Much of the world is still reeling from the events of last Wednesday, when two French Muslims entered the offices of the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and began shooting.
The attack was brutal, as the attackers killed 10 employees including the magazine’s editor and four cartoonists. The BBC reports that the attackers declared that they had, “avenged the Prophet Muhammad.” Upon leaving the building, the gunmen engaged in a shoot-out with Parisian military police. They concluded their attack by shooting an officer as he lay on pavement, begging for his life. The dead policeman was, reportedly, a Muslim. The shooters, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, fled to the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, near Charles de Gaulle Airport. An alleged accomplice, 18-year old Hamyd Mourad, has been released without being charged by French authorities.
The brothers were cornered by French military and police inside a printing house, and were killed on Friday when they attempted to step out of the building during a shootout. While this was taking place, another French Muslim, Amedy Coulibaly, took hostages at a Parisian kosher store, threatening to kill them if the French attacked the Kouachis. Coulibaly was killed by a SWAT team on Friday. All three of these men have been linked to the same terror cell which operates in France and Belgium. Paris, the City of Lights, has been turned into an armed camp, as police and military forces have flooded the streets in an attempt to stop these acts of terrorism.
All this awfulness is seemingly the cause of some obnoxious satire by a French weekly. The West has a long tradition of satirizing both society and government: Aristophanes, Plautus, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Pope and more have all served in the unappreciated satirist’s role. The magazine Charlie Hebdo has a reputation for satirical covers and controversial content, and has been banned more than once by the French government. It plays a role comparable to Mad Magazine and South Park in America. Despite the ire it may draw, satire plays an important role in society: when a society takes itself too seriously, its members are liable to become sensitive to the slightest insult and seek revenge upon anyone who makes them feel belittled or insulted. Additionally, satire is also a protected form of free speech: what right do we have to curtail speech simply because we find embarrassing?
These sentiments, however, find little place among Western elites and even less among Muslims. Already we hear from The Catholic League’s Phil Donohue that the Hebdo shooting is due to its editors’ hubris in mocking the beliefs of others. Hebdo’s writers and cartoonists are known for taking shots at anything and everything. No religion is left undefiled, sacred cows are fried, and the pretentious are lampooned. Hebdo was also firebombed by Muslim terrorists in 2011, in an earlier reaction to its portrayal of Muhammad and Islam.
The Western world is continually told that we must respect Islam as the religion of billions around the world. In an interview with Sean Hannnity, British Muslim leader Anjem Choudary said the freedom of speech does not extend to dishonoring Muhammad and that we must follow the sharia law. But why must everyone around the world sacrifice their own beliefs and freedoms to the iron cage of Islamic beliefs?
This attack is the fruit of a poisonous ideology of multiculturalism, which teaches that all cultures are equal and none are superior to any other. This foolish idea plays to what the historian Jacob Burkchardt called “the terrible simplifiers,” people who destroy any distinction or judgment because they are filled with envy and hatred for everything. Burckhardt wrote on Islam:
Something very peculiar and rather unparalleled in the history of religion is the enormous degree to which pride is taken in this religion, the feeling of absolute superiority over all others, the utter inaccessibility to any influences; these characteristics grow into innate arrogance and boundless presumption in general. This is in keeping, in praxi, with the lack of any deeper culture and of clear judgment in matters of everyday living.
Islam has been forced to confront the reality that its faith has failed to maintain the promises its leaders made to its adherents. If Islam is mighty and pure, then how is it that non-Muslims have abolished the Caliphate, carved the Ottoman Empire up like a turkey, mandated the creation of a Jewish state, and wholly overtaken Islam in almost every area of culture, technology, economics, and intellectual achievement? Unable or unwilling to face this failure, some Muslims have taken to violence to assert their superiority.
Islam continues to press the West on a question which the West has proven unwilling to answer. Will we defend our beliefs using violence if need be? The answer has proven to be a very timid yes, at best. In cases where Muslims have sought to curtail the freedom of speech, we hear nothing but the call for greater respect of Islam and its prophet. This attitude tells Muslims that all they need do is engage in threats and violence to get what they want from a vastly superior civilization. Will the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo finally teach us that appeasement is not the answer? Probably not, but we may still hope.