We’ve all heard it on the news about how two Islamic gunmen entered the offices of a French Satirical publishing company known as Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve, including staff and police officers, and wounded eleven. In response, the public, and many of our political leaders have condemned the murders as an attack on freedom of speech and expression. Many can agree that these attacks hit a little too close to home because of it. And while we do have names to the faces of the two gunmen, it’s hard to say these attacks on our ideals were just caused by them. In fact, some media news outlets are willing to go so far as to say it wasn’t just the two gunmen, but the religion they. We can all agree that attacks like this probably won’t stop in the foreseeable future and that scares us. And when people get scared, they fight.
The editors at NSB got together to discuss this issue. If you’ve read our previous Sound Offs, you know how it goes. We prepared a simple Q&A for three of our editors to answers.
1) What was your initial reaction when you first heard about the attack on Charlie Hebdo?
Alex Pak: I hoped that the violence would not continue, but couldn’t help feel that the publication was responsible.
Brian Williams: I was shocked, and I was very concerned that the gunmen initially got away since it meant there was the potential for them to regroup and attack again.
Paul Craft: Muslims are in the news every week committing acts just like this on a worldwide stage, so it didn’t surprise me at all.
2) There are some who believe that Charlie Hebdo had it coming by disregarding all warnings that recreating images mocking Muhammad would incite violence. What are your thoughts? Did they have it coming?
AP: I don’t want to suggest that when ill words are spoken, violence is the correct response, but when if you attack an entire belief system and make a mockery of a religious icon, you invite wrath. Terrorists challenge national governments through their destructive acts, responding in force to a magazine is not out of the realm of possibility.
BW: If I’m not mistaken, the editor had been assigned security. Regardless, if you’re asking if this was a case of the chickens coming home to roost, it absolutely was not because nothing justifies this violence. While the violence was not unforeseeable, the fact that this staff was not and has not been deterred by it is why I believe it’s fair to consider these people, some of whose drawings can be fairly called offensive and racist, heroes.
PC: They didn’t deserve it. But any threats they received should’ve been taken seriously. Muslims who commit these atrocities have no regard for human life. These scumbags routinely crucify (in public) the children of Christians simply because the children exist. What do you think they’re going to do if you actually offend them?
3) There are some who say the Islamic religion is to blame and that they are responsible for the actions of their followers. This sentiment seems to be shared by many in France, particularly those who were involved in the attacks against the Muslim community. Can we hold religion and the religious community responsible for the actions of their followers?
AP: Believing that Islam is to blame is preposterous. Who is to blame? The people that decide to blame a religion for the actions of radical individuals are to blame. The people that give fundamentalists the ammunition to go out to the masses who will undoubtedly be radicalized by the acts of violence being perpetrated on innocents are to blame. The people who retweet and share these actions on social media and praise their actions are to blame. The people who take advantage of the privilege of being able to speak freely without considering that attacking other people’s core beliefs has consequences are to blame.
BW: That is two different questions. I think some of the wording of the teachings found in Islam are particularity susceptible to being misinterpreted and used for promoting violence. That said, I accept that it is a peaceful religion and that it should not be held responsible for every action of its followers. It would be like saying the Pope should held responsible for the actions of the KKK, a Christian terrorist group. That said, there are communities in Islam like ISIS that specifically preach violence and once that becomes part of a religious community’s teachings, that community can be held responsible.
PC: Scripture can be interpreted differently. I’ve never read the Quran but I do see peaceful Muslims in the west. I don’t think you can necessarily blame Islam itself. But you can absolutely blame religious leaders to teach hate and violence. The Bible is a violent book at times. But Christians aren’t taught to kill homosexuals, treat women like property, practice slavery, or decapitate people from other religions who refuse to convert.
4) Do you believe the government should do something to better protect the lives and journalists, or the lives of its citizens, from attacks similar to Charlie Hebdo?
AP: No. I believe that Charlie Hebdo had an obligation to their employees to increase security and prevent something like this from happening. I believe that when the publication decided to print offensive content, they made a conscious decision to put their people at risk. They had a duty to protect the people that were creating the content that they were selling. The average citizen cannot reach 50,000 people or hundreds of thousands of hits with a doodle they draw on a napkin. Not the case for this publication. They failed here, not their government.
BW: I suppose that’s the irony of all this. An attack on the freedom of speech will cause people to be scared, which will cause them to want to give up their freedoms to their government. The truth is that governments are doing a lot to protect us already (reading spying on us). ISIS and the like have changed strategy in response and are taking advantage of our mentally ill and calling on them to be lone wolves. If we want to protect ourselves, lets do more to find the disaffected in our communities and help them integrate and get the help they need. That will help protect us in the long run.
PC: Yes. Have a government agent in every mosque in the country. It’s proven time and again those are the places terrorists meet and coordinate. Islamic terrorism is a worldwide problem that needs worldwide attention and cooperation. I believe our president should call world leaders together and ask the question, “What are we going to do about Islamic terrorism?” Not just talk, but actually DO something about it. He won’t do this of course because he himself is a Muslim who refuses to recognize the situation for what it is. Therefore, it is up to the American people to defend themselves. This is one of the reasons we have the 2nd Amendment.
I also believe most of us can agree that the Muslims are not responsible for the actions of a few extremists. If we did, we would be setting a dangerous precedent for ourselves. If we can hold one religion for the horrendous acts of one of its more extreme followers, we would be allowing ourselves to hold every religion for the acts of a minor few. By doing so, we would be inciting more violence, not peace. We would be allowing ourselves to judge a person as guilty simply by association. Charging someone with guilt by mere association is morally wrong and if history has taught us anything, doing so only leads to more violence and trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, what happened at Charlie Hebdo was a terrible tragedy, but we should not use this as an excuse to punish a group of people based on the actions of two people who also happen to call themselves Muslim. If anything, many of them have shown support by condemning the shooting. So why not use this tragedy as a stepping stone to solidarity rather than enlarging the rift?