I was deeply affected by the terrorist attack in Paris this week. It does have quite a lot to do with our writing, as you’ll see if you’ll kindly bear with me until I’ve provided some background. You see, I spent eighteen years of my life dealing with terrorism in many ways – fighting it, trying to help its victims, and trying to create an environment in which it could no longer flourish. This was in South Africa, my former homeland. Dave Freer, another Mad Genius, has his own memories of those evil years. I’ve written about some aspects of them on my blog. If you’re interested, try these articles:
With that in mind, you’ll understand how angry, frustrated and sad I was to read about the attack on the staff of a satirical magazine and the deaths of four of France’s foremost editorial cartoonists. As Sarah said:
We free men mourn the staff of Charlie Hebdo. We might not have agreed with them on most things, but they were our brothers and sisters, unafraid in the face of threats or attacks.
Rest in peace and may free men remember them and honor them. And may their example light the path.
ONLY speaking unafraid and confronting the worst movements with unbended knee will we reform the tyranny that holds most Muslims in subjection. Only knowing they’re beyond the pale will bring reform. And only then will there be peace.
The problem is, the fundamentalist terrorists who disgrace the name of Islam know this too – and they’re using violence and barbaric terror as a weapon to ensure that we don’t succeed. Stratfor put their finger on it in a very good analysis titled ‘Paris Attack Underscores a Deeper Malaise‘. I quote from it here with their permission.
The jihadist objective is to get the states to crack down harder on Muslim communities in order to further their narrative that the West is waging war on Islam and Muslims.
. . .
Ultimately, this is an intra-Muslim struggle for power and control wrapped in a debate over what it means to be a Muslim in today’s world and what the boundaries of justifiable action are. Defining those factors is one tool that can be used to gain power; attacks against the West and its interests, meant to force Westerners to pull out of Muslim lands or to attack Muslims and enforce the jihadist narrative, are another. This issue undermines efforts by moderate and progressive Muslims to advance the notion of freedoms based on an Islamic ethos.
The ongoing intra-Muslim debate gives extremists ample ideological and, by extension, geopolitical space to exploit. The jihadist enterprise deliberately targets non-Muslims, in particular the West, in part as a means to gain ground within the Muslim milieu.
There’s more at the link. Recommended reading.
I think part of one sentence in that Stratfor analysis sums up the importance of this event for us as writers. It’s this: “…what it means to be a Muslim in today’s world and what the boundaries of justifiable action are”. If you replace the word ‘Muslim’ with the words ‘human being’, in a very real sense, isn’t that what we’re exploring in our fiction and the worlds we build there? Some of us are going even beyond humanity and speculating about animal, vegetable, mineral or artificial intelligence as well . . . but we’re all trying to lead our readers, and each other, to consider new and speculative dimensions to the human condition through our words.
In that sense, we’re also confronting head-on the prejudices, insularity and fears of those who can’t break free of a restrictive vision of their world and society. Our frustrations with so-called ‘Social Justice Warriors’ are one example. Another is dealing with trolls on our blogs or Web sites. They’re attacking us precisely because we challenge them to think outside the box in which they’ve been raised and/or feel comfortable. Is it any wonder that they attack us? Their reflexive lashing out at all who oppose them is, in essence, the same reaction as – albeit less lethal than – that of fanatical fundamentalist Muslims who can’t handle any challenge at all to their perceived orthodoxy. Instead, they’ll murder schoolchildren, even those of their own faith. Infidel cartoonists are easy meat by comparison.
Our task is not to be swayed by such pressures; to recognize them for what they are, and their origins; and to continue to challenge preconceptions and stultified thinking. It’s not an easy task, and it won’t be completed in our lifetimes, or those of our children, or our children’s children . . . but it’s a battle that must be fought, because, for the sake of generations yet unborn, we dare not lose it.