08 January, 2015

Admission of Impotence


Once again fanatical followers of Islam have murdered while shouting: Allahu Akbar, literally God is great. This time the atrocity happened in Paris, France, and the attack was directed at editors and cartoonists for the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo. By perpetrating this viciousness, the people involved and the movement in which they swarm, showed the weakness and utter futility cloaked within their fury. Although weaponry can make the weak appear mighty and allow malice to murder the peaceful, resorting to violence is an admission of intellectual impotence. The following paragraph makes this point well.

“More than anything, masked gunmen—hiding their faces and shouting "God is great”—show the appalling lack of confidence in their ideas, their ability to participate in public debates, to stand by their arguments, and return to the political process day after day if they suffer setbacks. This is why they are cowards, bullies, killers and yes, evil. This is one version of what evil looks like today.”

When twelve people are killed and eleven are injured in a brutal, premeditated attack, the shock this produces can make it seem as though the attackers or the movement they adhere to are powerful because they are obviously dangerous. In reality, these incidents are admissions of weakness and absolute loss of confidence on the part of the fanatics. They are killing people who dispute their beliefs and refuse to honor their conceptions of the sacred. No matter how fervently they believe what they profess, they have been largely unable to win people to their side.

 Since September 2001many of the fanatics who have restored to outlandish violence have been characterized as Muslim or Islamic. Consequently discussion has often tried to distinguish these brutal actors from Islam itself by talking about a religion of peace. This is intellectually slipshod if it is not intellectually dishonest. Islam does not mean peace; it means submission. In particular, submission to the commands of Allah as revealed by the Prophet Mohammed. True believing Muslims neither support nor recognize the concept of freedom of expression, because their speech and actions are determined by the will of Allah as divinely revealed and not derived from their choices or desires. In other words, true believers deny all others the right to challenge their interpretation of the will of Allah [God, Adonai] and they insist that all others accept their right to dictate proper behavior. While this imparts immense arrogance to the zealots, it does nothing to win the assent of any among the uninitiated.

Consequently, while fanatics feverishly demand that the world submits to their chosen creed, everyone else ignores them, disputes their claim, or even makes fun of their doctrines and dogmas. Because all varieties of fanaticism are so thoroughly unsupported by evidence and logical argument based on evidence, attempts to convince unbelievers are frustrating to put it mildly. Therefore, there is an almost unbearable tension in the minds of fanatics who think they have the one true faith that every human being should accept and follow but are perpetually unable to win over masses outside their circle of belief.

The Prophet Muhammad had little if any humility in regard to the honor he was due saying: "Whoever insults a Prophet kill him." Muhammad convinced many that he was channeling the will of Allah. Thus, all who ignored what he said should be believed or done were thwarting the will of the Almighty. This seemed not a mere difference of opinion, but a potential cosmic calamity. If the Almighty says think this and do this, refusing to comply is stunning and probably dangerous insubordination.

It is this realization that shows what is sought by all zealots whatever creed they claim justifies their fanaticism: they want obedience and they want it now and forever. Because they are the champions of the divine will, this means that others must obey them in all aspects of their earthly lives. People must profess the creed the zealots dictate; behave in the way the zealots demand; dress as the zealots command, and generally never suggest that the zealots are full of bilge water and swamp gas. 

Whether fanatics claim to serve Allah, God or Adonai, the Master Race, the Proletariat, or the Knights of the White Camelia, they are deluded, malicious, and deserve only opposition and defeat. In France, America, England and many other nations we have true and benign ideals that require none to comply unwillingly. Our civic ideals justify the abuse and execution of no one simply for what they think and express. While these ideals are peaceful at times we may have to bear arms in their defense against the comparatively few fanatics who mistake tolerance and openness for vacuity and cowardice.

The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and those who worked there, dared to speak uncomfortable truths about people, parties, beliefs and institutions that were intolerant, driven by fanaticism and completely unhesitating in imposing their views on those who did not share them. This malicious and lethal attack was not one on a periodical or journalism but on inquiry, ideas, competing perspectives and beliefs, and on the principle that enlightened societies can allow differences to exist and sustain discourse, debate and a quest for what truly unites people rather than imposing a forced conformity on all citizens.

This ideal of a society of citizens rather than subjects with all rightfully pursuing the truth in the way they choose rather than a realm of indoctrinated and subjugated people submitting to the divine revelation of one or another prophet is worth working for, worth living for, worth fighting for and if need be worth dying for. 

1 comment:

  1. An essay in favor of freedom of expression and a liberal, democratic society in the face of attracts by fanatical authoritarians.