Can Europe Make It?

Charlie Hebdo: stop pointing fingers and drop the reductive approach

It is time everyone stopped intentionally misinforming audiences with uninformed rudimentary analyses.

Semanur Karaman
22 January 2015

The most sobering analysis on the Charlie Hebdo attacks came from Gary Younge as he warned the international community of the dangers of polarized debate and a reductive approach in understanding the reasons and motivations behind political violence. Arthur Assaraf also pointed out how empirically inaccurate and quite narcissistic it is to assume that political violence exists only as a reaction against western values, while in actual reality a multifaceted web of realities do exist. 

Almost three weeks after the attacks, the international community’s take on the sporadic violence in Europe has been primordial, not even basic, and the reductive examination of the attack is still widespread in the international media and dominant political discourse. As saddening evidence, please see below a revolutionary analysis by experienced columnist of the NewYorkTimes, Roger Cohen, where he argues that it is essential to support moderate Islam against radical Islam. Aside from mocking the fact that the entire people of the world have turned into theologists well versed in the fundamental teachings of Islam overnight, it has to be said that not knowing when to ‘stop commenting’ is the engine behind the pathetically simple exploration of one of the most violent attacks to homeland Europe over decades.

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There is no doubt that on January 7, France faced the hellfire that thousands of individuals face every day in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Burma and sadly in numerous other geographies. As rightly pointed out by Yazan Al Saadi, unfortunately the existing political discourse prioritizes white lives over the rest, and if we were to held a solidarity march for each massacre happening through out North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia on a daily basis we’d probably run out of slogans quite quickly.

It is true that what happened in France is no less horrific than what is happening to women and religious minorities under ISIS rule in Syria and Iraq each day, or ordinary citizens subject to Salafi violence in Yemen. Political violence incited by religious extremism unfortunately knows no boundaries, and despite the hype around mythologizing violent attacks against western countries in their homelands (i.e  9/11, Charlie Hebdo) political violence prompted in the name of religion is routine, and is not a recent phenomenon.

From violent Buddhist monks who have slaughtered thousands of Muslims in Burma, to Christian armed groups stirring violence against Buddhist communities in India, religious extremism is a prevalent cancer, one that is essentially everyone’s common problem. Producing arbitrary and delusional binary divisions between the East and West will help no one in tackling this grave problem as it is a threat whose common denominator is ordinary, innocent civilians. 

Contrary to what French Prime Minister Manue claims, there is no radical Islam, as there is no radical Buddhism or radical Christianity. Our tendency to create a selective arbitrary category of political violence incited by a particular religious group is in fact emblematic of how biased, and unfortunately wilfully ignorant, some of us are.

In the name of universal ethics, and in a legitimate attempt to stop this world turning into more of a madhouse than it now is, it is time everyone dropped the reductive approach and stopped intentionally misinforming audiences with uninformed rudimentary analyses.

It is time to kick off a sober discussion on what actually happened, a discussion where all perpetrators of political violence, including those who actively instigate it and those who designate bloodthirsty foreign policies and hateful, xenophobic migration policies, are held to account. 

It is time in France and elsewhere for governments to use our resources to reach out to our citizens who have a different historical and social narrative of what their very existence means, rather than the imposed values of the “Republic”(s). Real solidarity, equality and fraternity can no longer  be defined in 1979 terms. It should be defined simply by accepting the fact that universal equality and solidarity cannot be sustained with the “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” discourse.

It is also time that we collectively claim responsibility for what happened and collectively act to confront the problem. If we are genuine in our defense of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, we should collectively organize, express, and assemble to build peace and promote mutual understanding, rather than endorse already existing intangible binary divisions.

Needless to say, no peace or mutual understanding can be promoted with a hand in hand solidarity march that houses the most notorious autocrats of the entire world.

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