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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Who is to blame for Charlie Hebdo Massacre?

To know the answer to that question, we need to know something about the perpetrators, and what motivated them.  The New York Times yesterday provided a fairly in depth story of exactly how these two men evolved into terrorists.

First, their parents died when they were young and living in France.  Both boys ended up in a type of school for orphans.  But apparently they both thrived there, and seem to have had relatively happy and carefree lives, as not-so-observant Muslims in the Western world.

The beginning of the story is all you need to read to see where I am going:

PARIS — In the year after the United States’ invasion of Iraq, a 22-year-old pizza delivery man here couldn’t take it anymore. Sickened by images of American soldiers humiliating Muslims at the Abu Ghraib prison, he made plans to go fight United States forces. He studied a virtual AK-47 on a website. Then he took lessons from a man, using a hand-drawn picture of a gun.
That's what adolescent and post-adolescent young men do -- they get mad at injustice.  Normally, that's a good thing.  The trick is not to go around committing injustices that will rile up young men, especially when there is a religious component that ensures that the young men will never be able to let go of their anger.

In this particular case -- as was probably the case with literally millions of young Muslim men (and women) the world over when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out -- the initial reaction was amateurish and probably harmless.  But the younger brother's willingness to commit to jihad was enough to get him arrested and jailed.  And in jail he met the men who would shape Chérif Kouachi into a committed and deadly terrorist.

In other words, here's what we should learn:

If you want to know why so many young Muslim men (and women) are willing to kill others and themselves in the name of Islam, consider (i) the youth and impressionability of the people involved; (ii) the strength of their religious conviction; and (iii) the strength of the impression that is made when their religion is ridiculed, especially when the ridicule involves the physical humiliation of other Muslims, as it did at Abu Ghraib.
As a thought experiment, why not just change the names of the religions and countries. I.e. let's say that the dominant world power is Muslim, and that country decided -- for almost no good reason -- to invade a Christian country (or two) and kill a lot of Christians, including many Christian women and children. And in addition to that, the Muslim armies rounded up Christian men as "suspects," and threw them into jails, where they were subject to both torture AND religious humiliation.

And suppose you're a young teenage Christian.  Maybe you live in one of the invaded countries, maybe you live in a completely different country -- there are Christians everywhere.  What do you talk to your young Christian friends about?

You talk about the atrocities that are being committed against your faith.

Are you going to do anything about it?  And if you do, will it involve the slaughter of innocent (as well as "guilty" Muslims?  Who knows.  But if you do, the Muslims will have only themselves to blame.

In other words, if it hadn't been for Abu Ghraib, Chérif Kouachi might still be happily smoking pot and delivering pizzas.

The scary thing is that if it could happen to Chérif Kouachi, it could happen to nearly any Muslim -- just like, in my example above, it could happen to nearly any Christian.

And to tie this back to my previous points -- there is nothing secret about what Muslims find offensive.  Obviously Abu Ghraib, and equally obviously, cartoons ridiculing The Prophet.

Why is the Western answer "I am Charlie Hebdo" -- i.e. "let's ridicule The Prophet some more"?

As Dr. Phil would say:  "How's that working for you?"

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