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In the month of January, 2015, three radical Islamists attacked the office of French Cartoon magazine “Charlie Hebdo” anf killed more than dozen people including the editor-in-chief as well as a few cartoonists.because they mockingly depicted Prophet Mohammed.. Reaction to such savage attack on them was immediate world-wide. A few days later several media outlets, both electronic and print, reproduced the pictures in question. The following is my January 23, 2015 letter to the editor of the Lethbridge Herald which re-printed the cartoon previous week.
NO HUMAN IS INFALLIBLE
I admire the courage of all media organizations that decided to reproduce the cartoons from the French magazine “Charlie Hebdo.” (Lethbridge Herald, January 9, 2015, Page B1) It also shows that they have faith in the efficiency of the security apparatus which hopefully guarantee their safety. However, I take the side of those media which, as a principle, try not to offend what is held sacred by anyone. I don’t accept the accusation that they were acting in fear.
How far can “freedom of expression” go? It is a tricky question. The Americans tend to believe there should be no limit; likewise do the French people. Canadians believe otherwise; we have anti-hate crime legislation restricting use of a certain language, for example. I don’t believe that insulting or offending other people in the name of freedom of expression is a civilized human behaviour. I am a Japanese-Canadian: I have a double dose of politeness in my DNA. And I think it is a good thing in a situation like the one we are facing today.
I belong to the spiritual tradition that traces its origin from Abraham: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. We are monotheists, a belief in one Divine Being. Therefore we follow the dictum prohibiting any representation of the Divine which we term as idiolatry: the Second Commandment. It is an admission of human limitation and of our inability to know and understand what is absolute and perfect. It means any human has no right to decide the ultimate demise of another human based on belief, because nobody knows for sure the absolute truth and its demand. This is why I believe there should be no killing of other humans in the name of religion.
I am condemning the recent murderous acts by Islamic extremists. Christianity does not have pristine history either. Deaths were ordered by the Catholic Church for heresy. Protestant history is not any better: Jean Calvin ordered burning at stake of Michael Servetus. Remember also Thirty Year War? Eight million were killed in the war that began as a fight between Catholics and Protestants. When those humans and human institutions rooted in the faith of Abraham claim the god-given right to kill, they become idol worshippers: they are making themselves gods. To say, “God said so” is a lie. Because nobody knows God’s will for sure.
WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?
I know it is a festive season, and we all should look at the bright side of life. But this whole business of ISIS depresses me. We, I mean the West, is doing it all over again. When will we ever learn? (Sorry, Bob Dylan, for the paraphrase.) According to Imam Soharwardy, who spoke at the SACPA luncheon lecture recently, in the rush to organize credible fighting forces against the regime in Syria, the West asked Saudi Arabia to help, which obliged by pouring in money and weapons to create a Sunni fighting force. That is the origin of the ISIS. It’s the case of applying “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic. And it turned out they were no friends of ours.
In order to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Americans invited Muslim extremists, armed them and showered them with money to expel Soviets. There is a Hollywood movie about it called “Charlie’s War.” That was how al Qaida and Taliban were born. They turned out to be no friends of America after the Soviets were defeated and left. They turned out to be deadly against us. Remember 9/11?
Likewise, Sadam Husein was a friend of ours when he was fighting Iran. Donald Rumsfelt shook hands with Sadam. I saw the same kid of things with Israel vis a vis Hamas in Gaza during the 1980′s. I was there when Islamic radicals in collusion with Israeli forces attacked the PLO leadership and burned down the building of the Red Crescent Society. Again the enemies (Hamas) of the enemies (secular PLO) turned out to be more deadly to Israel. Our histories are full of the same old mistakes. Violence begets violence. When will we ever learn?
We really should think deeply about what we mean when we celebrate the birth of Prince of Peace. Peace is not cowardly nor sissy. Do we have to keep killing such an idea like PEACE? It’s not a new idea. All religions believe in it. I wish you all, Shalom! Salaam! Peace!