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A perfect subject for Charlie Hebdo cartoonists

An analytical look at the root causes of terrorist attacks in France and their aftermath.

Mahmoud Askarieh

Terrorist attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo marked the spot where two biases collided. A collision similar to that of two electrically charged clouds. A collision that produced a lightning bolt on the ground, bright enough to unveil the disgusting face of ignorance.

We need to pay heed to such clear warnings. Those who heard the booming gunshots sought shelter in wisdom not to be swept away by the muddy torrents that were anything but choosy in picking their victims. Their move was designed not to allow the tsunami of extremism to wash away all the achievements of human civilization.

Things become more complicated when you regard the tragedy that began to unfold in Paris on December 7 as an accident similar to a collision involving a car or a train. The subsequent frenzy to identify the culprit is similar to pinning the blame on one party, let’s say for swerving, without making sure that the tracks, or the road for that matter, have played no role in the accident.

Drunk with the excitements of freedom, cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo seem to have jettisoned wisdom, self-restraint, and tolerance. Their indulgence in the beverage of freedom has impaired their judgment.

On the other hand, Algerian men who were sick and tired of constant humiliation and life on the sidelines and had the experience of ancestral struggle for independence under their belt, had found an opportunity to be seen.

Drunk with the excitements of freedom, cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo seem to have jettisoned wisdom, self-restraint, and tolerance.

Along with their comrades in arms on board the runaway train of the Taliban, Alqaeda, IS and Al-Nusra Front, these individuals were traveling down the path initially beaten by the US and its regional allies in the 80s. A path which was later surfaced during the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under the illusion that Syria would be the final stop of this train, the West began to set up trackside signs for a path frequented by the poor and those whose share of welfare and wisdom was infinitesimal.

Why illusion? Because the West thought that the armed groups taking on the most moderate nations and governments in the region would play by the book, notice the signs along the road and stop in their tracks, literally, as soon as the West blurted out freeze.

They were unaware of the fact that rutting camels [read drunken camels] run amuck and cannot be bridled by the most skillful of cameleers.

Today, Western countries with sizable immigrant population, particularly the US, are in a grave condition. Pushing the concept of freedom too far is the biggest of challenges the West is facing.

Freedom is a basic human right. Only when the unfettered freedoms of early humans are bridled by restrictions that have emerged as a result of wars and violence, can such freedom be held up as an achievement.

When wisdom replaces use of force, humans are entrusted with certain responsibilities such as respect for others, fairness in judgment, respect for the rule of law and modern civic rules, and protection of the cultural heritage of mankind and the environment.

Pushing the concept of freedom too far is the biggest of challenges the West is facing.

Have we heard the deafening lightning of Charlie Hebdo that was a harbinger of a human tsunami? If the answer to this question is yes, we have to seek answers to the following questions too:

1. Why did such an incident unfold to shock France, the West and the entire world?

2. Why are there Frenchmen of Algerian origin on both sides of this equation – Said and Cherif Kouachi, two terrorists, and Ahmed, a cop who died in the line of duty? Why did the Algerians move to France in the first place?

Also we need to ask other questions such as: Why were the black people taken to the US as slaves? Why did they later go there of their own volition? Why do their problems remain unsolved? Even a black president at the White House has been unable to ease their historic sense of humiliation?

3. Aren’t the Pegida rallies in Germany a sign that radical nationalism has been institutionalized? Actually the Berlin Wall is being rebuilt with invisible bricks which are impenetrable to axes and shovels. Will the new wall demarcate the border between Europeans and non-Europeans – read Muslims? The brick layers of this wall are known to everyone. Who are its real architects?

4. Are the theorist who floated the idea of clash of civilizations and his protégés bent on reconstructing the Crusades? Have they taken note of the fact that millions of people will have nothing to lose now that their material resources have been plunged during decades of colonialism, both old and new, and their beliefs, houses of worship, etc. are under attack?

The Israeli intelligence services including Mossad and their Western and Arab partners seem to be afraid of any let-up in Islamic anger at the West and like to stoke anti-Western sentiments in Iran in order to make it more difficult for the moderate government of President Rouhani to clinch a nuclear deal with P5+1.

Do Western leaders want to eliminate the remaining appeal of the Western-style liberalism at their own hands? In honor of Ahmed, the policeman of Algerian descent who was killed in the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo offices, Western officials, wise politicians, journalists and religious scholars have a duty to create public sentiments in Europe, especially in France and Germany, against extreme nationalism and reactionary movements.

Just like a murderer on the loose, Netanyahu returned to the crime scene last Sunday to see first-hand the aftermath of what he had hatched. No doubt, Europe will pay a price for its support, no matter how small, for the Palestinian bid to join world administrative and judicial institutions, particularly if the E3 plays a positive role in conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Over the past year, whenever nuclear talks have moved in the direction of a solution to the dispute, the Netanyahu administration has taken action, including an attack on the defenseless people of Gaza, to make conclusion of a deal all the more difficult.

I believe Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons that mock Islam appeared on the flags of Alqaeda and IS well before they made the cover of this satirical magazine.

The Israeli intelligence services including Mossad and their Western and Arab partners seem to be afraid of any let-up in Islamic anger at the West and like to stoke anti-Western sentiments in Iran in order to make it more difficult for the moderate government of President Rouhani to clinch a nuclear deal with P5+1.

Reintroducing medieval thoughts and stoking extreme patriotic sentiments, and returning to ethnic, religious and tribal demarcations of the past would mean we have forgotten the lessons we have learned from history.

At a time when, thanks to amazing communication technology, the geographical borders are losing their meaning and a borderless world is shaping up, a return to the past whether under the there-is-no-god-but-Allah banner of IS or in the name of divine prophets such as Jesus,  Moses, etc. is nothing but backwardness.

I believe Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons that mock Islam appeared on the flags of Alqaeda and IS well before they made the cover of this satirical magazine. I also believe that the seeds of insult to the sanctities of Islam, beliefs of Muslims and the faith of the Prophet (PBUH) were sown in Wahhabi madrassas.

IS is as far away from the path of values and ethical realities as those who hold up “Je suis Charlie” signs to mourn the loss of their freedom.

What Charlie Hebdo did that led to the terrorist attacks of Paris – and is still doing after the deadly incident – is no different from what IS is doing half a world away. They both claim they are in possession of the whole truth and anyone who thinks otherwise is doomed. One seeks a monopoly over freedom and the other on faith.

The only difference between these two is that one targets the lives of its opponents and the other their faith and beliefs. One kills with dagger and the other with pen.

Over the past decades, in the Middle East alone, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives to war and millions more have been driven from their homes. In the not-too-distant future, the number of West-bound migrants of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian, Lebanese and Yemeni origin will swell.

Do the European countries and America seek to slam the door shut in their face through preventive measures? If that is their intention, the best way to secure their goal is to stop the deployment of their troops and the flow of their arms to faraway places.

Instead of holding rallies against migrants who have taken shelter in the West, they had better take measures to prevent the displacement of people in the East. To that end, people of Western countries have to force their governments to stop creating new religions in other countries and sowing the seeds of discord.

Instead of holding rallies against migrants who have taken shelter in the West, they had better take measures to prevent the displacement of people in the East.

Before fire guts another mosque and another Muslim child drops out fearing harassment by fellow students, the families of the Algerians who were killed in the tragic incidents in Paris – both the police officer and those who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo – should be asked: Why are they in France?

The answer to that question would build on historical realities to unravel the mystery of why African and Asian refugees decide to migrate in the first place.

If the same question were posed to the Syrian occupants of a vessel left adrift by human smugglers off the coast of Europe, they would say, “We had our own place. We had jobs and our own schools. We had parents. We are humans. We played no role in bringing down the New York City Twin Towers. We have never visited the Golan Heights which were part of our ancestral land. Actually, we haven’t dared visit the place.

“We have even hosted Palestinian refugees. Now we are on the move ourselves so that Benjamin Netanyahu could build new settlements and lure as many as 7,000 Jews from France to our land and settle them in new houses in a single year. We are adrift today waiting for tomorrow when we will be humiliated as soon as we set foot on Western soil. Just like our fathers who experienced humiliation.”

Those who abuse freedom and religion to put unsuspecting masses against each other deserve to be humiliated.

Young Algerians might be unable to recount what their fathers have gone through, but Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan children can. Ask them what they have gone through. Based on their answers, will your publications draw cartoons of world leaders who have made a mockery of human destiny? Will they draw cartoons of the so-called supporters of human rights?

Netanyahu and his supporters are the architects of a wall of anger, division and discord. As long as they don’t stop building walls, as long as the arrival of Jews from around the world in Palestinian territories to be put up in settlements does not stop, and as long as the West does not leave the Middle East alone, the flow of migrants to Western countries, including Europe, will continue. War, aggression, occupation and displacement are to blame for the exodus.

War breeds poverty and displacement. One cannot harvest love and altruism from the field of battle. The nations need to stand up to war, aggression and occupation and make a mockery of the world order.

Today, the world media need to call on world leaders to promote peace. Instead of poking fun at the spiritual capital of the nations, cartoonists need to mock the leaders whose warlike and divisive policies as well as aggressiveness have put the world teetering on the edge and pitted nations against each other.

Those who abuse freedom and religion to put unsuspecting masses against each other deserve to be humiliated. Will the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo turn the architects of settlements in Palestinian territories into the subject of their satire?!

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