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Rustum Kozain

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Je suis Charlie, je suis Ahmed, je suis le monde

(Some preliminary thoughts)

No matter what non-empathic arseholes the people of Charlie Hebdo may have been, and no matter what heinous and hurtful history of French and European colonial vilification of Arabs and Africans, Jews and others some of their cartoons (may have) bought into; no matter the present, subsequent and wide espousal of vilest racist generalisations about people who look ['Muslim'] and how they need to be deported/controlled/brought to heel in the wake of the killings; no matter the hypocrisy of those public and state voices who shout loudest in support of freedom of expression in selective matters only, while their very own governments are guilty of murder, censorship and repression on a far larger scale, domestically and globally (Many, but, specifically, those states who love to present themselves as the torchbearers of Enlightenement ideals – the USA, UK, France, and other ‘western countries’); no matter the vile, point-scoring opportunities that policymakers, intellectuals and opinion formers along the whole political spectrum will exploit; no matter all the nuanced and sophisticated analyses and prevarications from and between “Je suis Charlie” and “Je ne suis pas Charlie”; no matter the undertow of collective guilt insinuated upon Muslims in general, as if millions of people and an old, multifarious book open to multiple interpretations should stand trial for murders perpetrated by a few secretive and mad individuals; in my mind the issue is clear:

If the murders were sparked by what the murderers consider blasphemy, by cartoon sketches that, no matter how bad, adolescent, or racist we want to consider them, are still a few lines on a page, a product of the imagination, murder is a response so out of proportion that it is absurd. It goes beyond comprehension. It is a madness.

No matter how much analysis of global politics and western states’ involvement in various eels’ nests of murderous influence and activity across the globe may add to an understanding of the political desperation that drives disaffected youth into the clutches of murderous ideologies, the fact of the matter remains: someone used a gun in response to a few lines on a page. Murder as response to imaginative work is absurd. It is also madness because you can’t kill the imagination. No matter how many cartoonists are killed, there will always be someone else to laugh at what you hold sacred.

All the political and historical contextualising around the murders do not save it from this absurdity. Instead, the contextualising becomes appropriated by the absurd. That other events of racism and violence, racist state acts of terror by especially the NATO alliance (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya) occur, or that these very states are silent about iniquities perpetrated by them, do not detract from the absurdity of the Paris event: someone used extreme violence (killing) as a response to an imaginative act. The imaginative act did not cause the killing; madness and absurd thought caused the killings.

To believe that your God and the whole edifice of your theology are impugned by a cartoon can only mean that you are insecure in your faith, that you do not trust your God to be strong enough, that you doubt your God’s omnipotence. That, in fact, you doubt your God. And, to believe that your God needs your protection is itself a heresy, a self-aggrandising madness, shirk of a particularly perverse kind.



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