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We must stop blaming ourselves for the atrocities of Islamic terrorists

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A man holds a candle and a sticker reading " I am Charlie", during a demonstration in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.

A man holds a candle and a sticker reading " I am Charlie", during a demonstration in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.

AP

Candles and a placard which reads "I am Charlie" are pictured to pay tribute to victims at the French embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin January 7, 2015

Candles and a placard which reads "I am Charlie" are pictured to pay tribute to victims at the French embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin January 7, 2015

REUTERS

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

PA

A man holds a placard which reads "I am Charlie" to pay tribute during a gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris January 7, 2015

A man holds a placard which reads "I am Charlie" to pay tribute during a gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris January 7, 2015

REUTERS

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A man holds a candle and a sticker reading " I am Charlie", during a demonstration in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.

We'd forgotten about 'Charlie Hebdo'. In 2011, the satirical magazine, firmly rooted in the anti-clericalism of the French left, was firebombed after it published an edition poking fun at Islam: "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter", read the cover.

At the time, unthinkable in the light of the attack on 'Charlie's office, there was "debate" over whether the magazine's cartoonists and editors had "gone too far".

Bruce Crumley, a correspondent for 'Time', rushed to condemn not the bombers, but the scribblers.

"Not only are such Islamophobic antics [as publishing cartoons] futile and childish," he wrote, "but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?"

He went on: "Do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humour-deficient parody on the logic of 'because we can' was so worthwhile?

"If so, good luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring."

Others sought to contextualise the attacks against the backdrop of alienation felt by many French Muslims.

Underlying all this was a persistent assumption. Islamist attacks are only ever reactions, only ever brought about by provocation from the West.

All the way back to the Ayatollah Khomeini's contract on the head of Salman Rushdie in 1989, we have accepted the idea that it is up to authors, artists and cartoonists to justify themselves in the face of threats and real violence.

Rushdie himself even apologised for his supposed "insult" to Islam, in fear for his life.

If the rise of Isil has taught the world one thing, it is that the provocation is beside the point. Jihadis kill because that is what they do. It does not matter if you are a French cartoonist or a Yazidi child, or an aid worker or a journalist: if you are not one of the chosen few, you are fair game. Provocation is merely an excuse used by bullies to justify their actions, while ensuring the world bows to their will.

In October last year, imprisoned Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish managed to smuggle a note from his Damascus cell to the free speech charity English PEN. Darwish had been singled out for an award by PEN and Salman Rushdie, and he took the opportunity to address Rushdie directly, writing: "[W]e committed an unforgivable sin in the Arab world when we responded with indifference to the fatwas and calls for your death. So indifferent were we that we colluded - even if just by our silent complicity - in excluding and eliminating difference, while acting as if the whole thing had nothing to do with us.

'And so here we are today, paying the high, bloodsoaked price of that collusion, and finding ourselves the main victims of the obscurantist ideology now infiltrating our homes and our cities.

"What a great shame that it has taken us all of this bloodshed to arrive at the belief that we are the ones who will pay the price for preventing those with whom we disagree from expressing their views - and that we will pay with our lives and our futures. What a shame this much blood has had to be spilled for us to realise, finally, that we are digging our own graves when we allow thought to be crushed by accusations of unbelief, calling people infidels, and when we allow opinion to be countered with violence."

Yesterday's obscenity may shock us, but we must not be rendered speechless.

 

Padraig Reidy is the former senior writer with the Index on Censorship

Irish Independent


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A woman raises a pen during a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, at Trafalgar Square in London January 7, 2015. Video