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Death By Drawing

And now I will weigh in on the Charlie Hebdo situation.

It is a perverse world where freedom of expression, which is vital to the DNA of a functioning healthy society, allows people to choose oppression. I see a lot of women dressed in the accoutrements of Islam in Bristol, there is a sizeable Somali community from where they come. I have no problem with their background, but I do resent having to defend freedom when that freedom is wasted. If you choose oppression, by sublimating your will to that of a legendary figure who’s supposed edicts include gender tyranny then I will defend you, but I will not respect you for it.

It is a strange world where people can be so convinced of not just the existence of a figure from mythology but of the veracity of his commands and beliefs, which themselves are supposedly from a deity we cannot see, communicate with or interact with. The extremists would have me believe that their prophet existed, but that he was a conduit for a being so powerful he does nothing to help those that will kill in his name (a god who rewards them in the afterlife with things that are taboo until they get there). Not only that but that this man deserves worship above all who live to the point where to represent him in visual form, in however benign, is to invite and legitimatise your own murder. This is the total surrender of one’s conscience and will to the point of mental incarceration.

Clearly there is a clash of cultures and we must not give these murdering maniacs what they deserve. They seek to divide us and there are, I’m sure, all too many that will be willing to point to any Muslim, moderate or hardline and hold them as personally accountable as the murderers themselves.

Unfortunately there is a responsibility on the part of all Muslims to realise that the beliefs and practices they hold have consequences. If a woman in the west chooses to make a lifestyle choice that converts them to Islam that’s great, but they must understand that there are countries where women have no choice but to cover themselves on pain of death. This is not a wacky fashion statement that someone living the easy life of a western intellectual can make as part of some anodyne personal journey of self improvement. It is the difference between life and death. Women in these hardline Islamic environments are treated appallingly and freedoms are few and far between.

The problem is deeper than Islam however. One day Islam will evolve, just as Christianity has (had to). Even so there are still plenty of Yahweh believers, particularly among the upper echelons in the society of the world’s most powerful superpower, who are dangerous - perhaps even more so given the power of America. Not for nothing are they known as the American Taliban: senators who make policy that rebukes actual science, who happily trash the environment because of money and apocalyptic beliefs (God will sort it all out come the Rapture), those that resent sexual equality and diversity; even racial differences. These are just as unevolved as the tribal superstitious in the middle east who, by some tiny margin, at least can justify their beliefs by being the victims of American oppression. When a drone drops on your family leaving only you alive you could - could - be forgiven for being open to radicalisation.

In this mess there’s a lot of blood on a lot of hands. I don’t think the magazine is to blame but it publishes its cartoons - as it has every right to do - knowingly in a climate of islamophobia. That’s the unfortunate part of this. Those cartoons are a reaction to precisely the sort of thing that happened and it is important to highlight the horrible nonsense of advocating violence in response to pictures. If the extremists didn’t respond in customary fashion they may well have garnered more sympathy because of that climate of islamophobia and caused public opinion to effect a more natural and less oppressive (and less violent) a change.


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