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Opinion

January 20, 2015

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How they missed their target

According to the International Federation of Journalists, the most dangerous place for journalists in 2014 was Pakistan. The 14 journalists killed in Pakistan last year had not drawn or published any blasphemous cartoons – and yet they were killed. And the world didn’t mourn them perhaps because they had not drawn or published blasphemous cartoons.
A lot of ‘freedom-loving’ people like Rupert Murdoch apparently believe that all Muslims bear the onus for the acts of jihadist terrorists. But for the jihadist terrorists anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, anyone not blindly conforming to their ill-perceived version of religion, deserves death like the 132 children killed in a Peshawar school on December 16, 2014. Jihadists are violent because they are born of wars. They were test-tubed by the US against the Soviet Union back in the early 1980s and have evolved in violence with every war that followed.
Jihadist militants and their gruesome acts do not represent Muslims just like the German soldiers whose photographs taken in 2003 and 2004 in Afghanistan and published in Germany’s Bild newspaper in October 2006 showed them merrymaking with human skulls or the American soldiers who shot dead pregnant women inside their home on February 12, 2006 outside Gardez, Afghanistan do not represent Christians. As Judge Michael Adams in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia ruled on November 12, 2007 that “Muslims still have rights” while admonishing Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) for the false imprisonment and kidnap of a student named Izhar-ul-Haque, Muslim skulls and pregnant women too still deserve respect and peace.
Islam does not deserve to be blamed for the acts of the attackers in Paris or those of others like Osama bin Laden. That is much like Christianity cannot be blamed for the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq by President George Bush Junior (the crusader) on the deceitful pretext of weapons of mass destruction.

Christianity can also not be blamed for the deaths of around a million Iraqi men, women and children who died violent deaths afterwards. Fortunately this is something that we seem to now understand in apparently greater numbers than ever before.
More than four million people of different faiths and colours poured on the streets of France on January 11. This mass gathering was the first major united stance against global terrorism, a collective resolve that is going to decidedly change the course against terrorism. Yes there are still people who will do their bit to keep terrorism a Muslims versus non-Muslims issue by selling interfaith misgivings. Such people thrive in locations as dissimilar as madressahs in the east and media houses in the west.
Fox News recently claimed that Birmingham in England is populated entirely by Muslims. Back in March 2011 Fox News had picked up a hoax story about the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan protesting the use of padded and colourful undergarments for women and presented it as a fact while also carrying comments from its readers condemning both Islam and Muslims over the fictitious story.
And Charlie Hebdo sold around six million copies of its first post-attack edition carrying yet more insults for around 1.5 billion people’s sensitivities. The magazine was printing around 30 thousand copies before the attack and was considering donations to survive. The worldwide reception of its latest edition is presumably more to do with people showing solidarity against the killings rather than affinity for blasphemy.
The way forward against terrorism is the one shown to the world by the unity marchers in Paris and by the four leading French imams and the Vatican who jointly denounced the Paris massacre, warning that the world is a dangerous place without freedom of expression while also urging the media to be respectful of religion. The fewer number of reprinted cartoons insulting Muslims’ faith and the greater number of signs avowing ‘Je suis Charlie’ and ‘Je suis Ahmet’ show the growing maturity among people in the war against terrorism in which Muslims have fought and suffered alongside the world as was acknowledged by President Obama who at a White House annual Ramazan dinner on August 10, 2011 said that “proud and patriotic Muslim Americans” were also among those killed on 9/11.
The extremist politicians and media outlets in the west who are discreetly referred to as the ‘Far Right’ rather than the extremists that they are would most probably continue with their hate crusade (jihad) against Muslims – from organising anti-Islam marches to concocting malicious stories. We shouldn’t be surprised if they someday in coming days broke the news that some centuries ago millions of Native Americans and Africans were tortured and killed by Muslims in North America and not by white Christian European settlers.
However, we will have to outgrow religious and nationalist fanaticism and the sadistic penchant of some media outlets for ‘expressing’ freedom of expression by insulting a particular faith. We would have to learn to reason with each other’s ideas of religion with the spirit of Rabbi David Meyer, Imam Sohaib Bencheikh and Reverend Yves Simoens S J who together discussed the most sensitive parts of their sacred scriptures and tried to explain them to the others, resulting in ‘Les Versets douloureux’ in 2008, a meaningful effort to veritably evolve interfaith dialogue.
For more than a decade this writer has pushed the idea of ‘OR’, the idea of an organisation of religions to help people overcome the misgivings about each others’ faith.
We need to respect each other’s freedom of expression and the right of respect for our faith. The terrorists killed people in Paris but missed their target of pitching people against people.
Email: [email protected]

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