Hussain Abdul-Hussain

On Muslims: lessons from Charlie

Je suis Charlie; Je ne suis pas Charlie; Je suis Ahmed

Yemeni protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against the publication of a new cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 17, 2015 outside the French embassy in the capital Sanaa (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most of them do not support, or understand, freedom of expression. While they joined the world in condemning the Charlie Hebdo massacre, they could not hide their frustration with the cartoons they deemed offensive, which forced them to explain the “motives” behind the crime, and therefore stand out as supporters of “freedom, but...”


Muslims should never apologize for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Every society produces rogue elements. Muslim terrorists — including all of Al-Qaeda, its franchises and offshoots — are statistically insignificant in a world population of over 1 billion adherents of Islam.


The problem, however, is Muslims’ inability to comprehend the founding principles of modern post-Enlightenment society. Muslims are not the only ones with this deficiency, but they are the group whose majority, rather than fringe, lives with such failure.


Following the massacre, the majority of Muslims (hereafter Muslims for short) looked uneasy about the slogan “Je suis Charlie.” They expressed sorrow over the crime, but they just can’t forgive the dead cartoonists, a grudge unbefitting a faith the very name of which means peace.


Muslims therefore invented “Je suis Ahmed,” referring to the French Muslim policeman shot by the terrorists. Then, with support from Westerners with a problematic understanding of the world, Muslims started raising the slogan “I am not Charlie,” arguing that the cartoonists had been bigots.


Then came the big guns; Muslim intellectuals argued that poverty, lack of jobs, Islamophobia and Western insensitivity were among the reasons behind the crime.


Some writers even tried to “put the attack in context,” saying that since the West had oppressed Muslims for a long time, and because US drones rain death on Muslim combatants and non-combatants alike, and with Israel building settlements in Muslim lands, a Muslim reaction was inevitable. It is war, some argued: “the pen is mightier than the sword” and "can be just as vicious,” thus transforming the dead cartoonists from unknown artists to combatants in an imagined war on Islam. When French cartoonists become combatants, killing them becomes justified.


Then came wacko Muslims like Al-Jazeera’s Islamist anchor Ahmed Mansour, who berated Muslims for "apologizing" for the massacre. Instead, he blamed the “Crusader West” for the ongoing bloodbath.


Muslim justifications were unconvincing. If the attack was about jobs, two of the 12 victims — Charlie Hebdo’s copyeditor, Algerian-born Mustapha Ourrad, and Moroccan-born policeman Ahmed Merabet — were Muslim. This means that 17% of the victims, all employed, were Muslim, which is proportionately higher than the estimated 5-10% that Muslims constitute in France’s overall population.


If social integration in the West is the issue, then what made American Imam Anwar al-Awlaki leave the comfort of his life in Northern Virginia and move to Yemen, where he became the world’s leading terrorist before America “droned” him? One of Awlaki's disciples, Muslim-American Major Nidal Hassan, won the US Army's trust and received a security clearance, only to later gun down his brothers-in-arms at Fort Hood, Texas. The Tzarnaev brothers, who enjoyed equal legal and socioeconomic status as do all Americans, bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013.


If poverty is the issue, then the world will have to explain why South American immigrants in the US or Indian immigrants in Europe never go on shooting rampages. And speaking of poverty and terror always reminds us that the world’s worst terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, was a millionaire.


Men and women anywhere can turn violent at any time. During WWI, German-Americans and British-Americans often stabbed each other in the US. Massacres have been committed randomly, from California's Charles Manson half a century ago to Connecticut's Adam Lanza in 2012.


Muslims are not responsible for Charlie Hebdo’s massacre. They are, however, responsible for their reactions. Instead of joining the world in endorsing “Je suis Charlie” as a symbol of freedom of expression, they want to censor the expression of whatever they dislike or disapprove of. As a result, Muslims condemned the crime but stopped short of endorsing freedom.


To the Muslim mind, “respect” for beliefs requires regulation of free speech, like slander. In fact, many Muslims argue that Mohammed is more important to them than their parents, unable to differentiate between private people, like their mothers and fathers, and public ones, like their prophet.


No one owns Mohammed. He came with a universal message. Those who accept his calling can live by his rules. Those who do not are by no means required to “respect” those rules or beliefs. This is how freedom of worship works in modern society, as does the freedom to not worship.


In fact, it is Islam whose teachings are offensive to Judaism and Christianity, accusing them of being creeds with fake books and murky beliefs.


In any case, Muslim outrage is tribal rather than religious. If it were religious, the world would have heard Muslims complain against the vast quantity of art depicting God — the same God of all monotheistic religions — in human image; a clear blasphemy in Islam. If Muslims were keen to censor whatever disagrees with their beliefs, they would have objected to negative cartoons of Moses and Jesus, both of whom Islam reveres as prophets like Mohammed.


The imagined war on Islam clearly has nothing to do with religion. It is the Muslims' rage against their inability to reconcile their society with modern norms and their failure to uproot tribalism, a configuration that stands at odds with modern concepts like liberty.


The sooner Muslims look inward and realize their shortcomings, the faster they will find themselves on the same page as the rest of the planet and opposed not only to the acts of terrorists, but to the oppressive and bloody message of terrorists as well.


Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai. He tweets @hahussain


Yemeni protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against the publication of a new cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 17, 2015 outside the French embassy in the capital Sanaa. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

If social integration in the West is the issue, then what made American Imam Anwar al-Awlaki leave the comfort of his life in Northern Virginia and move to Yemen?"

  • abc2000

    very good analysis ! (I prefer it to your release "the islamization of lebanon" !)

    January 21, 2015

  • MonkFish

    The grand narrative of Muslim victimhood, the conflation of cultural influence with warfare, the view of Islam as a monolithic bloc made up of drones who can only think and feel in perfect tribal unison - all the ingredients of the Islamist worldview are present in the comment by يسترجي I'd say the tragedy of Islam is that Muslims are thinking like fascists, and they don't even know it.

    January 20, 2015

  • يسترجي

    Your credibility is inversely proportional to the number of US troops in the Middle East, and I do mean permanently based in the Middle East (hint: well above 200,000).. So I guess facts speak well against patronizing views such as yours. Fascism in this case becomes quite the opposite of what you seem to understand by it. Good luck next time.

    January 20, 2015

  • يسترجي

    If this article calls for Muslims to wake up from their consumerism and lack of research in scientific fields, if it calls for a political awakening and an end to their divisions based on colonial-drawn borders and shallow personal mindsets and pride, if this article calls for the enlightenment of muslims through broader education and higher state standards on public education, public services... Then perhaps it would have the merit of being read by some decision makers. Instead, it denies a blunt fact that Muslims are being targeted since world war 1, by means ranging from sociological to military and cultural, and then blames Muslims for their relictance to accept and adhere to a philosophy that mocks the pillar of their culture and very identity: Islam. Truly an apalling analysis and as subjective a call as can be.

    January 19, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Colonialism ended 70 years ago. For nearly a century now, Muslims and Arabs, and Africans I might add, Muslims and Christians alike, have been governing themselves, and it has been an utter failure. Whether this failure is due to corrupt religious and political elites and/or to the ignorant masses that comprise the vast majority of their peoples is one thing, but to keep blaming western colonialism, and not to engage in self-criticism, is to hide your head, يسترجي, in the sand like a scared, but oh how misguided, ostrich. Western colonialism is but a blip in the history of the past 1000 years, which are dominated by a Muslim East colonizing Europe from the East via Turkey and the Balkans, and from the West via Spain and France. For 400 years prior to World War I, most of the Middle East was ruled from Muslim Istanbul, by a Caliph no less, and what do the Arabs themselves refer to that period? The Dark Ages of the Middle East... after which they experienced their Nahda or renaissance (they did not think of it as a joke, as I do, but still...). As long as regressive, backward, tribal, corrupt and primitive societies - like Arabs and Africans - continue to lay the blame on others for their plight, they will never exit the long dark tunnel in which they find themselves. Enough blaming the West. Time to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for one's own demise.

    January 22, 2015

  • يسترجي

    I will do just that. I will blame myself for my two billion brothers having no veto right in the UN (and I will convince myself the veto right holders are NOT colonial ex-powers). I will also convince myself that I do support every dictator who came with the help of CIA and foreign military (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Assad, Mubarak and recently Sisi, and Butafliqa), I promise you Hanibal I will try to be like you and believe everything I hear coming out from the USA and the EU, that they do really stand with democracy (such as our democracies in Saudi arabia and the gulf), and that my people truly agree to buy weapons from the same supplier supplying Israel, I will try my very best to believe I am stupid for trying to stand against the world system where 1% are wealthier than 80%, and of course in this subject I will make an exception and consider I am the world ruler and the cause of this imbalance. I will also make sure I accept, and appreciate having mimlitary bases in all my countries, and I will thank the west for bombing any attempt I make to manufacture my own weapons (Sudan was last example). I will also accept and welcome drone attacks on my civilians, I really will... When the US and EU halt humanitarian aid because a leader bans gays marriage, I will also find it to be rational and agree with it, I mean really why eat and have medicine if I disagree with their values? And if I make efforts to get rid of the need for their help, then because of their system I must accept to buy my crop seeds from their patent-holding companies... Truly, thank you for your enlightening and profound help, I finally feel modern and civilized!

    January 22, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Exactly! You prove my point by your insistence on rejecting any responsibility for the miserable condition in which you find yourself trapped. ALL nations have interests, and ALL nations - none excepted - will interfere in other nations to secure their interests. Your stating those facts is stating the obvious. But now what? What do you do when other nations try to cripple your economy or support dictators who give them military bases.... We know the song. We are up to our eyeballs in it. But what do you do? Blaming other nations for securing their interests does not help; in fact, it paralyses you if you get stuck in it. Unfortunately most Arab and Muslim countries are stuck in a fantasy world of conspiracy theories that exonerate them from any responsibility by shunting the blame onto others. Let me ask a simple question, as an illustration: Here in Lebanon, what do pollution, corruption, a dysfunctional infrastructure (water, electricity...), backward social customs, excessive religiosity, the multiplicity of militias and armed gangs, and the power of backward religious elites.... what do these ills of our society have to do with America or the West. Why can't Arab and Muslim countries clean up AT LEAST their domestic fronts, while fighting off all the outsider bogeymen you decry? Don't they have ANY responsibility vis-a-vis themselves first?

    January 23, 2015

  • Phil؟

    You're completely missing the point, dude. But I know your digression is intentional, because there's no other way for you to tackle this. Anyhow, don't be too harsh on yourself.

    January 24, 2015