I watched the events of January 7th in my beloved Paris unfolding with heaviness in my heart. I simply do not understand a thought process that rationalizes committing such violence to avenge an insult to a prophet. It is so far removed from my ability to make sense out of it. And yet, for extremists, it makes perfect sense.
What I can understand, though, is the responses of the people of France and other countries for whom the only rational reaction is to come together in a march of unity.
When my friend, Jean-Michel, changed his Facebook profile picture to the now-familiar “Je suis Charlie,” I had to admit that I had no idea before this happened who or what Charlie Hebdo was. I was aware that Dutch cartoonists had been targeted for mocking the prophet Mohammad, but I was not familiar with the French magazine.
I have to say that I am pretty disgusted by the rudeness and graphically insulting content. My sensibilities are deeply offended by the filth of the pencil and paper as published by Charlie Hebdo. They definitely do not hold back against any and all of the “establishments.”
But I do not feel the need to avenge the holiness of the Most High God by murdering those who draw the offending cartoons.
And at the same time, I have to recognize that I am grateful to live in a society where there is freedom of expression – which means I am free to express that I do not approve, appreciate or find humorous the rude and lewd cartoons that mock my religious beliefs and the beliefs of others. I understand and appreciate the history of this type of commentary which goes all the way back to the tumultuous days of Marie Antoinette, and I still do not choose to view their content.
I am grateful that I live in a culture where an attack like the one perpetrated on those exercising their hard-won freedom of expression is also not justified in any way. I am grateful that the culture around those who reacted with violence is to stand together, to hold a unity march, to rally around a thought of oneness being expressed in the “Je suis Charlie” signs, posters, banners, and profile pictures.
This incident makes me think even more deeply about my position on non-violence and the seemingly unlikely positive outcome (for me) of turning the other cheek to an enemy who is intent upon murdering me and everyone like me.
Understand that I am very clear that Islam is not my enemy. It is the extremists within Islam who are targeting, not just me or my culture, but also other Muslims who do not share their ideology.
At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure their religious claims are not valid – although I am not an Islamic scholar. They seem to have hijacked the Qu’ran to justify their own agenda of barbaric acts in their murderous hearts. We have factions within my own religion that have done the same. The Christian Crusades come to mind. So does the KKK.
I saw on the news last night that a “Christian” group in Dallas has hired a self-defense consultant who is teaching them how to shoot to kill. “They will come after the spiritual leaders,” the pastor said on this clip. “We have to be able to protect ourselves.” He was shown firing repeatedly at a human-body-shaped target over and over.
My jaw dropped. I just sat there, incredulous and extremely sad.
The answer lies in our hearts. Do we want to kill and destroy or do we want to heal and love? It does not matter much if the heart is Christian, Jewish or Islamic. The problem is the same. Darkness or light?
When I first saw the phrase “Je suis Charlie” on Facebook, I thought it said Jesus is Charlie. That makes sense to me, too.