August 23, 2019

Lessons to be Learned

In 1942, the apocryphal story goes, King Christian of Denmark wore a Yellow Star to demonstrate solidarity with Danish Jews after the occupying Nazis gave orders that all Jews wear the stars— as in other Nazi occupied and controlled lands. In fact,“>announced that they had removed the “offending” cartoons from their system. Other news sources (The Telegraph, The Daily News, The New York Times) showed only pixilated images of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon covers—-seemingly oblivious to the craven message their capitulation to threats demonstrates.

Ironically, other aspects of the news media have been impressively firm in their message that there is a lesson we should be learning about hate and democratic values from this latest murderous outrage. Smart analysts (several of whom are quoted below) have, in one way or another, expressed the fear that, in short order, we will be going about our lives ignoring the challenges before us as if this tragedy never happened. One pundit, Daniel Henninger, rather sagely observes, “Does any serious person doubt that by this time next week life in the West will be back to normal? Life, which is to say daily existence defined by staring at apps on smartphone screens, will resume” and this event will be filed in our memory as was the 132 innocent school children killed in the name of Islam in Peshawar Pakistan last month.

Here are some incisive comments from pundits and editorialists over the past day—much food for thought (there are hyperlinks to the original, full texts) who hope that some resolve to confront extremism and terror might flow from yesterday's tragedy.

Included among them is Ayaan Hirsi Ali from The Wall Street Journal—Ms. Hirsi Ali was the recipient of Community Advocates’ Ziegler Prize for Courage of Conviction and continues to demonstrate that trait.

Daniel Henninger, in The Wall Street Journal, “>The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders:

The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists.

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture
But the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in The Wall Street Journal, “>France and the New Charismatic Jihad:

Anti-Semitism nourishes the radical Islamic vision of a humbled Europe, once the motherland of imperialism. It encourages the idea that Muslims can dictate the terms of European expression about Islam. Not that long ago, Muslims couldn’t have cared less what Europeans thought about them or their prophet. Christians and Jews were infidels, after all, benighted souls not worth bothering with. That has changed as Europe’s Muslim population has grown and radicalized, and as traditional Islamic injunctions from the homelands were imported into an ultra-tolerant, increasingly politically correct Europe.

The French identity, more open than most European identities, has appealed to millions of Muslim immigrants. Thoughtful French intellectuals just a decade ago hoped that “French Islam” might work. A decade of troubles, including large riots in predominantly Muslim suburbs, increasingly lethal anti-Semitism, and now terrorism have stirred serious doubts even among the most optimistic.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial,