Celebrated magazine only destroyed the little credibility it had

epa04564949 Participants in a solidarity rally for Charlie Hebdo holds up signs that read thinking could help (top), Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) and I am Charlie and not brown, in Freiburg, Germany, 17 January 2015. According to police reports, around 400 people took part in the rally to commemorate the victims of the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 07 January 2015. The Alevi cultural union and the intercultural collecting Faerbung (lit. coloring) from Freiburg called for the event., EPA/PATRICKSEEGER

PEOPLE who know me well enough know one key trait about me. I have a long fuse. Meaning, I take a long time to get angry.

I’ve always been this way and thankfully so, for certain professions require people of this sort – like medical personnel, customer service and airline pilots.

The long fuse is necessary because my job requires me to remain calm, controlled and rational, which will come most handy in an emergency.

However, long-fused people like me are terrible at certain other jobs, like law enforcement. Imagine if people like me were to work as prison wardens or drill sergeants!

Our one major weakness is this – we may react more aggressively when the fuse finally runs out.

And when that happens, it is best to keep a good distance.

Although I don’t believe in violence, I have employed it at times when a situation necessitated it. The first time was against a school bully, the second against a road bully (who threatened an elderly lady after a fender bender) and the most recent one was on a drunk tourist who touched my wife.

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Yet I will never commit physical violence against people just because they said, did or drew something that offended me.

And thankfully, the majority of Malaysians (including our often criticised government) have come out condemning that despicable act in Paris by fanatics who use the all-too-familiar excuse of religion to justify their works of evil.

But after that initial shock and global outpouring of sympathy for Charlie Hebdo, the gathering of world leaders and en masse proclamations of “Je suis Charlie”, how did the magazine respond?

It returned the world’s magnanimity with the stupidest and most juvenile response ever – lampooning the Prophet again via another caricature, this time on the front page, supposedly to “defy the fanatics” and make a stand for “freedom”!

Really? Wow, I’m impressed! Maybe I missed something here but pray tell, how does insulting a Prophet defy fanatics and help the rest of us hold hands and sing kumbaya?

The Paris terrorists are already dead! Who cares if they are insulted now or not?

Seriously, I am flabbergasted with the perennial obsession of some Western media to insult, disgrace and denigrate the religious beliefs of other people.

Although it will never make me want to pull out a gun and shoot people, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to punch the person who thinks press freedom is achieved by insulting Muslims around the globe.

Forget the two billion Muslims worldwide. By deliberately offending the deep reverence of Muslims towards Prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo has also offended even the non-Muslims.

So did the celebrated magazine really drive home the message that the pen is mightier than the sword (or gun)?

No! All it succeeded in doing was to destroy the little credibility it had, dishonour the memory of those who died and worst of all, reinforce the dividing notions of both Islamophobia and “infidel-phobia” around the globe.

It reminds me of a time when people got thrown out for protesting against an art gallery that displayed a “work of art” in the form of an inverted crucifix immersed in a glass of urine!

Few saw any kind of creative expression or “work of art” there. All people saw was a work of hate and intent to insult the divinity of Jesus Christ, manifested in the artist’s personal hatred of Christianity and attempted humiliation of those who didn’t.

So, as much as it takes guts to stand up to hate, it also takes guts to stand up to hypocrisy.

While I’m not about to launch an attack on the Western media, I need to expose their disgraceful double standards concerning what should and should not be offensive to people.

For instance, these media agencies call it “creative expression” to mock Muslims in a cartoon. But it is “anti-Semitism” instead if it mocks Jews.

It’s “creative expression” to mock the traditional family institution. But it is automatically “homophobia” if people make fun of same-sex marriages.

It’s “art” to barge into a church and shout anti-Christian statements – evident in the vehement protests in Russia when it jailed the talentless punk outfit Pussy Riot for doing just that.

But it would be outrageous if it happened inside a synagogue now, wouldn’t it?

Since time immemorial, people have been doing dastardly acts in the name of religion. But the fault lies solely in the people who do that – not in the religion itself, which is why it’s totally unnecessary for Charlie Hebdo to turn its guns towards Muslims now.

When the Reverend Jim Jones of the People’s Temple led close to a thousand people to their deaths in Jonestown, Guyana, no one saw the need to denigrate Christians.

When Timothy McVeigh of the Branch Davidians bombed a government building in Oklahoma (which housed a childcare centre), killing 168 people, no one saw the need to denigrate Christians.

When Christian extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 students in Norway, no one saw the need to denigrate Christians.

So why then do these people now see a need to denigrate Muslims on the basis of a vile act committed by an extremist who has already been roundly condemned and distanced from?

In principle, the bad faith shown by Charlie Hebdo is no less abusive than the perpetrators of religious violence themselves, albeit not of a physical nature.

The so-called “moderate” Malaysians must now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Malaysian Muslims and register their strongest protest and outrage to each and every disregard of Islamic dignity, even if it’s committed in the name of press freedom.

And this, my dear friends, is why I am not Charlie!

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Opinion , East Malaysia , thiru


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