Friday, January 09, 2015

I am not Charlie

The Martyrs of Otranto, killed by Muslims in 1480;
canonised by Pope Francis in 2013
I confess that, as I read the background to the appalling massacre in Paris at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, I am inclined to agree with Bill Donohue (and Laurence England) in condemning both the killings and the unspeakable images which provoked it. Mohammed, and other religious figures living and dead of a range of religions, depicted, for example, in sexual poses. It is visual hate speech. It is an assault on the deepest values of millions of French citizens. And it has got nothing to do with argument, criticism, or the truth. It is mindless, bestial, even demonic. (Fr Ray Blake, who also takes this line, has put some anti-Catholic examples on his blog.)

The difficulty of pointing this out is the terrible crimes of the fanatics which responded to it. Cristina Odone said on Twitter that Donohue says the cartoonists were 'asking for it': a typical Twitter summary, which seemed to follow the click-bait headlines and not the content, as anyone who bothers to read him will realise. 

In fact there is no logical problem in condemning both the terrorists and the cartoons; nor does such a double condemnation imply a moral equivalence. The victims were innocent, in the sense that the killers had no right to kill them: a right one might derive from self-defence, or the right of a public executioner or a soldier of a legitimate state in a war. They may have thought they had a right, the Koran might be understood to give them a right, but that is false: they had no right, and what they did was murder. Premeditated murder like this is a sin crying out to heaven for vengeance. 

The Paris and other protesters, however, are not calling for vengeance, not even for the vengeance of heaven or the retributive punishment of the state. They are expressing solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo and insisting on the right to continue to be as offensive as the magazine has been, in the future. The want to be able to continue with the most vile hate-speech against religious groups with impunity. They want to continue to be unjust, to cause pain, wantonly, as much as they please, against those they happen to dislike: religious believers. They have no such right. Most countries recognise this. Most countries would long ago have reined in Charlie Hebdo. Most countries, including this one, are right.

Of course we should be free to criticise Islam, and the call by some Muslims that criticism, in itself, should be forbidden, is chilling. The kinds of images Charlie Hebdo displayed, however, are not criticism, they are just vulgar abuse. They undermine the efforts of those who do want to engage in criticism, and they are in danger of pushing the law, in countries such as the UK, further and further in the direction of making any kind of criticism impossible. If the only test of what is acceptable is the reaction of the victim, then there is no distinction to be made between images of religious figures having unnatural sex and a sober analysis of a religious text's references to sex slaves. There is a difference: the former is an offence, not just against the artificially sensitive egos of professional complainants, but against any recognisable standard of taste and any reasonable principle of mutual respect, and the latter is not.

A lot of people are threatened and killed in the name of Islam. A bit of open analysis and criticism of Islam might serve a good purpose. The kind of vilification that Charlie Hebdo dished out, is pretty obviously going to make things worse. And so it has.

Postscipt: what does the Church teach about the freedom of the press?  Pius IX: 'that erroneous opinion, ... called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity," viz., ... that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.' (Quanta cura 1864)

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34 comments:

  1. Thank you for that. No doubt you have seen Fr Ray Blake's post: http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/je-suis-non-charlie.html on the same topic. Many people have commented - some asking Father to remove the examples of Charlie Hebdo's front cover 'art' and others asking him to leave it for all the world to see. Such sacrilege! We Catholics should be doing reparation for the sacrilege committed by these 'journalists'. In truth, I have never seen anything so appalling in my life. Yes, let's not pretend that it is satire in any of its forms as suggested here in this excellent blogpost: http://thatthebonesyouhavecrushedmaythrill.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/satire.html

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  2. This article is most definitely hate speech and therefore it should be forbidden. Someone jail the writer and block this page forever from the internet. It is obscene and despicable, an attempt to engage in the most notorious anti-something that I greatly worship.

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    1. Oh dear, another tyrannous liberal bent on portraying any contending view as hateful, racist, sexist, any prejudice you like. Has it occurred to you, Barba, that your own view is obscene and despicable?

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    2. I think the comment was ironic/sarcastic. The clue is in the rhetoric!

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    3. Ha! (Keep up Woody and Patricius...)

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  3. Of course the bloodshed extended beyond the Charlie Hebdo staff. The police officers lost their lives simply by doing their jobs, attempting to keep the peace. For all their souls, we should pray.

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  4. Barba Rija makes a good point. Short of speech or publication that incites to harm, restriction of freedom of speech is a dangerous thing. We might invoke law or regulation in protection of our beliefs and sensibilities; equally, others might use it against our statement of the same. We see this in the use of the Public Order Act of 1986 to justify police action against robust criticism of Scientology; engaging in conversation with a Muslim about Mohammed and Islamic dress for women; displaying a sign which says homosexual conduct is immoral; and other examples. The recent removal of "insulting words or behaviour" from Section 5 of the Act has helped, but we still live in a society in which law does not adequately protect Christians' freedom of speech.

    If we would claim such freedom for ourselves, we should be grown up enough to turn the cheek to the aggressive mockery of our belief, no matter how offensive - and to put this in context, the most extreme, of the kind we see in the filth pedalled by Charlie Hebdo, had a circulation of a mere 50,000. So too, we should stand up for these cretins' right to mock, and stand with them in current cirmstances with the proud assertion: “Je suis Charie”.

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    1. Limitation on freedom of speech may be dangerous, but it is just, necessary, and here to stay. What we have to watch out for are the principles which guide its application. If these become distorted, then we are in trouble. The way to deal with this trouble is not to become free-speech fanatics, but to straighten out the principles.

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    2. A free-speech fanatic? Thank you, Joseph.

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  5. I have said this on other forums and I shall say it again here

    "I think that the events of Wednesday are the result of an unstoppable force, meeting an immovable object; the Editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo were emboldened by the previous attacks on the magazine by muslims and (whatever you think of the magazine's content) possessed a certain sort of bravery (as Fr. Hunwicke noted on his blog) in confronting the issues surrounding Islamic extremism and the place of muslims in French Society/ European society, that the mainstream press were either too PC (as Wednesday's Newsnight was) or too afraid of to address. They were either very brave or very stupid; probably a little of both"

    I think that the Je Suis Charlie bandwagon is more of a show of solidarity with the dead and the ideals of freedom of expression (whatever you think of that), I can only hope that the Fourth Estate take their jobs seriously, now that their own have been killed by 'the religion of peace'.

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  6. “A lot of people are threatened and killed in the name of Islam”

    True, I tried collecting stats as from 2000 but gave up. The figure runs into many tens of thousands plus, most being Muslim victims of internal Islamic sectarian feuds. In addition to 9/11 and the Madrid train and London bus bombings etc., the number of Christians killed in Africa and more recently in the ancient Christian societies of the Middle East is staggering, but seems to attract a lot less attention from the Western Secularist media and also from Catholic/Vatican speakers until fairly recently. All this is but the beginning.

    Muslims as individuals are as “nice” as any Catholics, or Secularists are. The problem for us all is that any Mmuslim individual, or group of Muslims, inclined to further their faith by violence, enslavement or murder will find all the justification they need in the pages of the Koran, together with the hadith and the sunnah.

    Islamic fundamentalism is incompatible with Christian and Christian-derived Western Society, that is the problem we all now have to face up to.

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    1. So what should be done about this problem? Should we put all Muslims in concentration camps?

      It is all well saying that Islam is incompatible with western society, and maybe it is, but I can't see any humane way to solve such a problem.

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    2. As I said, that is the problem we now have to face up to, whether we like it or not. It is not, repeat not, going to go away!

      As to what should be done. I have defined the problem. Why don't you come up with the solution. I can't be expected to do everything you know!

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    3. I say we just get on with living with Muslims and stop going on about how vile and wicked we think Islam is. Maybe Islam is vile and wicked, but talking about it all the time won't make the Muslims change.

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    4. There is a slight problem with your line of thought. They will not just get on with living with you.

      See article yesterdays by Ruth Maclean,2000 killed by Islamists over five days last week in Nigeria, half of them Christians. Yes I know they are Nigerians and a long way away, etc..........

      So, should I, and Ms Maclean not mention these things lest we upset them?

      Whast is your solution?

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    5. I know plenty of Muslims who don't want to kill me. Of course, I am well aware that there are plenty of Muslims who might like to kill me if they got the chance.

      I have no problem with newspapers reporting about Islamist violence, but I see no purpose in setting up an internet blog devoted to publicising every Islamic vice and atrocity.

      Harping on about the evils of Islam won't make Muslims stop being Muslims, nor will it make the Islamists stop killing people.

      I think it better to just maintain a tactful silence about the problems of Islam. The intelligence agencies can be left to deal with the agents of such violence.

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    6. Jacobi: I agree that it is almost impossible to know what to do about what is happening overseas except to pray. Those engaged in violence must be met with the full force of the law but beyond that?

      However we have a large Muslim population in our midst and we must dialogue with them. We, as Catholics, have problems in common. At present we seem to be having a glorification of 'laicité' in France - secularism seen as a cover for militant atheism instead of secularism seen as a protection for and reasonable toleration of religion in diverse forms. The Concordat signed on 15th July 1803 by Bonaparte is quietly forgotten in favour of the revolutionary atheism which produced the Terror and the horrors of the persecutions in western France.

      There are aspects of our society which Muslims rightly condemn and we should be joining with them in opposing such things. Who knows what co-operation might lead to.

      At the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, our "leading Catholic Hospital" the management managed to get two Muslims appointed to the Ethics Committee. To management's horror one of them, a distinguished Cancer surgeoin, declared he was fully behind the Catholics on bio-ethics. He inspected the records of operations and produced cast-iron evidence of Gender Re-assignment operations being performed and he drew attention to evidence that
      led to suspicions that abortions were being performed. And what was the response of the Catholic authorities? Well Cardinal Cormac's henchmen reported him to the General Medical Council for breach of patient confidentiality. A completely false accusation as his written evidence had carefully removed any possibility of identification of the patients involved. A thoroughly shameful episode which will have done wonders for our relation to sincere Muslims.

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    7. Matthew thinks we should keep quiet and leave things up to the Intelligence Agencies. We have. France 17, plus Twin Towers, Madrid, London and of course, the Middle East Asia and Africa, particularly Nigeria.

      Your analysis of the French situation is good. And there are some bad Catholics and hospitals. But we must remember that any Muslim inclined to further his duty of Islamising Europe, (or anywhere else) with violence, does not lack justification in his holy books. That is the problem.

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  7. You have put into words what Charlie Hebdo's type of speech is that I have been unable to. When I first heard of the attack I wasn't too surprised given France's immigration policies, this was an act of war that has been brewing for some time and that we'll see more of.
    The American in me felt a solidarity with the free speech crowd, but after actually seeing the abhorrent pictures from the publication I almost sympathize with the killers. Almost.

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  8. ". So too, We cannot approve the stand of those who claim and defend their freedom to depict and display whatever they please, despite the perfectly evident fact that great harm has come to souls in days past as a result of this attitude. For here the issue is not real freedom, which We have discussed above, but unchecked license to express oneself without regard for prudence, even though this be contrary to sound morals and liable to result in serious danger for souls." Miranda prorsus, Pius XII.

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  9. While we don't have to condone the content of the magazine we must still condemn the actions of these murderers. My question is why do not the Islamic courts & leaders not condemn these actions? While such people are allowed to believe that their actions lead to Paradise it is up to their religious leaders to disabuse them of that belief & tell them loudly & openly that such actions lead only to Hell.
    Insofar as the magazine is concerned we must simply pray that people will boycott it because of its inflammatory content not just to Islam but the Christianity & Judaism. Whilst we know that neither Islam nor Judaism lead to God it is only common courtesy not to deliberately offend their followers.

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  10. Very good article.

    I would like to bring to your attention a slight mistake: Pope Francis canonised the Otranto Martyrs in 2013 not 2012.

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  11. We have heard an awful lot about "liberté" in the defence of Charlie H but what happened to "fraternité" ? Are gratuitous insults fraternal?

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  12. We have two sorts of denial here. First of all there is denial as to the true nature of Charlie H but also there is a denial about the nature of Islam. There was an interesting part of Newsnight last night - Friday at about 24 minutes. We were shown an Imam preaching at the Central London Mosque and advocating forgiveness and no reaction in the light of the teachings of the prophet. This concept of forgiveness was reinforced in a further clip. The program then turned to what is called "radical islam" with a shot of the East London Mosque, a demonstration some years ago advocating the death penalty for those who insult the prophet etc. There was then an interview with an unnamed muslim (perhaps the person imprisoned for advocating death?) who said it was inaccurate to say that the Prophet always forgave and that in fact he advocated capital punishment for insulting the Prophet. I suppose we were to think that this was just the ravings of a radical totally at odds with mainstream Islam and therefore we should just dismiss what he said. However he was putting forward something as a statement of fact. A fact that can easily be checked by reading the Koran. Either he was right or he was wrong. That is where the discussion should be rather than just dismissing it. If he is right then mainstream Islam, not just the radicals, have a problem if they claim that every word in the Koran is the word of God. Are the mainstream going to do something about it?

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    1. What should the mainstream do about it? Muslims aren't going to change their minds about the Prophet just because we think he was a nasty bloke.

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    2. So we just sit around and let it all happen? Al Qaeda, Al Shabbabi, ISIS, Boko Harem etc? Surely we should be encouraging moderate Muslims to have a hard look at their religion. So long as the Koran is taken to be the word of God and it has passages which can read so as to command violence then there will be fundamentalists who can point to these as being orthodox Islam and continue with their mayhem. The problem is enormously difficult but it must be tackled by sincere Muslims and non-Muslims talking to each other.

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    3. What are you wanting to persuade Muslims to do?

      To stop supporting violence?
      To stop believing that the Quran should be believed in everything that it affirms?
      To take a lower opinion of Muhammed?

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    4. To stop supporting violence? YES insofar as they do. And those who say they do not support violence should take steps to persuade those who do support violence that they are wrong in the strongest terms. Listening to a very poorly attended debate in the House of Commons Hazel Blears, on behalf of the Labour Party, and others made it clear that they did not think the leaders of moderate Islam in the UK were doing enough.

      To stop believing that the Quran should be believed in everything that it affirms? Yes or at the very least to ensure that certain passages are interpreted in an authoritative manner rejecting violence.

      For example the Koran 2,55 reads "God has promised those of you who believe and do good works to make them masters in the land"

      A 19th century reformer Muhammad Abduh commented on this passage "The Most High God has not yet succeeded in fulfilling his promise for us, but he has realized only part of it. It is destined that he will fulfil it by giving Islam mastery over the whole world, including Europe which is hostile to it." (Manar Commentary 1,170).

      Abduh wanted to reintroduce reason into Islamic thought which is a start but obviously there is a long way to go as the above extract from his commentary can be interpreted as a call to violence - mastery implying slavery!

      To take a lower opinion of Muhammed? Well perhaps they should remember that he was only a prophet and not God himself!

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  13. The notion of an absolute right to free speech is clearly untenable. None of the dogmatic left who claim it would cede the right to name his accuser to someone (say an MP) accused and acquitted of rape, for example. Find the example that touches a nerve, and we all approve of some limitations to freedom of speech.

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  15. Why should they be called fanatics? They are traditionalist Muslims. They are trying to follow faithfully the teachings of the Quran and the example of the so-called prophet Mohammad whereas the liberal Muslims are trying to sweep their traditions under the rug. On a different note I do not believe we worship the same God as them since scriptures says “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”(1 John 2:22-23) They believe, more than us it seems, that blasphemy is a great sin. God in the Old Testament is the same as in the New Testament. God does not change. People were stone for blaspheming Gods name! And what do we do? We just shrug it off as if it is nothing yet for stealing we are put in prison. There is no God. We do not have laws which condemn blasphemy and what do we expect when what is deemed more important is humanity. Abortion, Euthanasia, homosexuality, contraception, Divorce, we value these things more than God. Don’t we realise that no one will listen to us since this is human moral issues that seem to be the opinion of one conservative group over another. Yes these issues things stem from God, however we do not emphasize that there is no God but the Lord and Jesus Is He( to modify the Muslim declaration), therefore we are doomed to remain in same crisis we have been in for the past few decades. They will not listen to us since they do not know God and we do not preach him. Our God is just one among many. We must follow the example of the prophet Elijah in the third book of kings chapter 18.

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  16. As others have noted, it would seem, on the one hand, that the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan campaign could prove to be a rashly ill-conceived rallying cry behind which the Western World has blindly chased itself down its own Avenue of Values into a cul-de-sac these last few days. For, yes, it has surely now given freedom to every person, for example, who peacefully and prayerfully witnesses outside an abortion mill to counter the outraged Furedi-liberals with a simple riposte: "Je suis pro-life". Checkmate. Put that on a tee-shirt. Likewise, the person who posts their belief on Facebook or wherever that marriage should only be between one man and one woman should now be free to do so without fear of being subject to sinisterly rooted-out reprisals that can reach all the way to the HR dept at their workplace, where they are met with their P45 and an accusation that they have contravened the company's equal opportunities policy: "Je suis Traditionalist". Take that to the employment tribunal. It extends endlessly: "Je suis Christian”, "Je suis Catholic” and so on. The “Je suis” banner should apply to all now - and nobody - not even Sir Elton John, Peter Tatchell or Stephen Fry - should now have any room to cry foul.

    So much for that theory, though.

    Because, on the other hand, the liberals already have their sleight of tongue prepared. For as I noted on the utter mess that is the BBC’s “Big Questions” programme this morning (and I would urge any UK-based reader to watch the first segment of the programme on the iPlayer [link below] - with a stiff scotch if you need it, and you probably will!) the Great Free & Tolerant of society are certainly calling for free speech for all. That is, “for all” except... “extremists”. And there’s the code word. For the Great Free & Tolerant now expect not only total freedom for themselves but also the right to determine who the “extremists” are. And who might the “extremists” prove to be in the post-Je suis new world of freedom? Not just deranged Muslims who are hell-bent on slaughter, I’ll bet. But also: all who profess a religious faith (though a caveat will be applied to Judaism here, and probably Buddhism); all who oppose same sex marriage; and all who support the right to life of the unborn. Just three for starters there.

    As the old sports saying goes: the fix is in.

    Already.

    Gregory W.A. Murphy

    <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04ykfzk/the-big-questions-series-8-episode-1”>BBC-BIG-QUESTIONS</a>

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  17. Apologies, the link worked on preview.

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