At what price freedom? Is the sword mightier than the pen?
This week 10 journalists and cartoonists at a French satirical magazine were gunned downed by Islamist terrorists. A second terror attack at a Paris Jewish market left more dead. People around the world are rallying in solidarity with the victims and their families. Soon, the all-too-familiar sight of lighting candles and laying roses on fresh graves will be with us.
Could it be that we’re weak and afraid to speak out? We’d rather have cartoonists and controversial writers do the fighting (and the thinking) for us. We cheer them on from the sidelines. We hide behind our national flag. When attacked, we show our disgust, we support our president, primed minister, and the armed forces.
Soldiers, police, we plead. Restore our calm. Go out there and kick butt.
The rift between the West and Islam cannot be over exaggerated. We don’t understand Islam. Islam hates the West. Let’s face it, assemble ten terrorists in a room, nine will be Muslim.
Could it be that Muslims don’t have a sense of humor?
In Galilee, I come across Muslims daily. I see them where I teach English in college, and I see them as a student at Haifa University. Muslims laugh, just like the rest of us. But they don’t laugh at Muhammad.
And here lies the difference. In the West, we make fun of anyone alive, maybe risk being sued. In the West, we can ridicule the dead (Elvis, Nixon) with impunity. Why? Because they’re dead. They can’t come after us.
Christians make fun of Jesus, Jews make fun of Moses and get to see the light of day. But not in Islam. Muhammad lives forever. They don’t get the joke.
Satirists the world over are very clever. They poke fun at government, at the Establishment. They make us think. They hope to bring change with pens and pencils. They criticize the government, and yet, when these French cartoonists and satirists were threatened months before, it was the government and police that stepped in to protect them. It’s democracy and liberty at its best.
So, what’s next? Lock up 6 million Muslims in France? Put up barricades, fences, and armored cars around their neighborhoods?
I think not.
Yes, the majority of terrorists are Muslim. But Europe had its own crop of terrorists who were not Muslim: The German Baader Meinhof, the Italian Red Brigades. They too killed and bombed. Most Muslims in France and the rest of Europe want to go about their lives, earn a decent paycheck, send their kids to school. But they can’t shake off the stigma and the label that haunts them: Muslim = terrorist.
What are they to do?
First, they should walk out into the streets, by the thousands, by the millions and declare:
“We are French. We are with France.”
Anything less is cowardly. To keep silent in their homes is equal to being partners in crime. They should demand of their mosque leaders to quit fanning the flames of hatred. Now, the proof is in the doing, not talking.
France should do its share, too. France can borrow a page from America’s imperfect past regarding blacks. America in its violent past did finally relent, it did include blacks in public restrooms, in restaurants, in schools, in churches, in jobs, in government.
France, it’s your turn. Bring Muslims into the fold. Make Muslims feel proud to be French. In time, ten, twenty, fifty years from now, France could look back on this bloody week and say it was a turning point in its history.
In a brighter future, Muslim men will be seen wearing a French beret. Muslim women will model French perfume. They will ride their bicycles not with a Kalashnikov, but with a French baguette in hand.
Now, that would be funny.