The killings that took place at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have caused shock and disbelief worldwide. Parisians have taken to the streets in a show of solidarity and world leaders have been quick to show their sympathies with Barack Obama and David Cameron offering their support to help France bring the murderers to justice. It is claimed that France hasn’t seen a crime of this nature for decades; some English commentators have said that this was Paris’ Woolwich.
Inevitably there are those who will turn to the Muslim community to try and make sense of the assault. As we await the details, prominent Western Muslim figures have been quick to express their disgust: Tariq Ramadan said his ‘condemnation is absolute and anger is profound’, whilst Yasir Qadhi referred to the fact that the Prophet was verbally and physically abused yet neither he nor his companions sought the blood of such perpetrators, showing how removed the act of the killers was from the traditional Prophetic method. Other Muslims have also expressed similar sentiments across the globe. This of course is significant; we must remember that Charlie Hebdo published a number of cartoons on the Prophets, insolently depicting them as jihadist kingpins or insidiously representing them in immoral contexts. The affront to those of many faiths is staggering, yet from those among them who shall hastily seek to criticise the staunch disavowals of Muslim thinkers and scholars, they might be reminded that the denunciation by Muslim figures is against the violent response, as opposed to the offensive cartoons themselves.
On the other side of the coin there will be those who shall misinform and claim Muslims are reticent in their censure. But as Muhammad Nizami put it, there is an absurdity in the questioning of our moral norms where we are singled out with an expectation to condemn what is normally condemnable – wouldn’t it be the normal assumption unless it was believed all Muslims were in on it?
It has been established and proven time and again that the gangs of ISIS and Al Qaeda have little in common with Muslims across the globe, with Muslim scholars near unanimous in their verdicts that these groups have deviated from normative Islamic law. In fact the current attack bore all the hallmarks of a gangland style slaughter, a nauseous ‘spray ‘em up’ approach for perceived disrespect. Whilst the liberal establishment has been swift in its conclusion that this is an assault on the freedom of expression, we don’t remain convinced. It goes without saying that we hold our freedoms to be sacrosanct, but we must consider the facts: the infamous cartoons of the Prophet were published almost 5 years ago so why attack the cartoonists after the controversy has dissipated and people have moved on?
The significant details lie in the events that have taken place in the lead-up to this crime; the editors at Charlie Hebdo openly took on the cartel (in the form of ISIS) which peaked with a cartoon they published this week with the headline: “There haven’t been any attacks in France” and turbaned character strapped with a Kalashnikov rifle saying: “Wait – we still have until the end of January to extend our wishes.” Likewise, Charlie Hebdo’s sent a tweet around the time of the attack offering their ‘best wishes’ to ISIS Kingpin Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi suggesting that the entire affair was perhaps more of a confrontation between the magazine and ISIS/AQAP as opposed to the possibly exaggerated interpretation by politicians and the media that this is a battle of ideas.
An analogy might be where a Sicilian magazine ridicules and defames the local mafia and its leading figures – the response might be not too dissimilar and very few would perceive it as a general attack on liberty and freedom. Even if we accept the premise that the assault was a response to Hebdo’s repugnant comics, the fact that it has occurred years after having caused controversy might suggest that these factions were simply looking for targets they mistakenly assumed the majority of Muslims would deem legitimate and would thus bolster their credibility (since Muslims tend to denounce their callous violence), rather than some calculated and ideologically inspired assault. If this was the case, then their plans have spectacularly backfired.
Whatever the case, Muslims across the west have been unanimous in their disapproval. The unfortunate event must be covered with the very basic premise that this was between ISIS/AQAP (eastern entities at war with the west) and Charlie Hebdo; western Muslims and their practice of the Islamic faith are completely out of it.