|THIS IS NOT A BOMB|
The killing of the staff at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by Moslem assailants who said that they wanted to die as martyrs, and the subsequent killing of the assailants, together with their hostages, by the French police, could not have failed to produce strong emotions. For instance, my friend Bruno had this to say. I don't entirely disagree, especially about the undue haste of the French police, but I do want to make a few points about methods.
No matter how difficult it is, what's needed in such a situation, at least on the level of those aspiring to any sort of social adequacy, is a dispassionate look, with an eye toward what would qualify as a political fix that can win the peace, rather than some combination of police/military/judicial action that is virtually guaranteed to lose the war, by making the situation worse. You see, police/military/judicial action is only effective when the enemy could potentially admit defeat, surrender and make amends. When the enemy wishes to be martyred, police/military/judicial action is akin to combating alcoholism with bottles of booze.
What Bruno proposed—capture, torture, public humiliation, public execution—worked very well for Jesus Christ. Here we are over 2000 years later, and he is still the world's best-known, most widely celebrated martyr. If, by the standards of one of the world's greatest religions, poking fun at prophet Mohammed is a sin, and if the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo can be said to have died for that sin, then that, by a rather simple calculus, does qualify them as martyrs, even in the Christian tradition.
I was not a reader of Charlie Hebdo, and so I don't know whether they properly satirized the American invasion of Iraq, the seeding of Basra, Fallujah and other parts of Iraq with depleted uranium munitions causing a large number of cancers and birth defects, the wholesale slaughter of Iraqi civilians, or the use of torture at Abu Ghraib and other US-run detention centers. Or whether they shined a comic light on the utter futility of the NATO war in Afghanistan, whose only result seems to be a speedy return to status quo ante as soon as the troops pull out. I think there are gems of comedy there: the Americans are still sending in advisers—as if they ever knew what to do there themselves! I hope they did satirize these events; if they didn't, but on the other hand saw it fit to poke fun at Islam, then that would seems a tiny bit lopsided to me, but I hope to stand corrected.
Nor do I know if Charlie Hebdo properly savaged the Israelis for their various practices, such as shelling UN-run schools because there might be “terrorists” lurking among the women and children, or for the Israeli military propaganda along the lines of “shoot pregnant Palestinian women and kill two for the price of one.” Is there humor in such things? I don't know. Nor is there humor in the Qur‘an, or in any of the acts ascribed to prophet Mohammed. And yet the satirical geniuses at Charlie Hebdo found some there. So why does Israel get the kid glove treatment? Again, I hope to stand corrected, but if that's the case, then there is a bit of lopsidedness there as well.
There is also the tiny matter of taste. I know that the French are not alien to the idea of mauvais goût. And given what has been happening in many Islamic countries around the world—from outright invasions and bombings to drone strikes, to US-funded political corruption and régime change, to sanctions maintained over decades, to many acts of discrimination in the western countries to which circumstances force the refugees from the destroyed countries to flee—it seems like poking fun at their religion using cartoons, however gently, is akin to joking about rope in the house of the hanged. By analogy, consider writing such oeuvres as “Auschwitz, the operetta.” Or how about a song-and-dance troupe composed of non-Jews, called “The Not Ready for Holocaust Players”? Would that be in bad taste? You bet! Of course, none of these particular expressions of mauvais goût are likely to happen, because people in the west are deathly afraid of being labeled anti-Semites. On the other hand, they are not yet particularly afraid of being shot in the head by furious Moslems. Why the disconnect, I wonder? The instinct of self-preservation does not seem fully engaged yet.
I want to keep this to below 1000 words, so I will close simply by noting what the solution may look like. The only solution I see is a duopoly, where Moslems and non-Moslems run their respective segments of society according to different sets of rules. Some rules they must have in common, such as a ban on incendiary, extremist speech. The prohibition against “shouting fire in a crowded theater” applies to such arrangements.
Examples of such arrangements being successful include the Republic of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) where Orthodox Christianity and (majority) Islam coexist peacefully, and mixed marriages can offer a choice of religions to the children they produce. Another example is the Republic of Chechnya (also Russian Federation) which, having fought a bloody separatist conflict financed by the Saudis and the US, can now successfully combat Islamic terrorism on its own, without involving federal authorities. Russia is now a dual Christian/Islamic federation; if current demographic trends continue, then at some point it will become an Islamic/Christian federation. So be it. If peace is maintained, nobody will notice or care. France can embrace the same choice, forming Les Républiques Françaises, and probably will, because what choice does it have—other than losing the war?