Relief, because two psychotic murderers no longer roam the streets of France.
Angst, because of the brutal backlash that has already started against Muslim communities in the West.
And anger, partly at my fellow Muslims for seemingly wanting to fully distance themselves from any accountability for the current state of the general Muslim mindset/culture. And partly at the general Western world for not wanting to take accountability for a whole context they have played a huge role in creating.
I was glued to the television set as I watched events unfold live yesterday in Dammartin-en-Goele and Porte de Vincennes. I was awash with relief to see them come to an end. But at the same time I was horrified that yet four more had died in the midst of it all. For some reason I need to know who those four people are. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was to turn on the news, hoping more information had been released. It hasn’t. There is a connection I need to make with those remaining four.
Yesterday night, just as the events ended, I learned that a friend of mine had recently moved to France. “Today they put a pig’s head in front of the mosque,” he told me. “Several women had their hijab pulled off their heads and there is a horrifying incitement campaign [against Muslims]. People are directing their anger at Islam and not just the murderers,” he said.
Early this morning I woke up to a status from a Dutch Muslim friend reporting that within her own limited network two mosques were firebombed, two women were soaked in beer by a co-passenger on the train while being called “fucking terrorists”, the mother of a friend was pelted with coca cola bottles, a young woman was told at the supermarket register that she should feel ashamed to still wear “that rag on her head”, numerous friends of friends were cussed at, slapped, lectured on their obligation to apologize, violated, etc., while bystanders did nothing. All the victims she had heard of were veiled women, she said.
I fear for my friends’ lives and for their families’ safety.
What frustrates me the most, I think, is the constant blame game that ensues after these sort of horrific events. No one wants to take responsibility for the mess we’re all in.
There is no simple answer to the question: what makes a person become a terrorist. Terrorism is the result of a very large number of complex factors. What acutely annoys me is that most of us have a very good idea what they are.
There are decades-worth of constantly mounting anger from Muslims towards the West. I am not a historian. But as a normal Egyptian who knows lots of other normal Arabs, I can tell you that much of it stems from the times of British colonialism, their drawing of the borders of the modern Arab world, their installment and the West’s general support of a now lengthening list of Arab dictators, and the planting of that huge thorn-in-the-foot, Israel.
Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, live in one of the most troubled regions of the world. The West, historically and recently, played a major role in making it as troubled as it is. The lives of Arabs/Muslims lack the most basic of human rights: security, healthcare, education, democracy, freedom… Much of this we have done to ourselves. But much of it is also the result of Western involvement in our region.
Also, many Western societies have failed to make many of their Muslim residents and citizens feel a part of those societies. Muslims are commonly marginalized, ostracized, and not accepted for who they are and what they believe. Their core identity feels threatened and they thrash back in defense, commonly isolating themselves even more from the societies in which they live.
In the past two days I have frequently heard pundits and politicians talk about the Western value of “the right to offend.” This talk completely baffles me. Since when does Western society support hate speech as a value? I grew up with the understanding that Western values abhorred language that was racist toward or intolerant of “an other”. The language I now hear sounds hypocritical to me. It sounds to me like the West wants to have the right to offend Muslims and incite hatred towards them while not accepting it when it comes to anti-Semitic or homophobic speech, for example.
In all frankness, I could care less about the content of Charlie Hebdo and how offensive it is or has been towards Muslims. I have not made any effort to review its content. I will not. I have no reason to. That is how I deal with potentially offensive messages: I ignore them completely. In my view, the world is full of bigots. Let them say what they want to say, for all I care, as long as it isn’t in my face. People who want to read or listen to bigoted language can do so if that is the kind of person they are. I believe in the right of human beings to discern right from wrong for themselves.
I have grown up hearing bigoted language my whole life. Western society (I grew up in the United States) is chock-full of it. But it’s not only them.
I have heard the worst bigoted language from Muslims towards other people of color, religion, ideology, ethnicity, what have you. Muslims (I generalize here just as I generalize while talking about “the West”) have the same superiority complex towards others that many in the West have. We’re the better, more ideal, more value-based, faith-based, and God-loved/loving society. We have truth. All that is beyond us is nugatory. Muslims campaign against hate speech towards them. In a few instances some will kill to defend “their honor” for words written that they disapprove of. Yet those same Muslims use the same hate speech against others. Many times they do far worse. Only what they hold sacred is sacred.
This morning, a friend of mine wrote a long status decrying the Muslim umma to hold itself accountable “for the leanings of its loud, violent minority”. Over the past few days we have seen constant messages from Muslim friends on social media stating that they do not need to be seen as apologizing for the actions of a psychotic few. They are fed up with feeling pushed into a corner to have to constantly say that neither they nor their beliefs support this craziness. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DON’T, they think. And fair enough. It is indeed ridiculous to expect Muslims to constantly apologize for the actions of a few crazies. Just as it is ridiculous to expect that the citizens of the West constantly apologize for the actions of their governments and their involvements in our region. Yet we do expect them to rise up against their governments and create change when it is needed through their democratic process. We expect them to hold their demonstrations, their public discussions, and to vote out of government the idiots they originally voted in. And at the same time we understand the frequent failings of democracy and its imperfection.
But what are our expectations of ourselves to create change among our own?
Our system/ culture / call-it-what-you-may as a Muslim umma has many failings and imperfections. For years there have been voices that have struggled to be heard to create a discourse and perhaps even a reformation process within the Muslim umma. These voices are often dampened, ostracized, or outright attacked. One reason, not small, that these voices do not gain impetus is that they are drowned out by the state itself. States that are supported in every way by Western governments.
It is almost as if there is no hope. So many of us (Muslims) would rather not look in the mirror and address our shortcomings. We do not want to acknowledge our accountability for many of the problems we face in our part of the world and have exported to others. Yet those Muslims who do are finding it near to impossible to be heard.
If we, as world citizens, want our planet to be a more peaceful place to live, we must, as citizens, acknowledge our various roles in creating the mess we now live in. Unless that is done, we are all doomed.