Wednesday, September 29, 2021
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The pen is mightier than the sword

After the occurrence of any terror incident we initially protest but forget about it after some days. Recently, we woke up after the Sydney attack, followed by Peshawar school massacre and several other atrocities committed by ISIS across the world. You felt disheartened and hopeless about the world, and thanked your God that you and your loved ones are safe, and prayed for those who died. Thousands of innocent people died in these attacks. Since last two and half years, Syria was being destroyed by these Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi’s terrorists and from last eight months they have been spreading terror in Iraq. No one raised this issue and even media was supporting these massacres and were pointing fingers on Syria for using chemical bombs on these ‘so called Jihadis’. When they went out of hands and started targeting ‘others’ then United States of America and other nations woke up. I know, there is something fishy in this. ISIS have erected an Army and collected personnel from all over the World and none of the intelligence agencies have knowledge about it, is it possible? I hope this is how most of us reacted but I know I might be wrong. I know many must have reacted with prejudice and quick judgements which might not sound politically correct. The latter behaviour is what I am concerned with.

The only two issues which are being overwhelmingly discussed right now are these – the threat to freedom of press and the intolerance of one religion. One fact which is not being discussed is how Charlie Hebdo mocked many mainstream cultural issues. They made fun of Christianity but only the Islam cartoons drew attention. They made fun of France’s politics, carrying forward a legacy of irreverence and satire since the French Revolution.

Cartoons and satire are always controversial. It ranges from making fun of the way the world behaves- our hypocrisies and behaviour towards certain things in the world to hyperbole and crude insults. Can it go wrong or excessive? Of course it can. Charlie Hebdo had its share of controversies beside the said cartoons. There was also room for criticism of the publication which was done by various Muslim groups in France. The magazine was even taken to court over the 2006 cartoons. Charlie Hebdo tried to look at the world in a way which differs from you and me- away from the glasses of religion and censorship. Did you not agree with them? Don’t subscribe to them.

Can we then start with taking the merits of the issue? Can we start blaming the magazine? Can we blame the terrorists? We can maybe do something else: self-reflection.

In a fashion similar to the Syndey attack, a Twitter hashtag has become famous- Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie). I agree with this. You are Charlie Hebdo. Yes, you my reader- the voracious commenter and Tweeter. The Internet is your magazine which you use to write your opinions and views. I do the same with my blogs and articles.

The world is a generally a decent place. The hateful and the bigoted are often weeded out of the mainstream and reside on the fringes. The same could have been the case for Charlie Hebdo if it pursued a stringently bigoted path of anti-Islam. The truth is that it didn’t and more than anything, it was never meant to be taken seriously. The greater universal truth is that no one deserves death for an opinion or expression- not a cartoonist questioning society or a Facebook user expressing his frustration, be it any religion, colour or gender. The terrorists who played a role here and everywhere in threatening journalists, educators and thinkers and even killing them – gave more credence to an age old statement than any book or essay. The pen is mightier than the sword.

I repeat my unsuccessful attempt to appeal to these extremists who function under different cloaks and beliefs, and always fail to understand one simple flaw in their fear mongering to convert, propagate or enforce- what love can conquer, a bullet never will.

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