There is a number of perspectives on the recent events in Paris. Human tragedy. Extremism at large in the West. A test of the political resolve of Europe. But this post will cover a different aspect – one which is only now beginning to filter through the media. I am talking about the fundamental incompatibility of the Islamic value system with the secular Western vision of the state.
The public outpouring of grief in the aftermath of the Paris murders was soon hijacked by the government PR experts. The people who took to the streets found themselves marching under the banners of “unity”. I personally believe that “outrage” or “anger” would have been more appropriate but these labels sound way too negative to get the blessing of those we have elected to represent us in the sphere of politics. So millions ended up demonstrating how united (instead of how appalled) they were. This projected an image of a random social aberration which had occurred but was promptly rejected by a united front of those with a stake in the issue, charting a path to a harmonious future. This impression is false. The killings were not random and the West has got no clue what to do about their underlying cause.
The Charlie Hebdo journalists were murdered because their cartoons offended the religious sensitivities of some Muslims. One of the fundamental principles of the secular Western democracies is that religious life is private, separated from the state and does not enjoy any special legal protection from ridicule. The same way the Western press is free to make fun of the politicians and actors it can also mock and deride religious figures. It only makes sense that in a secular state no privilege is offered to an essentially private matter of what people choose to believe in. This setup was introduced to eliminate the interference of religion in the public and political life and Christianity, by and large, has adjusted.
However, the current demographics of Europe include a sizeable contingent of Muslims who do not accept that the tenets of their faith are trumped by the principles of a secular state. In fact many do not believe in a secular state at all and would prefer to live by the religious law of sharia. These views run against the European traditions of secularism and free speech. To appease the Muslims the liberal left have been allowing the elements of sharia in the ethnic communities. There has also been a fair amount of self-censorship in the Western media which went out of its way not to step on the toes of Islam. Despite these concessions the issue was always going to blow up at some point.
The killings in Paris were not a random act of violence but rather a manifestation of a deep-seated cultural incompatibility of Islam and the Western way of life. If you think that the rift has now been healed take a look at the recent comments on the Mohamed cartoons in the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo:
Many Muslim Middle Eastern newspapers – even moderate ones – strongly criticise the magazine’s front-page cartoon of Muhammad. “Charlie Hebdo continues its provocation,” reads a headline on the front page of Jordan’s establishment daily Al-Dustour. In the Algerian daily Echourouk, Habib Rashdin criticises the French government for helping to fund the new edition of Charlie Hebdo, saying this “violates all red lines, and is an open crusade against Muslims”. “It has become every Muslim’s right today to file a lawsuit against the country’s ambassadors over charges of ‘insult and contempt for religion’,” he adds.
Iran’s official rolling news TV channel IRINN describes the cartoon as “an act of provocation”. Showing part of the cartoon but without Muhammad, Iran’s English-language international channel Press TV warns that the cartoon “will stir up more hatred”. In Turkey, Yeni Akit – a paper that supports the Islamist governing party – launches a strongly-worded broadside against Charlie Hebdo and the West in general, under the headline “Ignominy continues”. “Despite the perilous events, the arrogant magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Western media, under the thumb of Zionist powers, carry on their cowardly attacks against Muslims and the Islamic world,” it thunders.
Even the Pope chipped in with disapproval, in his usual idiotic style:
The pontiff said religions had to be treated with respect, so that people’s faiths were not insulted or ridiculed. To illustrate his point, he told journalists that his assistant could expect a punch if he cursed his mother.(…) “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. There is a limit.”
So, as you see the claim of unity is totally vacuous – Islam and the West are as far apart as they ever were on where the social boundaries lie with respect to criticising religion. Even the Pope is proposing that the European secularism be curtailed and speech code protecting religion from ridicule introduced. But the marches in France and elsewhere also show that, contrary to some assessments, the West will not roll over and surrender to Islam. What this means is that we have just witnessed merely the opening act of a violent struggle between two conflicting ideologies.
Watch this space.