Je Suis Total
Meshari Alruwaih
The latest events in Paris have been used and abused by many in the west in variety of ways. Some used it for economic gains like the journal itself, others for political ends like the French and European conservative parties, and yet others saw it as an opportunity to confirm the western global moral and civilizational leadership. This very short post is concerned with the latter group. For them this is indeed an easy case, there you have it, a few men putting on black masks shedding blood and disturbing the peace in the city of light, freedom, and love.
Being defensive and apologetic when facing claims of civilizational and moral superiority resulting from such scenes is natural. That said, it is important to put this scene in its global, historical, and civilizational contexts. The idea is to see the properties of elements of this scene differently, not to arrive at different moral judgment, but more to shed light on the conditions of production of those events.
It is essential to commence at the foundational level and be honest about it even if this makes everyone uncomfortable. Although this does not necessarily describe everyone in the west, it is fair to say that the west as a civilizational bloc hates “God” or hates the idea of “God”. The whole idea of the existence of a creator and sustainer of life that tells you what to do and what not to do drives the west crazy. The western civilization continues to have this delusion that they are in a battle with God, prophets, and religions over the moral authority on this planet, and not only that they have won, but as “winners” they are entitled to make fun of the “losers”. This hate, arrogance, and silliness towards religion and religious figures is a constitutive feature of western civilization.
In this sense, the western civilization is a civilization of hatred, hatred towards God. In this context making fun of God, prophets, and religions is not an application of freedom of speech, rather, it’s a tool to express and let go of those collective psychological complexities towards God, prophets, and religions in general. This means that it’s not “freedom of expression” that is sacred to the west, but hatred towards God that is sacred, and “freedom of expression” is no more than a “civilized” tool to express it.
Moreover, because of the integration of this civilizational system across different sectors including politics and economics the west has at its disposal state based and institutional tools to express this attitude and disseminate its message to other cultures and civilizations, that is: “do not let God tell you what to do and what not to do, we have alternatives that we can teach you from human rights at the individual level to foreign policymaking at the international level, simply do not take him, the men he sent to you, and the message they carried over to you seriously, and why not make fun of them all If you can, it’s not a big deal”.
This western message is carried over all around the world through a mix of socialization and coercion. For more than a century the Muslim response to this invitation has been something around the lines of “If you mention my God, my prophet, or my religion again I will kick your…” more moderate Muslims would say something like “shut up, it’s none of your business”. The issue, however, is that Muslims do not have the political and economic tools only available to state based actors and agents to disseminate this response. In away modern states are organizations of, or constituted by, the institutional structure of the modern international society rather than being a corporate or institutional representations of their societies and cultures, in the Islamic world, this is clearer than any other region.
The men in black masks are Muslims who wanted to punish those who showed their disrespect to their religion and prophet in the most disgusting ways, they were however, lost in the international system with no clear collective identity, collective action, or institutional representations that can express their desires and needs, and so they took matters in their own hands. Now do not believe that Islam is a religion of peace. This is not right, Islam commands its followers to use violence when necessary. Islam, though, stresses the point that violence must be authorized and organized. This act of violence did not meet this criterion.
This does not mean that Muslims, even if were in command of their states, armies, and economic resources, would send an army every time a stupid and silly cartoon appears somewhere in the world. Yet, although a distant option, military action should not be ruled out when faced with a civilization that keeps pushing the boundaries of hate and disrespect to everything we hold sacred. Their message of hate summarized above must be challenged and responded to in the same force it’s being pushed on Muslim societies. This could involve variety of economic and political pressures to coerce the west to behave. Imagine if such coercion targets contracts with Total the French oil company and then let Total and Charlie sort things out. At the city of light, freedom, and love…I’m sure material interests will beat freedom of expression at any day.