There are no justifications for the terrorist act that took place in Paris this week. The cowardly and coldblooded murder of 12 individuals is a sign of weakness of those who committed the act. I am no fan of satire directed at religion, except perhaps in those cases where religion crosses the line into international and domestic politics. Radical, and other forms of Islam, cross the line into politics which invites the commentary of the world at large. Some of the commentary, especially with such a diverse pool of believers, is going to be painful to many.
While I may not agree with some of what was published by Charlie Hebdo, I do believe in their freedom of expression. Our French compatriots know that free expression can and does make for a stronger and freer society.
Often satire can feel painful to those who are the targets, especially when sacred things are ridiculed or made light. As a practicing Mormon, I’m familiar with the feelings generated by occasional public or personal ridicule for my religious beliefs and practices. Words, however, are truly dangerous only when they present a threat. While I do not know of the actual motivations driving the cowards who murdered 12 individuals, I will venture a guess. I suppose that they felt their faith, either personal or that of the wider world of Islam, was threatened. Perhaps they felt that the cartoons in the magazine threatened to destroy their personal beliefs. Or perhaps they felt that it threatened to destroy the beliefs of their family, friends, and personal believers. Either way, it seems to me that these terrorists, and any and every person who cheers or supports what they did in any way or measure, sees the foundation of Islam as a delicate structure, one that could be pulled down or damaged by the work of some French writers and cartoonists. It seems in a moment of their own crisis of faith they sought to punish others.
How sad this reality must be for those terrorists and their supporters? Faith cannot be strengthened by meaningless acts of violence. Anytime faith rests upon the need to commit violence against those with opposing ideas, it is no faith at all but only fear. The words of non-believers, no matter how harmful, should not be a cause for violence. If words of criticism are accurate, make positive changes. If words of criticism are inaccurate, seek to correct them. If you can’t correct inaccuracies or vulgarities, ignore them and live by faith.
Peaceful followers of Islam should condemn the violence of these terrorists in no uncertain terms. Condemnation of these terrorists does not equate to approval of the work of Charlie Hebdo. Condemnation of these terrorists equates to recognition of the value of life and freedom. Condemnation of these terrorists equates to a faith that is strong and firm. Then peaceful followers of Islam, if they so desire, should defend their faith through words and kind deeds.
My heart bleeds for the freedom loving people of France.