As most everyone with an internet connection or cable television knows at this point, on January 7, 2015, two masked and armed individuals broke into the office of Charlie Hebdo. They proceeded to massacre twelve individuals including the editor of the satirical newspaper. Why, one might ask? All in the name of Islam, but of course. The newspaper had recently depicted Muhammad in a manner displeasing to the extremists, which was in their minds ample offense to warrant death. The cold blooded massacre generated a huge response within France and by the international community, most notably on Twitter. This lead to the new hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, unifying the masses against the violent deaths of those simply flexing their natural right to freedom of speech.
Let's Talk About Their Reasoning
As the assailants rushed into the office and began their assault, they were yelling the phrase, "Allahu Akbar" a commonly heard phrase among Islamic fanatics meaning "God is great." This phrase, to an atheist, holds no power. For them however, it is the ultimate in reasons to perform any action, whether it be killing or chewing gum. Their anger therefore stems from the fact that Charlie Hebdo took their "great" god, or in this case prophet, and showed it can be involved in satire like any other mythical entity.
This is where I believe the media, and this glorious social movement, have dropped the ball. #JeSuisCharlie is a stand against extremism, it is a stand against violence, it is standing up for the freedom of speech, but what is it not? It avoids criticizing Islam as a whole, to the contrary as a movement it attempts to show that not all Muslims are like these few that committed the heinous acts, and ergo should not be held contemptibly for those actions. Beyond that and in a broader sense it fails to bring up the real root of the issue, religion.
The Root of The Issue
It is a curious fact that for the most part humankind is good at eventually discarding bad ideas for new, better ones, but has failed to do so in terms of religion. It has been shown throughout history that no matter how many reasonable people subscribe to a given deity, that same deity is the perfect excuse to commit any act, no matter how evil. A few examples out of many are, The Jewish-Roman War, The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, The Holocaust, Slavery, the attacks on 9/11, the recent hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, and now the Charlie Hebdo shooting. This disregards the justification of beheadings and torture throughout history, basically everywhere. Throughout all of this, however, humanity has held onto religion. Why? Well, I have covered the fact that religion is a socio-economic crutch for all of humankind, and I'll avoid going in depth on that idea due to the scope of this article. If you would like to read about that, you can find my argument in a more detailed sense, here.
So what do we hear in the case of this shooting? There's a lot of, "Extremist this-", or "Muslims that-." Which gives the audience complete tunnel vision as to whom or what is at fault. I do not wish to demonize or vilify Islam or it's adherents, however the point I wish to make is that all religion will always given reason to the reasonless. It is the end all be all for an answer without any meaning nor need for defense. An idea that is not logically assailable nor defensible is rationally inert and antiquated as an idea, and should be discarded, but we have not, and unfortunately, probably will not, for a long time. #JeSuisCharlie does an excellent job of bringing a humanist movement together, but fails to identify why the humanist movement needed to exist, and that is what needs to be brought to the forefront of society's tiny attention span.
#JeSuisCharlie effectively labels an act as wrong, as deemed by the international online community, but it does not effectively make society think about what can be done to prevent this from ever happening again. Simply standing together and shouting accomplishes well, very little.
- Cory Harper