on certain topics, because he has four kids. His four French colleagues also had families. However, despite the fact they had been under constant threats for the last eight years, they had not changed their satirical expressions regarding all social topics (the gods, the politicians, the average Frenchman and woman).

By limiting the choice of his topics because of an understandable and legitimate fear, this Irish cartoonist will lose his identity as an artist and will become a 'drawing maker'.

These guys in 'Charlie Hebdo' did not take themselves or their work seriously. They knew the vital importance of laughs (cf. Freud).

Like most French people under the age of 60 I grew up laughing at the cartoons of two of the victims, who were superstars in France.

Cabu was a 77-year-old teenager, the epitome of gentleness and goodness, who also used to draw for children. Wolinsky - a 80-year-old spoilt, but bright child - was a 'romantic pervert'. A few years ago a journalist asked him about his funeral plans. He replied using the traditional subtle and refined French humour. "I wish to be cremated; then I would like my wife to pour my ashes in the toilet, so as I can continue to admire her ass," he said.

Could there be a better declaration of love? We should all have a word with our partners today on the matter.

Political correctness is another serious threat to the democratic ideal.

Gael Le Roux

Clontarf, Dublin 3

Islam is a religion of peace

Reports in the media are saying that what happened at the offices of the 'Charlie Hebdo' magazine in Paris yesterday was carried out by Islamic extremists, Islamic fundamentalists, religious fanatics...

I am writing because I feel I need to voice my opinion; as an Irish person and as a Muslim but, first and foremost, as a human being.

I am by no means a perfect Muslim, but I am a Muslim. I am also by no means a perfect Irish person, but I am an Irish person. Not a perfect woman, or wife or daughter or mother or sister or friend... (in no particular order). So, before your readers begin picking apart what I am about to write. I want that to be clear and, I want it to be clear that I know it. Also, I am not an Islamic scholar and in this letter I do not try to presume to speak on behalf of Muslims. I do however, want to take the time to make a few relevant and important points to all who read this: non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Firstly, and most importantly, I condemn acts of violence against any defenceless person of any colour, race or creed. I abhor what took place at the offices of the 'Charlie Hebdo' magazine yesterday.

Islam is a religion of peace. Peace with Allah / God (Subhana Wa Ta' a la, all glory be to him), peace with yourself, peace with those around you and your community and, peace in wider society. True followers of Islam do not carry out attacks like this. True followers of any religion do not carry out attacks like this.

Too often we 'other' people. By this, I mean we focus on what divides us or is different from us. By doing this we create barriers and distances. We miss out on all kinds of relationships. We miss out on knowing a person as a person. We miss out on understanding them: their lives, what they value and love, who they value and love, what are their disappointments, their struggles, their goals, their dreams...

However, we all, Muslims and non-Muslims, have more in common as human beings than we do differences. There is more that unites us than divides. Much, much more. Too often we forget that. All of us, too often and too easily. 'Othering' means we miss out on a chance of getting to know people and to understand them but, they too miss out on a chance of getting to know and understand us.

I urge all of your readers not to 'other' one another. Not to relate to or identify with one side and not the other because, what happened in Paris happened to human beings. It was done by human beings to human beings. People who are just like you and just like me. The whys and hows are not things I can even begin to understand. But I do know this; as long as we continue to find differences in one another and continue to separate ourselves from each other, then there is no hope that we can build relationships or know and understand each other.

And no hope that acts of violence like yesterday at the offices of the 'Charlie Hebdo' magazine in Paris won't continue to happen.

Sarah Ryan

Co Cork

Moderates must unite

I have little doubt that the horrific murder of 'Charlie Hebdo' staff and three French policemen will have delighted a small but deranged number of Islamists.

But let us take a deep breath before falling into their trap. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are ordinary decent people who just want to get on with their lives. Like the Irish living in Britain during the IRA bombing campaign, undoubtedly they too feel under threat and suspicion.

Ironically, it may be Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front that benefits from this atrocity. Who knows, perhaps that was one of the terrorists' objectives; to drive a large wedge between ordinary Muslims and the wider community.

There will always be terrorism in the world, but to minimise the threat of Islamic terrorism, both Muslims and wider society need to pull together towards the common good by fighting radicalisation.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Irish Independent

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