Almost everyone was outraged when news came out that two unidentified men attacked the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, taking twelve lives on the eve of January 7.
Governments and various social movements around the world immediately condemned the said attack—one which curtailed not only the rights to life and property of the victims but also their right to free speech and expression. While there are others who have successfully illustrated the perspective that it is an oversimplification and a myopic view to claim that it was another “terrorists-attacking-innocent-people-story” given Charlie Hebdo’s long history of provoking fundamentalists and other marginalized sectors of the society, the fact remains that human rights were violated and families lost their loved ones all for, allegedly, the name and glory of God.
To this day, articles, news reports, and commentaries led to several multi-faceted stories and debates surrounding the incident: from the fact that there was a Muslim policeman who died defending other people’s right to ridicule his faith and religion, to questions of “where does our right to free speech and expression end?”. All these reflect the reality that as society evolves; several complications can be expected especially when the exercise of some freedoms disturbs other people’s practice of their faith and religion.
However, an equally important angle of this story is the question of where the Muslims of the world stand in this issue. Across social media discussions, there were those (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) who have come to defend Islam and the Muslims as a whole saying that it is not right to generalize the entire Muslim population for the acts of a few extremists. Furthermore, we have seen various publications in Muslim-dominated countries condemning the attack made in Paris.
As a Muslim who believes that Islam is a religion of peace, it has always been the convenient choice and defense to say that not all Muslims are like those portrayed on TV; or to draw the line between moderate Muslims and extremists saying that the latter misinterpreted the teachings of Islam. For years now, this defense seems to work—that after an “isolated extremist attack”, we can still go back to the ideal set-up where we respect each other despite our differences. But this time, I find myself asking: is it really that simple?
The world today is home to one of the most organized and wealthiest human rights violators—the ISIS—which, by the way, continues to degrade the image of Islam, the Muslims, the Prophet, and the Almighty Allah; extremist views and practices subordinating women are still a reality. Is it really enough that we draw the line between moderate Muslims and extremists to maintain peace and tolerance between the moderates and the non-Muslims?
My point is, the convenient choice of saying that we are peaceful does not really answer the core problem in the face of division between and among us Muslims; we are at war with those who taint the pure intentions of Islam, with those who use Allah’s name in vain taking “justice” into their own hands. Unless we, the so-called moderates, choose to assert that it is our Islam that is the true Islam, we will always be discriminated, misinterpreted, and inaccurately portrayed.
The burden is ours to prove that human rights violations have no place in Muslim homes, in Muslim countries, and in our dealings with the rest of the world. Until then, we will always have to live our lives defending who we are or what Islam really stands for. Until then, there will always be people who will find Charlie Hebdo’s satire good and funny. P