Take two front pages – one in, say, Pakistan; the other in Britain. Find two entirely different perspectives. That’s the fundamental faultline.
Let’s stop being overly politically correct and recognize that some people don’t get the joke if you start mocking the Prophet or using satire to highlight aspects of their faith. They believe that satirical magazines like Charlie Hebdo are asking for it. And they believe that violent intolerance is justified.
Only by recognizing the reality of the difference can we deal with it. Not by platitudinous comments about how everyone wants to live in peace. People do want to live in peace, but some don’t think blasphemy is funny. Even if they haven’t perpetrated any violence themselves, they start to try and explain violent intolerance instead of rejecting it.
I think the best way to explain this is through Americans and the drone campaign. Most Americans don’t want drone strikes to kill innocent people in Pakistan and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) but they’re not calling on their President and administration to stop that particular aspect of the so-called war on terror. Enough Americans feel safer as a result of the so-called war on terror for it to continue. CIA torture and drone strikes and everything else was and is done in their name – and by them. Americans cannot escape responsibility unless they disavow it totally. They haven’t.
Enough Muslims feel that freedom of expression should acknowledge the Muslim worldview for murderers to continue to kill in their name. They must cast these people out – as apostate, sub-human, not-one-of-us.
Till they do this, people like Anjem Choudary hold the narrative hostage. We have all been warned, he chillingly said in his article in USA Today. Mr Choudary, a radical Muslim cleric in London and a lecturer in sharia, asks:“Why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?”
He adds: “Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people’s desires.”
Many will say that Mr Choudary (who I used to speak to regularly when I reported from London for The Times of India) is unsuitable to represent the majority of Muslims. He is a rabble-rouser, they will say, a hardline man with extreme opinions.
That said, there is a reluctance among many people to totally disavow what Mr Choudary and others like him say. Silence renders them complicit.
The difference in perspective – or the added layers – is why a Pakistani newspaper headlined the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo as an assault upon a magazine that had run blasphemous cartoons. Which seems to suggest the possibility that Charlie Hebdo was asking for it.
The truth is best understood as it is – unvarnished. Without the filter of political correctness.