Viewpoints

Contradictheory

Published: Sunday January 18, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday January 18, 2015 MYT 10:26:37 AM

Je suis (re)chercher

Seeking the truth behind the recent terror attack in Paris is not easy.

THE recent events at the offices of Charlie Hebdo have sent shockwaves around the world. There has been much analysis trying to contextualise the events of that day, with so many opinions given that it’s difficult to make sense of it. When even Hamas condemns an action claimed to be defending the rights of Muslims, you know you have a complicated issue on your hands.

One thing I’m sure of: Killing is wrong.

However, it was clearly more wrong for the gunmen who attacked the offices than it was for the dozens of policemen who shot them dead later in the week.

> Killing is wrong unless it’s in order to save lives.

Yet, the four suspects involved were not psychopathic nor suicidal. In 2004, the first was encouraged to fight in Iraq against the Americans. He was not Iraqi, but French. Some teenagers dream of being doctors or astronauts or rappers. This particular kid was told there is nothing more important than religion and defending your brotherhood. He was about to fly to fight in the Middle East, when he was stopped and arrested.

However, instead of reforming in jail, the young man networked. While behind bars, he met senior extremist militants who continued to preach their ideology. He found in a fellow prisoner a new partner in crime, and after he was released, he involved his brother, while the other recruited his fiance.

In 10 years, these four people had immersed themselves in and accepted a culture that condoned violence as a way of standing up for your rights. An attack against their religion was like a personal attack against their freedom.

> Killing is wrong, unless it’s in order to save lives, which includes defending your culture and way of life.

The magazine Charlie Hebdo has had a long history of using cartoon and humour to attack an array of subjects, including religions in general. And it’s not as if they didn’t know that even moderate Muslims are upset by their work. In 2006, the magazine’s chief editor was sued by the Grand Mosque of Paris for publicly abusing a group for their religion. The court acquitted him, on the grounds that the cartoons were against fundamentalists and not Islam.

Yet, even if the editor was found guilty, he would not have been sentenced to death. It is generally accepted that voicing what you think is not worth killing over.

> Killing is wrong unless it’s in self-defence, which includes defending your culture and way of life, but should not include matters of opinion.

Nevertheless, then French President Jacques Chirac said at the time, “Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided.”

It is well-understood, not the least of all in Malaysia, that religion is a particularly sensitive subject. Some commentators have argued that those who worked at Charlie Hebdo were too arrogant by insisting on publishing their offensive material. Junaid Thorne, a preacher from Australia said, “If you want to enjoy ‘freedom of speech’ with no limits, expect others to exercise ‘freedom of action’.”

I can imagine a conspiracy theory that runs thus: By diminishing the reputation of Islam, these lackeys are helping make it easier for certain nations to view them as sub-human and to continue their war against Muslims.

> Killing is wrong unless it’s in self-defence, which includes defending your culture and way of life, but does not include matters of opinion, unless those opinions themselves threaten the peace.

If anything, the attack has heightened tensions and created divisions. Many worldwide have sympathised with the victims. Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wrote on his website, “We stand in unity with the French people. We must fight extremism with moderation.”

Yet, many also stood on the side of the attackers. In Afghanistan, hundreds of people in a rally praised the attack, while protesting the Afghan President’s condemnation, while organisations such as ISIS have been direct in stating their support.

Even the editors of news organisation Al-Jazeera debated on whether the French satirical magazine was entirely without blame. “Insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.,” wrote the Executive Producer of Al-Jazeera English.

In response, a US-based correspondent responded, “when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed ... to think that their strategy can succeed.”

Hamas surprisingly represents a relative calm spot, saying “any differences in opinion are no justification for killing innocents” – ironic given that they are still recovering from the damage done by Israel’s bombardment of them in retaliation for rockets launched from Gaza.

> Killing is wrong unless it’s in self-defence, which includes defending your culture and way of life, but should not include matters of opinion, unless those opinions themselves threaten the peace, but where do we draw the line?

The hope is that somewhere in this maelstrom of opinions and judgements, there is an oasis where an equilibrium exists. Where the benefits of free speech are maintained, yet force isn’t seen as an acceptable way of solving problems when we disagree.

There are, of course, issues in trying to find this balance. This past week in Malaysia, a lawyer has been arrested over his assertion that religious sermons are being used to spread extremism, and girls who were hugged by pop stars in public have been threatened with arrest if they don’t give themselves up. Given the amount of debate on the subjects, it feels like free speech is being balanced against religious sensitivities once again.

If the events in Paris have taught us anything, it’s that taking one extreme side without consideration for the other is a recipe for disaster. In a situation as complex as this, it is unlikely for one party to be completely right.

But one thing I’m sure of: Killing is wrong.

Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions.

Tags / Keywords: Charlie Hebdo, Contradictheory, column, terrorist

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epa04558618 A glass with a candle and the words Je suis Charlie are being held by a participant of a vigil at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,Germany 13 January 2015. A vigil for a cosmopolitan and tolerant Germany and for freedom of expression and religion take place after the terror attacks in Paris. German chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her cabinet are set to participate in the rally in Berlin in support of religious tolerance and openness, organized by Germanys Muslim leaders. EPA/KAYNIETFELD

Je suis (re)chercher

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Seeking the truth behind the recent terror attack in Paris is not easy. If the events in Paris have taught us anything, it’s that taking one extreme side without consideration for the other is a recipe for disaster.

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