Remembering the dead in Paris

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:

The Night Christmas Became Real

My Heroes

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.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Remembering the dead in Paris

  1. They are afraid of the freedoms which allowed us to prosper, expand and explore, yet desire that prosperity as a resource. Ultimately, that’s the reason for the dhimmi and the jizya; but if those freedoms are taken away, well…

    I am too aware of the reality that it is my children and my children’s children who will bear the brunt of the war that is to come, whether or not we want such a war to happen (as said elsewhere by someone, this is conquest.)

    I don’t think we get any choice in the matter. It’s sadly just a matter of ‘when will it really break out’ or ‘will the West fall without a fight?’

    I hope that Charlie Hebdo will resume their work. I didn’t like their stuff, honestly, but I could at least respect that they were ecumenical and omnivorous in their satire – nobody was sacred, or above the criticism and mockery they made of… everyone. That’s honesty that is quite rare to find these days, and I hope they keep that honesty.

  2. Uncle Lar

    “This issue undermines efforts by moderate and progressive Muslims to advance the notion of freedoms based on an Islamic ethos.”
    I would be more inclined to be supportive were such efforts not noticeably weak and sporadic.
    On Tuesday September 11, 2001 I worked on a US military base. Once the full impact of the attack was known we were all sent home. As I recall I was off work the rest of the week, so like most I watched a lot of TV. There were still at the time those horrible images of the two strikes on the towers, on the Pentagon, and eventually the debris field of flight 93. Periodically the reports would switch to foreign feeds around the world. Most were filled with sympathy for us, but I can still vividly recall how in Muslim countries it was party in the streets. Not just a few, but streets full of crowds of celebrating people delighted that the Great Satan had been struck a blow for Islam.
    Since that day I have waited for moderate Muslims to rise up in protest against the violent jihadists. Fourteen years later I am still waiting.

    • Ben Hartley

      Thank you for makng that point. I’ve been saying for years that I’ll stipulate the existence of “moderate” Muslims. Where are they?

  3. WordPress is being wierd, so here’s attempt 4 for this.

    The ideas that will drive this situation are already being introduced. The biggest being: it doesn’t have to be this way. The day to day people in Bagdad were slowly starting to realize that there were places in the world that were different rather than just hiding it better. They hadn’t a clue what to do with the information, but it was there, in their brains percolating away. I presume it still does. With the advent of the Internet our greatest weapon is ourselves not our words, though our words are powerful they are made more powerful by who and what we are, that we genuinely believe in freedom, that we’ll argue with someone over important issues and have no trouble counting each other as friends. That we disagree and don’t fued. That we really do believe what we say.

  4. McChuck

    Thank you for the excerpt and link to the article. It’s amazing how many layers there are to this onion.
    One nit to pick – “The problem is, the fundamentalist terrorists who disgrace the name of Islam”. You are right in that they are fundamentalists. They are upholding the fundamental principles and teachings of Islam (which for the SJWs, does not mean Peace, it means Submission). Therefore their actions are not in any way a disgrace to the name of Islam. Their actions were, to devout Muslims, wholly appropriate and in fact required by their religion. Islam is one of the few religions where devotion correlates directly with violence and the espousal of violence.

  5. I know many moderate Muslims, and have worked with several in everyday jobs. But one thing I must say is the fundamentalists of any religion who persist in saying “My way or the highway” are all part of the problem. When people try to impose their beliefs on others or to shape the world to only support them, we all should stand as one and say no. There is, or should be, freedom of religion as well as freedom of speech or our freedoms have no meaning. The moderate religionists of all faiths are not standing up to their fundamentalist coreligionists. We just live in a world where violence is still an option in one of the religions in question.

    Fundamentalism was at the extremes, and not much noticed, until the ecumenical movements that started with Pope John the 23rd. But those at that end of the religious spectrum felt challenged by ecumenism and became more active, at least in this country. In addition, the two other People of the Book, Judaism and Christianity, both went through periods of intense violence against apostasy in their times of strength. That Islam is going this in our time makes it seem more monstrous, but is it really?

    • rustypaladin

      We learned. They need to be taught. Unfortunately, the cost of these lessons is a body count.

    • Islam is the monster _we_ have to deal with. All comparisons from history do is show that a religion can change itself, become more tolerant, less murderous. Either the moderates of Islam force the whole toward peace, or people outside the religion will do so. And that will probably involve a great deal of blood.

    • Pat Patterson

      I can’t agree with your statement that fundamentalists of all religions are part of the problem.
      I used to go to church with a group of fundamentalists. They were fundamentalist Mennonites. They wouldn’t drink, smoke, or listen to the radio or watch TV. The fundamentals of their doctrine included pacifism. Their doctrine also prevented me from taking communion with them, because I had not been baptized into the Mennonite faith.
      The closest church building to my house belongs to a tiny fundamentalist Christian denomination. Their doctrine states that only those who are members of their denomination are going to Heaven. If their doctrine included forced conversion, that would be a problem, but it does not. They don’t even believe in sending missionaries.
      Wholehearted commitment to a belief system, even unquestioned belief, does not result in murder unless the doctrine of that belief system endorses (or at least permits) violent acts toward non-conformists.

  6. Seeing as like Sauron or Voldemort I was named, I appear.
    Unless you wish to engage in bloodbath slugfest, where numbers and luck are all that is on your side, and losing a real possibility… You do not fight a battle according to you enemy’s playbook. You do not let him know what yours is either, or he will adapt his strategies to it. If your enemy’s chosen method is that he will engage you in hand to hand combat, but thinks you may try to use air power… you go in by sea and cut his supply lines. Understand your foe, and use his weaknesses against him. That is what Islamic fundamentalists have done to us, and we have failed to do to them.

    What did the playbook of both the footsoldiers and their masters want from this atrocity?

    1)The footsoldiers wanted to intimidate cartoonists (or anyone else) who dared criticize their religion. They wanted respect and a place in their religion’s paradise. It is necessary to deny them all three of these goals. In fact make sure the opposite is attained, by an order of magnitude.
    2)Their masters wished to generate more separation and source of footsoldiers, as they believe in the slugfest in their playbook is something they can win. And please, spare me my friend Tom Kratman’s idea that we can out-barbarian the barbarians. The conditions required for that are narrow, and very improbable. Trying it would be a bloodbath to make Stalin and Hitler and Pol Pot combined look like pikers, and could still fail. If we fight it must be by our methods which they lack the skill and tools for, not theirs. That could still mean many dead, but we could win, and remain ourselves.

    The masters belief that our playbook’s position is that if this attempt to generate isolation and radicalization fails it will be by the now well known strategies of multiculturalism and claiming these are rare extremists and the moderates do not support them and we be nice to them. It’s a weakness they know well, and exploit well, and are almost perfectly armored against. So, we need to come by sea and cut their supply lines. Multiculturalism is their bunker. Their supplies and ammunition come from offshore, and have their origins principally in oil and drugs (heroin in particular). Cut them off, even if you do so by legalizing the drug. And get rid of the bunker they hide in. Do it the way fisheries (and many other arms of government) does, slowly. Like boiling a lobster… if you start in cold water, they barely flap. You’ll need to register your mosque. A trivial fee… and no you cannot build religious structures with foreign funds, or pay preachers. No one can, so it’s not discrimination. Oh and all religious services and readings must be in the national language. Everyone’s must, if there has been violence perpetrated in the last 20 years in the name of that religion.

    And if you want moderates to succeed… offer both carrots and sticks. You want Sharia law in your little neighborhood? Sure. But that will cost you Jizya. Lots. And we don’t pay welfare doles, or provide medical or fire support, or passports, or recognize your laws outside that neighborhood. Acceptance of our law is your citizenship, so sorry. And our civil and criminal justice still trumps yours.

    Subvert their youth through insisting on one national curriculum, in one national language. Make wearing a burka not impossible… just meaning you have to go through full body scanners… every time you go into a shop or a bank, just like anyone else who would want to hide their face etc.

    Make it easier (and cheaper and more rewarding) to fit in (or f off) than to remain isolated.

    Mock their follies. Some will remain. Many will change sides
    Be creative, and don’t do what they want or expect.

  7. Oh and of course any perp’s wife’s income is to be severely monitored – no payments from the enablers, or anyone else. These should be seized and go to victims families. And she’s plainly due for a severe evaluation as a fit parent. If the children think papa anything but the scum of the earth, they need to be removed, and fostered or put up for adoption with a nice pork eating family.

  8. vorkosigan

    Coming late to this post, but… “This issue undermines efforts by moderate and progressive Muslims to advance the notion of freedoms based on an Islamic ethos.” I am not convinced that there are any moderate or “progressive” muslims. There certainly has not been any effective action by muslim communities in western nations to control or eradicate those “radical islamists” in their midst. Perhaps a radical muslim wants to behead you, and the “moderate” muslim wants(and enables) the radical to do it.
    As for the “islamic ethos”– it has been violent and terroristic since its founding, conversion by the sword the primary method and deception(taqiyya) its way of dealing with the West. A way of responding to this latest outrage is not only “Je suis Charlie” but Je suis Charles Martel.