The motivations of the Hebdo killers

This article has some good analysis and a telling anecdote.   My emphases.  And think back to the Danish cartoons.  Compared to those in Charlie Hebdo they were mild, innocuous even to western sensibilities.   And they were printed in at least one Egyptian newspaper and nothing happened.  It was only after a traveling team of imams brought a dossier around to foment riots, a dossier that included a couple of obscene drawings that were not part of the Danish cartoons, did the orchestrated violence occur.  Anyway, here’s an excerpt of an excellent Spectator article by Douglas Murray.  Maybe on reading this you will understand why I am not jumping on the bandwagon to blame the cartoonists for their massacre.  

The ‘cartoon wars’ — which began when the Danish paper Jyllands-Postenpublished a set of cartoons in 2005 — are part of that. But as Flemming Rose, the man who commissioned those cartoons, said when I sat down with him this week, there remains a deep ignorance in the West about what people like the Charlie Hebdo murderers wish to achieve. And we keep ducking it. As Rose said, ‘I wish we had addressed all this nine years ago.’

Contra the political leaders, the Charlie Hebdo murderers were not lunatics without motive, but highly motivated extremists intent on enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws in 21st-century Europe. If you do not know the ideology — perverted or plausible though it may be — you can neither understand nor prevent such attacks. Nor, without knowing some Islamic history, could you understand why — whether in Mumbai or Paris — the Islamists always target the Jews.

Of course, some people are willing to give up a few of our rights. There seems, as Rose says in his book on the Danish cartoons affair, The Tyranny of Silence, some presumption that a diverse society requires greater limitations on speech, whereas of course the more diverse the society, the more diverse you are going to have to see your speech be. It is not just cartoons, but a whole system of inquiry which is being shut down in the West by way of hard intimidation and soft claims of offence-taking. The result is that, in contemporary Europe, Islam receives not an undue amount of criticism but a free ride which is unfair to all other religions. The night after the Charlie Hebdo atrocities I was pre-recording a Radio 4 programme. My fellow discussant was a very nice Muslim man who works to ‘de-radicalise’ extremists. We agreed on nearly everything. But at some point he said that one reason Muslims shouldn’t react to such cartoons is that Mohammed never objected to critics.

There may be some positive things to be said about Mohammed, but I thought this was pushing things too far and mentioned just one occasion when Mohammed didn’t welcome a critic. Asma bint Marwan was a female poetess who mocked the ‘Prophet’ and who, as a result, Mohammed had killed. It is in the texts. It is not a problem for me. But I can understand why it is a problem for decent Muslims. The moment I said this, my Muslim colleague went berserk. How dare I say this? I replied that it was in the Hadith and had a respectable chain of transmission (an important debate). He said it was a fabrication which he would not allow to stand. The upshot was that he refused to continue unless all mention of this was wiped from the recording. The BBC team agreed and I was left trying to find another way to express the same point. The broadcast had this ‘offensive’ fact left out.

I cannot imagine another religious discussion where this would happen, but it is perfectly normal when discussing Islam.

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3 Responses to The motivations of the Hebdo killers

  1. EPMS says:

    Well, we should just be grateful that Christianity does not have, in addition to the Gospels, a variety of collections of so-called Sayings of Jesus which are accepted by some groups of Christians and rejected by others, with no opportunity to bring scientific scholarship to bear on them or any other aspect of Scripture.

    • John Walter S. says:

      Protestant groups have a large variety of opinions on Scripture, ranging from abortion clinic bombers like Huttarees, the absolute pacifists like the Amish, and some who are barely Christian. They have no central authority for interpreting Scripture, so in that respect, they resemble Jews and Muslims. In absence of Hadiths, Protestants use writings by Reformers, don’t they?

      • Rev22:17 says:

        John,

        You wrote: Protestant groups have a large variety of opinions on Scripture, ranging from abortion clinic bombers like Huttarees, the absolute pacifists like the Amish, and some who are barely Christian. They have no central authority for interpreting Scripture, so in that respect, they resemble Jews and Muslims.

        There are many issues on which the Catholic Church also leaves a wide range of options for individual conscience. I’m not aware of any instance, at least in the past two or three centuries, in which the magisterium of the Catholic Church has declared a war to be just or unjust, with the consequence that members of the Catholic Church were either bound to or prohibited from engaging in combat on one side or the other, for example. And likewise, while generally taking a dim view of capital punishment, the magisterium of the Catholic Church has stopped short of definitively declaring it immoral under all circumstances, and thus does not forbid members of the church who serve as jurists or jurors from imposing, or voting to impose, it and members of the church employed in law enforcement from carrying it out.

        You wrote: In absence of Hadiths, Protestants use writings by Reformers, don’t they?

        Not as a definitive point of reference. According to most Protestants, the writings of the reformers carry about as much weight as the writings of a modern theology professor or scholar — meaning that it’s an informed opinion, and nothing more. Protestant Christians wear out bibles quite quickly, but very few even possess collections of writings of the reformers let alone read and study them.

        Norm.

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