9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shooting and Charlie Hebdo

Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 6:30am

9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shooting and Charlie Hebdo

As a person of faith, times like these try my soul. Times like these are precisely when we need to turn to our faith. We turn inward, not because the answers are easy, but because not turning inward is unthinkable in moments of crisis.

So let us begin, not with the cartoons at the center of the shootings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, but with the human beings. Let it always be about the human beings:

Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier, 47 (editor)
• Bernard Maris, 68 (economist)
• Georges Wolinski, 80 (cartoonist)
• Jean "Cabu" Cabut, 78 (cartoonist)
• Bernard "Tignous" Verlhac, 57 (cartoonist)
• Philippe Honoré, 73 (cartoonist)
• Elsa Cayat (columnist)
• Michel Renaud (a guest)
• Frederic Boisseau (building maintenance worker)
• Franck Brinsolaro, 49 (a police officer)
• Moustapha Ourrad (copy editor)... It’s not Muslims vs. cartoonists, as long as there are Muslim cartoonists.
• Ahmed Merabet, 42, (police officer)... A Muslim who died protecting the cartoonists from Muslim terrorists. Muslim vs. Muslim.

And brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi — the alleged shooters, with a legacy of crime behind them — and Hamyd Mourad.

I try to resist the urge to turn the victims into saintly beings, or the shooters into embodiments of evil. We are all imperfect beings, walking contradictions of selfishness and beauty. And sometimes, like the actions of the Kouachi brothers and Mourad, it results in acts of unspeakable atrocity.

So how do we process this horrific news? Let me suggest nine steps:

Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet. He was shot in the head while lying on the ground begging for mercy on the streets near Charlie Hebdo's office building.

1) Begin with grief.
We begin where we are, where our hearts are. Let us take the time to bury the dead, to mourn, and to grieve. Let us mourn that we have created a world in which such violence seems to be everyday. We mourn the eruption of violence. We mourn the fact that our children are growing up in a world where violence is so banal.

Even yesterday, on the same day of the Paris shootings, there was another terrorist attack in Yemen, one that claimed 37 lives — even though this tragedy did not attract the same level of world attention. There were no statements from presidents about the Yemen attack, no #JeSuisCharlie campaigns for them. Let us grieve, let us mourn, and let us mourn that not all lives seem to be given the same level of worth.

In solidarity with the people killed in Paris, this illustration is accompanied by the caption, "Break one, thousand will rise," as part of the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag. Many people and media outlets have been sharing this illustration by Lucille Clerc but incorrectly crediting Banksy.

(Lucille Clerc)

2) Yes, this is (partially) about freedom of speech.
Satire, especially political satire, is a time-honored tradition. Satire at its best is a political tool to invert hierarchies, to disturb and unsettle. Being unsettled and disturbed is necessary for education — education of individuals and education of communities. Unsettling is never smooth, or graceful.

Let us not make saints out of satirists, some of whom fostered racist cartoons, none of whom deserved this fate, all of whom should be mourned. Let us have the integrity to say that the killed satirists spent their lives tearing down sacred icons. Let us, in their death, not turn the satirists into the very sacred icons they opposed their whole life.

Here’s the thing about freedom of speech: There are few red lines left. In an age where almost anyone can get his/her writings published online, blocking or censoring anyone has become all but impossible. Yes, freedom of speech includes the right to offend. Yet, I wonder if our willingness to celebrate the “right to offend” also extends to us reaching out in compassion to those who are offended. I also wonder what we do when the “freedom to offend” is not applied equally across the board, but targets again and again communities that are marginalized and ostracized.

So how does one counter offensive words/images? Had the shooters in Paris actually bothered opening the Qur’an, they would have known about “repel evil with something that is lovelier.” Had they sought to embody the Qur’an, they wouldn’t have shot down cartoonists but made sure to shoot down prejudice by embodying luminous qualities that would transform the society one person at a time.

Pens are thrown on the ground as people hold a vigil at the Place de la Republique (Republic Square) for victims of the terrorist attack on January 7, 2015 in Paris, France. Twelve people were killed, including two police officers, after gunmen opened fire at the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.

(Dan Kitwood / Getty Images.)

3) We do not know the political motivations of the shooters.
The healthy and spiritually sane thing to do is to pause, grieve, bury our dead, and reach out to one another. But we want explanations. We want to know why. We may even deserve to know why. Compounding the problem is that we have a cycle of 24-hour news, which has to be filled with content. It has to be filled with content even when we do not have facts available to us.

Some of the news coverage has been referring to the shooters as “Islamists.” If we define being an Islamist as someone who’s committed to establishing an Islamic state, there is no proof of that commitment on the part of the shooters. It seems more prudent to simply call them what we know they were: violent criminals.

4) Islam does not tell us the whole story. And we may not know for some time how much of the story it does tell us about.

One of the last known facts about one of the Paris shooters is that he had been involved with a scheme to join an insurgency in Iraq back in 2005. Here is how his lawyer described him:

“Kouachi, 22, lived his entire life in France and was not particularly religious… He drank, smoked pot, slept with his girlfriend and delivered pizzas for a living.”

We have seen this pattern before, again and again: the Tsarnaev brothers were seen drinking and smoking pot; the visiting porn shops and nude bars and getting drunk. Not exactly the model of pious, observant Muslims.

There is no mythical Islam that floats above time and space. Islam is always inhabited by real life human beings. In this case, as much as in the case of 9/11 hijackers, it might be good to look more at the political grievances of the shooters than into the inspiration of some idealized model of “Islam.”

5) Let us avoid the cliché of “satire vs. Islam.”
Let us leave behind for one minute all the rich scholarly debate on the concept of blasphemy vis-à-vis Muslim and European civilizations. (Take a good hour to read Talal Asad’s brilliant essay on the topic.)

To portray this episode as the struggle of satire vs. Islam misses the fact that Muslims themselves have a proud legacy of political satire. In places like Iran, Turkey, and Egypt there are many journalists and satirists languishing in prisons because they have dared to speak the truth — often against autocratic and dictatorial rulers. For my own money, these are the champions of free speech, the Jon Stewarts of Muslim majority society. Bassem Youssef, who was often called the “Egyptian Jon Stewart,” is yet another example of a voice of satire who was instrumental in the Arab Spring.

6) Let’s not overdo the Muslim objection to images of the Prophet.
Yes, many Muslims today do not approve of images depicting the Prophet, or for that matter depicting Christ or Moses (also venerated as prophets by Muslims). But this was not and is not the case for all Muslims. Muslims in South Asia, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia — places that were for centuries the centers of Muslim civilizations — had a rich tradition of miniatures that depicted all the prophets, including those depicting the Prophet Muhammad. These were not rogue images, done in secret, but rather an elite art paid for and patronized by the Muslim caliphs and sultans, produced in the courts of the Muslims.

And let us give Muslims some credit. What many of them object to is not the pietistic miniatures depicting Muhammad ascending to heaven, but rather the pornographic and violent cartoons lampooning Muhammad.

Muslims do have a tradition of depicting Muhammad in artwork. The Mi’raj of Muhammad is a small painting from the 1700s. It shows Muhammad riding a creature called a buraq and ascending into heaven.

7) Context is not apology.
This is perhaps the most sensitive of the points. There is no point apologizing for actions that deserve no defense. The shooting of artists, satirists, journalists, heck, the shooting of any human being, is an atrocity that stands as its own condemnation.

To ask for, insist upon, and provide context, however, is part of what we are called to do. No event, no human being, no action stands alone. And even this vile action in Paris — just like the vile actions of 9/11, or the wars in Middle East — all take place in a broader context.

French Muslims are not a random collection of Muslims. They hail from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, places that were colonized by the French for decades. They are, in a real sense, the children of the colonies. The traumas of the French Muslim population today are linked to and an extension of the violence inflicted by the French on Muslims colonized for decades. No empire (including the American empire) likes to be reminded of its colonial practices, but the truth must be spoken.

French society, like many other European societies, is awash in a wave of anti-immigrant xenophobia. Anti-immigration parties routinely gain about 18 percent of the vote in popular elections, and measures justified under “secularism” (including the ban on hijab in schools) target almost exclusively the Muslim minority. A Pew Global poll shows that 27 percent of all French people openly acknowledge disliking Muslims. Numbers in other European countries are even higher: 33 percent in Germany, 64 percent in Italy. Clearly, today’s Europe has a Muslim problem.

Yes, this is partially about an ideological appropriation of religion and the issues of free speech, but it is free speech as applied disproportionately against a community that is racially, religiously and socioeconomically on the margins of French — and many other European — society. As such, to purely treat this as a freedom of speech issue without also dealing with the broader issues of xenophobia is missing the mark.

I wonder in all the celebration of “freedom of expression” parades, whether we will pause to reflect on the French prohibition on Muslim women wearing the head-covering (hijab) in public schools, something that was stripped away under French commitment to secularism. I wonder why it is that all freedoms of expression are not equally valued.

A very legitimate part of the response to the crime of the shooters is to honor and proclaim the value of freedom of speech. This, indeed, must be done. And it should be done boldly and proudly. Yet there has to be an element of humility and truthfulness here as well. Consider for example the heartfelt response of Secretary Kerry to the shootings, who described them as “a larger confrontation, not between civilizations, but between civilizations itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.”

One has to applaud Kerry for not giving in to the tired cliché of “clash of civilizations.” Yet there is something profoundly disturbing about claiming the mantle of civilization for “us.” Doing so takes us back to the same colonial rhetoric of the 19th century that posited the world as being divided between “the civilized” West and “the savage” Rest. Let us defend the best parts of our civilizations, the ideals of freedom and liberty and equality, and let us have the integrity and honesty to also state that many people both inside and outside of our borders have often experienced Western powers as more a nightmare than a dream. For African-Americans and Native Americans in the United States, for the colonial subjects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the United States, France, and England have always been experiments that have often fallen short of the lofty ideals they/we proclaim. This is not to cast aspersions on the beauty of those ideals, but to always hold ourselves in check, to always remind us that the tension between being civilized and savagery is not one that divides civilizations and nations, but a tension inside each and every single one of us, each and every single one of our communities.

A day of mourning as the French flag flies half-mast at the Elysee Palace in Paris. On January 7, 2015, armed gunmen attacked the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, gunned down and killed 12 people.

(Patrick Kovarik / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.)

8) Muhammad’s honor.
The shooters are reported to have shouted that they were doing this to revenge the honor of the Prophet. Let me put objectivity and pretense towards scholarly distance aside. The Prophet is my life. In my heart, Muhammad’s very being is the embodied light of God in this world, and my hope for intercession in the next. And for those who think they are here to avenge the honor of the Prophet, all I can say is that he is beyond the need for revenge. Your actions do not reach him, neither did the profoundly offensive cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. That pornographic, violent, humiliated and humiliated figure depicted in Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons is not and was not ever my prophet. As for the real Muhammad, neither the cartoonists nor the shooters ever knew him. You can’t touch him. You never knew Muhammad like we know Muhammad.

And as for the shooters, they have done more to demean people’s impression of the religion of the Prophet than the cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo ever did. If the shooters wanted to do something to bring honor to the Prophet, they could begin by actually embodying the manners and ethics of the Prophet. They could start by studying his life and teachings, where they would see that Muhammad actually responded to those who had persecuted him through forgiveness and mercy.

9) So, how do we respond?
Crises try the soul of women and men, bringing to the surface both the scum and the cream. What will surface in France?

Forecasting the future is the business of fools. I will not offer forecasts, but here’s what I do hope for: I hope that it will bring out the best in French society, and not the worst. Here’s hoping that the affirmation of the values of the French republic will affirm equality, liberty, and brotherhood for all 66 million citizens, including the 5 million Muslim citizens.

One can either see the French retreating into an ideological corner, blaming a collective Muslim population for refusing to “integrate,” and blaming themselves for being “too tolerant.” In fact, eliciting that French backlash might have been one of the shooters’ goal all along, as Juan Cole has postulated. Or, one could hope that the French would respond closer to the Australians after their recent crisis, in the beautiful “I’ll ride with you” campaign.

One can hope that the response to the Paris shooting should consist of not merely a full-throated defense of freedom of speech, but also a renewed commitment to a robust and pluralistic democracy, one which encompasses marginalized communities.

Let us hope that the French response will look a lot like the response of Norway, whose prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said the following words just two days after the shooting during the memorial ceremony: "We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values. Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity… We will answer hatred with love.” Yes! More democracy, more openness, more humanity.

Let us hope that it is not merely the freedom of speech that we hold sacred, but the freedom to live a meaningful life, though others find it problematic. Let us hope that the freedom to speak, to pray, to dress as we wish, to have food in our stomach and to have a roof over our head, to live free of the menace of violence, the freedom to be human are seen as intimately intertwined… Yes, let us cherish and stand up for the dignity of the freedom of speech. And let us always remember that speech, like religion, is always embodied by human beings. And in order to honor freedom of speech, we need to honor the dignity of human beings.

May we reach out to one another in compassion
May we embrace the full humanity of all of humanity.

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Omid Safi

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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POWERFUL AND MINDFUL... LET'S RESPOND TO HATE WITH LOVE...

Brilliant write-up..Words that I had been looking for as an answer to a plethora of hateful comments.. Thank you for using words just the right way .

Good analysis and writer's eloquence makes the piece very readable. Consider that it brings such a measure of solace to me and İ expect many others who read these points. Then how do we disseminate these restorative thoughts respecting our faith also to those who are not interalia professionals like us and among those massive Muslim populations who ironically need access may be more than we do?

The purpose of Omid Safi's writing here, as seems to be typical of his contributions to On Being a program clearly dedicated to apriori glorification of religious faith, is the complete and absolute exoneration of the Islamic faith from any culpability in the violence perpetrated in its name by distributing blame anywhere else except Islam.

A religious faith with a well and proudly documented history of spread by sword i.e. violence and subjugation. By a medieval warrior prophet married to at least 11 wives including a child.

However, let us commend Safi's honesty when he says "The Prophet is my life. In my heart, Muhammad’s very being is the embodied light of God in this world, and my hope for intercession in the next." It explains the state of extreme denial demanded and in turn generated by absolute blind and mindless devotion to an ideology usually indoctrinated from early childhood.

Which leads to the inanity of statements such as these that Mr. Safi's piece is riddled with:

"Had the shooters in Paris actually bothered opening the Qur’an, they would have known about “repel evil with something that is lovelier.” "

Perhaps the shooters and those who kill in the name of Islam world wide happened to open the Koran to pages that contained verses like this:

Koran 9:5 "Fight and kill the disbelievers"

If we are unwillingly to honestly assess what has happened then we will never understand then truth. We can pretend that Islam is the side issue. We can avert our eyes from what we are seeing world wide on an almost daily basis.

Or...

We can declare the evil that we see. Would the world have remained silent today if The Inquisitions were being carried out in the world? Would everyone tippie-toe around the evil being carried out by Christians? Is evil not the same regardless of who's name it is being committed for?

Islam is the problem. It must go through a reformation. Muslims must demand and end to violence. We need to see thousands of Muslims in the streets demanding an end to the intolerance and violence being committed in the name of Islam. They must take their religion back and stop demanding we silence our concerns about what is going on in the name of their faith.

There ARE thousands of Muslims in the streets of Paris standing side-by-side with their fellow French people of all other religions mourning and decrying this heinous act. We are all in this together. Muslims are just as much victims of such extremists. In fact majority of the victims of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Al-shabab... have been Muslims.

No big thing that there are thousands of Muslims on the streets of Paris standing side-by-side with the French declaring #JeSuisCharlie. That's normal. What's a big thing is that there are NOT hundreds of thousands or millions of Muslims on the streets of Islamabad, Dhaka, Tangiers, Istanbul, Cairo, Amman, Ridayh, Kuwait City, Dakar, and Kuala Lumpur -- just for starters! -- declaring #notinmyname. Their absence speaks volumes, et c'est inexplicable et surprenant.

It is quite possible that those millions of Muslims in the places you mention do not have easy access to the Internet or the Press, and are therefore not as well informed as those in the Western world, where these things are taken for granted. Certainly, in France itself, the vast majority of Muslims are appalled by this ghastly event, and are probably very worried that there will be a backlash against them. I hope this will not be the case, and that sanity will prevail.

One thing I've learned on my travels, EVERYONE can get the internet!

This is such a ludicrous notion that reflects your distorted view that only western lives are important. As gruesome as this attack was, when put in perspective, we are talking about 12 people who were killed. You expect the entire world to stop because of that? How many people are out on the streets of Paris and London and Berlin protesting the killings of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Muslim countries that have been committed by western powers?

Excuse me, they anticipated all of this
by coming on to the streets in 100,000's
to tell their governments not to invade
countries in the M E.
Over to you Mohammed and protest.
'Not in my Name' will suffice
Prove to to the rest of us
you are 'a good muslim' !!!!!

They have not been killed by "western powers" - they have been killed by OTHER MUSLIMS. Think about it.

A ludicrous notion that there would be millions of Muslims taking to the streets of Riyadh, Baghdad, Teheran, Amman, and Casablanca to declare, #notinmyname? Jeez. Things are worse than I thought.

If I were Muslim -- especially if I declared myself a "REAL MUSLIM" -- I would certainly spend my days defeating the criminals that are forever associating your religion with terrorism.

Do it for your kids!

I would do this without hesitation if it were my religion, it would be my mission.

So you are against the mass Murder of children in Gaza? Are doing something about it? After all it is the root cause of our misery in Europe and the world. It is too much a price we are paying for the Israeli senseless killing of innocent civilians in Palestine, Lebanon, ...

Go back to your history books and stop trying to make a result into a reason. It is precisely the misinformation like this that is the root problem.
Gaza is a symptom, a result of the 'root cause'.
Now go back and write a 500 word essay on the root causes of hatred in religion; and don't forget the chapter on Sunni and Shia relations.

I'm a Christian, and didn't demonstrate against Anders Breivik's horrendous crime. That says I'm guilty?

I too thought as you did. Why don't Muslims speak up in the Middle East countries. But as many Germans did not speak up during Hitler's regime due to fear, so it is in these countries. As most of the violence performed by the radical right is against their own people, these extremists terrorize and promote fear in these regions. Fear of retaliation against their families and businesses is very real where no one is safe when expressing an opinion. This is evident as seen by the flight from these countries by people who are able to do so.

See my post below, or somewhere, but to understand more deeply how fear could so powerfully control an entire people one needs to see into their consciousness, their civilization/consciousness. A superb inquiry into Nazi ideology, and here you will find parallels with the consciousness of Islamist extremism, read pp. 1-60 of Aurel Kolnai's 'The War Against the West'(1938). Kolnai was the first to fully alert the allies to the horrors of Nazism, to it's anti-Western and anti-humanity standpoint. He saw Nazis consciousness, it's tribal elements, it's anti-rationalism from the inside.

Yes! So true!

How beautiful it is to read this Mr Khan, thank you.

We can agree with your closing sentence: "stop demanding we silence our concerns about what is going on in the name of their faith".
Islam is no more the problem than are Judaism, Christianity, Hindusim or Buddhism for the actions of their followers who twist their faith ti justify atrocities. Yes, Muslims need to kick out the self-styled and well-funded "scholars" who spout intolerant rubbish to consolidate their own power. But this will not happen if people continue to attack Islam for the evils of Man, that will only force a defensive reaction.

Stop blaming Islam, stop persecuting Muslims, offer Muslims an equal platform of opportunity in every Western country and Muslims will not feel the disenfranchisement, alienation and frustration that then leads some to go to violence.

Mmm.. I wish it could be so easy but I doubt.
Reforming part of that religion might unfortunately be a good start

We conveniently forget that a handful of years ago, Irish Christians were killing each other as well as others throughout the UK. I do remember thinking, back in the 90s, hmmm, should I visit London? There's a chance of getting blown up!

Perhaps you should do some research before replying. What "Irish Christians"? Ulster Protestants do not see themselves as Irish Christians. As First Minister Ulster Unionist David Trimble has said they see themselves as Ulster British. They do not have Irish ancestry, or see themselves as Irish. See the Plantation of Ulster on Wiki.

That war had NOTHING to do with religion. It was/is about land

The IRA was committing bombings but lets reflect on that situation. It was geographically specific, the main targets were political foes not everyone that disagreed with them, had a specific small aim and only lasted a couple years. Islamists have attacked worldwide, do not discriminate their victims, slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent people and their aim is world domination. One cannot compare the two. A drop of water and a tsunami have very different effects even though both are water. Islam is the tsunami. I refuse to risk my equality in the Western world to a bunch of thugs that think I need to be barefoot and pregnant. Neither should you.

You should have just printed the last paragraph. If the Islamic culture does not start loudly denouncing these acts and getting heard, the backlash will continue.

Islam as a religion needs reform, much like Christian reform has taken place in the last few centuries.

Islam isn't the problem. It's our reaction to Islam that is. Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Guantanamo. We help stir the pot and they respond accordingly. Can you blame the Muslim nations of the world reacting to what we do to marginalize them? Please don't give me 9-11 as the excuse; "There is no mythical Islam that floats above time and space. Islam is always inhabited by real life human beings. In this case, as much as in the case of 9/11 hijackers, it might be good to look more at the political grievances of the shooters than into the inspiration of some idealized model of “Islam.”

Islam or MUSLIMS did NOT ask cartoonists to do this or that; if the cartoonists opt to stir Hornets' nest, get stung and forces other innocent people get killed and destroy properties, then both the cartoonists and their bashers need to be prosecuted by the law
If you drive a car and hit bystanders, and some bystanders punch you, what the police will do? Both sides will be arrested. The community from either party has no business coming out for street procession.

Let common sense prevail. It is sickening to see 88,000 armed police chasing 2-3 murderers, knowing well that it was just that, like a US mailmen on a shooting spree, killing two dozen citizens.

Let common sense prevail.

people will not and cannot give up their identity of any sort and this will keep creating divisions as we have not learnt to accept the other as human. based on ones belief and practice I do not expect anyone to rise above the situation and give a pragmatic unbiased opinion.one has to see it as an educated person.nobody has to give up hie or her belief just stop fingering each other for puny gains or ego.

To go ahead and answer one of your rhetorical questions, yes, we (the United States specifically) would tippy-toe around the evil being carried out by Christians. Think Oklahoma City. Those men and the militias they associated with all claim Chrisitian affinity. The fact that their ideas and actions bring nausea to most Christians did not bring about an effort to stop their kind.

Yesterday, I read on FB a piece by the late Christopher Hitchens that decried all religion. This piece has been a wonderful tonic today.

Yes. What Kate, and Christopher Hitchens said. I was raised in the Mennonite church, a protestant Christian. Having left the church(several times, "God is dead, but I miss him...sometimes)I'm doing my best to be a good secular humanist, which I'm finding harder, because its encouragement to see the good in people, is difficult for a person who's default position is usually misanthropy, exacerbated by arthritic pain and chronic depression. We all have our reasons or excuses if you will for behaving badly, but I remain convinced that religion is usually part of the problem, and rarely, if ever a solution.

Beautiful, thoughtful, informative...thank you.

Thank you for your intelligent and heartfelt response to this tragedy. They serve as a candle burning in a dark night. Blessings.

Dear Professor Omid, thank you for this brilliant, poignant and beautiful piece.

You show us balance and outrage, each in its place. I will folow your lead in examining my response.

Brilliant. I will share this and invite three friends to talk to me about it. Essential reading after this tragedy. Thanks for On Being!

The cartoonists and journalists who were murdered were militants. When they were right (against le Pen and against the war in Afghanistan) they were militant about it. When they were wrong (making racist and islamophobic cartoons) they were militant about it. There could be no worse insult to their memories than to stop criticizing some of the crap they put out just because they have been victims of a dreadful crime.

No,the people that murdered them were militant. The cartoons the cartoonists made may not be tasteful, but they didn't pick up weapons and murder those they mocked, or even call for violence. I hate this trend of calling people who have strong opinions "militant" because it attributes a desire for violence when it usually isn't there at all.

But the pen is mightier than the sword.

I think you are using the word "militant" in a more narrow sense than the post you are responding to. Even if it has its root in "miles" (= soldier) is does not only mean bloodthirsty crusader. People can "fight" for justice, for reform, anything they want to promote, without committing or advocating physical violence. A well-turned essay, a striking cartoon, a peaceful march through the streets, those are all "weapons" a militant will use to disrupt their opponents and rouse the indifferent into action, yet without causing any actual harm. The same is true of the word "activist" - a person who actively campaigns for change, though in recent years the word has become perverted by the media into a synonym for "terrorist" or at least "supporter of terror." It's a disturbing trend becayse it seems to suggest that the only civilized people are the ones who sit on their hands and meekly accept the status quo. We should all be proud to be "militants" or "activists" for something, and refuse to be lumped together with violent criminals.

You are right, it is used in reference to those who are non-violent, but I think it is a charged word that is intentionally used by many people to villainize those they are describing and I believe it is too often misused. Note the difference in meaning of the following: militant Islamist, militant member of the KKK, militant atheist, militant cartoonist. I have no fear of violent reprisal from the last two if I voice disagreement with them. The first two on the other hand, I do. Why then should we use the same word to describe the strength of their conviction?

I think this situation is especially problematic because on one hand we have some people who drew some pictures, and on the other we had some people that murdered them for it. In no way are the two groups playing by the same rules and should not be equated with one another, which is what happens when the same adjective is used.

Well said!

All of us should be actively involved in creating a better world.

I am french and I live in Paris
I knew the cartoonists and the founders of Charlie Hebdo
what i want to tell is that they have fought with their pens, years ago, for the indepence of french colonies such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morrocco and they were with the arabs-berbers-muslim inhabitants of theses countries
they took a stand against french governments who didn't allow them to take their independance
they have always been against injustice or violence
they were "pen-militants" for freedom and independance

other point : french muslims did not participate "as thousands" at the demonstration - few of them did

I have found all of your essays thought provoking and intelligient. I hope this one will be widely read and discussed. You have made many excellent points.

Both Islam and Western Democracy are in urgent need of reformation towards inclusivenes, towards egalite, liberte, fraternite.

Really? Western Democracy has opened its doors to immigrants from the Middle East. Look at the numbers. And they haven't required assimilation. Can the same be said for the Muslim countries Islam?

Uplifting and enlightening. Reading it by every member of the human family would advance its oneness.

Thank you for sharing your insight. You have my appreciation and gratitude. With prayers for peace and all good.

Thanks so much for your calm, well-reasoned, beautifully written thoughts about the Parisian murders. You provide a bigger picture that we must focus on after the mourning period.

Beautifully stated, mindful truths. Yes, let us respond to hate with more love,more democracy, and more humanity...

Thank you for these eloquent necessary words. May we all endeavor to “repel evil with something that is lovelier” in this and all things.

Thank you Mr. Safi, totally agree with point 7 in that the shooters have promoted much more hate, than the cartoonist . . . but then, when we balance diplomacy and the freedom of speech . . . is one hate crime cannot be bigger than another.

Je ne suis pas Charlie. Je honore toutes les personnes . . . Just saying . . . no one feels like killing me when I make people laugh, so lets keep this converstation going. Thank you again, Mr. Safi and On Being staf one and all

The lives of these two shooters are in fact partly described by France's colonialist legacy and, even more, by France's, and perhaps Europe's, inadequate systems for integrating Muslims into French society. The two brothers also seem to have had a difficult family history that included abandonment and foster care in the city of Rennes. And this seems to have led them to a life of crime and eventual radicalization by a hateful cleric. My best French friend suffered a very similar fate: His Algerian father abandoned him, and he was adopted by a French family, also from Rennes. He's a kind and responsible French citizen, who remains proud of his Algerian heritage. My main point is the following: as we provide contexts, factors, and trigger points for the violent action of radicalized Muslims, I ask: where is personal responsibility in all of this? where is the moral compass? where are the millions of Muslims calling for an end to this bloodshed?

There is no point apologizing for actions that deserve no defense. The shooting of artists, satirists, journalists, heck, the shooting of any human being, is an atrocity that stands as its own condemnation.

"Whoever insults the Prophet, kill him."
~The Prophet Muhammad

In Islamic law, how many rulings are there that waive the consequence demanded by the Prophet? I know of none. This *is* Islamic law. Muslims are bound by it and are obligated to obey. How can you say this is not about Islam?

The Linji was reported to have said "When you meet the Buddha on the road kill him"!
Some times metaphor is not meant to be taken literally. Those who take the words of the bible old or new or the Koran, as in "eye for and eye and tooth for a tooth", literally are they any different than what you are saying? Humans can rationalize any position or action to themselves. Society and leaders and teachers must educate and speak out against violence of any kind because in this day when so few people can easily kill so many, so quickly, these acts are and will continue to perpetrated. How to stop them? There is so much pain to go around. Karen Armstrong's Compassion Project seems to be an antidote to this violence. Question how can we all be more compassionate instead of just more passionate for our own beliefs?

My understanding is that the "...kill the Buddha" koan begins from the assumption that Buddha is not a person but fundamental 'nature' or 'knowing' itself. Therefore if you have a concept of Buddha, it must be wrong - kill it, and keep working to gain a true understanding of 'true nature'.

This is not how Islam or any faith tradition works. A faith tradition is not a set of dos and don'ts. It is a compendium of human knowledge, art, and wisdom, collected and compounded across generations, by human beings who have experienced all the beauty and suffering of life. Talal Asad famously called Islam a tradition of competing discourses--not just at the global level, but at the level of individual Muslim communities. This is to say, there is profound diversity within Islam, and I believe that diversity stretches to the level of the individual. Each individual adherent engages at the level they are able. For some, that might be the level of simplistic dos and don'ts (religious conflict most often occurs among individuals at this level, because of differing ideas about what those required/prohibited actions are). For others, engagement means a desire for the deeper wisdom that comes from a humble encounter with the human face of the tradition (scripture, customary practice), sincere introspection (gnosis, self-knowledge)and an aspiration toward the divine (compassion, mercy, peace, beauty--in Islam, called "Allah").

There are many expedient "quotes" attributed to the prophet Mohammed, all to justify an injustic and all fanciful.

During his own life, there was a woman who would throw garbage at him from her roof, when he would pass by her house to go to Mosque. People asked for permission to kill her, but he refused. One day, the woman was not there to throw garbage at him so he asked where she was. upon finding that she was ill, he went to her and ministered to her until she was well again.
This is not the kind of man who would order his followers to kill someone for insulting the prophet Mohammed.

Amen. The Nation of Islam is killing people just as Christianity killed free thinkers in the Dark Ages. Religion is an Iron Leesh and will destroy us if we don't let it go. Shame on anyone trying to defend or "understand" this barbaric act. Je Suis Charlie.

I think itwould be purdent for you to re-read the professor's article again, espscially, point8 and 9. There is also a history of the French colonizing the North African Muslim population, and the immigration into France from those countries has meant right wingpoliticians have pitted Muslims against thinkers--a false premise. Having lived in France for 3 years, my own two children were denied entry into a public school on the same street that was brand new and given the excuse that it was "full" but later, after speaking with the district office, we found it was the opposite--it was the least crowded school and was actually admitting students from a school nearby that burned down, as it was so able to accommodate. With a letter, signed by the Superindenent of schools, we showed up 2 more times, before finally, theprinciple relented and accepted my kids. They are Algerian-American, and we don't and never will know why we were denied, but let's just saying living and working on international assignment in France taught me a lot about 1962 in America. I can say racism is alive and well and that the ban against Muslims wearing the hijab is real and very much targets Jews and Muslims both. The professor was right to point out that the French are busy banning freedom of expression of Muslims (it's not secular and not in keeping with what the ruling French class have deemed worthy of expression). It's a contradiction, and we DO need to reflect, as a society, and the good French people need to work hard to make sure the right wing (27% of the voters) doesn't turn this into a "let's now deport all Muslims" in a get even tactic. This is not about a backwards religion. This is about people not understanding one another and not willing to back down off the bully pulpits that they currently are leashed to.

Just because you put it in quotation marks and copy pasted it from a lame false study doesnt mean its right! Prophet mohammad said this? Get your facts straight before you go on and spread hate! You are no better than those extremists!

When, o when, can we finally get rid of the "root of all evil is colonialism" idea? Please -- if countries (like Germany, Japan, Britain for example) can get over WWII and move on, why can't other peoples do the same?

Countries like Germany and Britian were equals before and after WWII. You cannot compare the "moving on" of countries in this kind of conflict to the ills of colonialism. If 27% of the French population are willing to tell a pollster that they "dislike" Muslims, don't you think that the Muslims in their midst can tell? Colonialism, be it the enslavement of Africans here in America, or the history of France's past in North Africa, leaves an imprint on the population that is passed from generation to generation. Dysfunctional attitudes cannot be wiped clean just by wishing it so, by the oppressors or by the oppressed. It takes conscious effort to stop thinking the poisonous thoughts taught us at the feet of our elders from the very earliest age.

You are aware, are you not, of the lengthy and far-reaching history of imperialism and colonialism in Islam?

Very brave and well-balanced approach to this traumatic event ... It is very easy and comforting to label some things/people as evil and condemn them, but this simple-minded approach is another form of (internal/hidden/soft) violence.

It is too early for my reflection. At the moment I advocate je suis Charlie remembering the French "we are American"after 911. My only response at the moment is We are French or Je Suis Charlie. We are Americans, We are French there to support theylur countryin any way we can. As you did us.

For fairness sake, may be you should mention that it's not just the hijab that is forbidden to wear in French public schools but all religious symbols. I can no more wear a giant cross on my chest than yarmulke on my head.

thank you for articulating how best to deal with this senseless violent madness with love, more openness never sacrificing our values.

I am deeply touched by your words and feel that you expressed everything I'm feeling in my heart and head. Thank you.

A community which is marginalized, ostracized, maligned, and yes, also violently attacked. I don't justify these terrorist acts but I also feel the West needs to be called out equally for its violence against the Arab world, which should be mourned and decried as loudly as we mourn for Westerners who get caught in the "crossfire" of ideology and, let's be honest, fossil fuel and economic depravity. We aren't going to get this right until we get off of our dependence on oil, which creates a fire hazard for anyone unfortunate enough to be born atop an oil deposit of any great size.

Beautiful, powerful, and resonant. Thank you for writing this.

All major countries and all religion at some point in history have contributed fuel to the fire of violence. We cannot point at any one group and blame them. We could spend a lifetime looking at who did what to whom and when. All parties have been victim and villain at some point. Now we need forgiveness all around. I would like to see honest, heartfelt discussion about where does the world go from here? Everyone has the right to live without the fear of violence. I believe most violence in history could have be avoided if we were listening to each other in the first place. Imagine if everyone began practicing sincere listening. The world would shift quickly.

About this part,

"As for the real Muhammad, neither the cartoonists nor the shooters ever knew him. You can’t touch him. You never knew Muhammad like we know Muhammad",

one can say, "there is something profoundly disturbing about claiming the mantle of Prophet for “us.”"

Professor Safi writes as an awakened man. Beyond vengeance and anger is courage to speak truth and feel pain. Grief, compassion and willingness to move towards peace and understanding will bring clarity to this broken vision. I fully appreciate his courage to share his most heartfelt love of Mohammad in contrast to the twisted view we are invited to by the shooters.

Dear Prof. Safi

Thank you for such an enlightening text.

You wrote about Freedom of Speech, and there is a ironic point on it. I've read about London demostrations in favour of Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech. But right now and in this very city, a guy is a refugee in the Ecuador Embassy for trying to expose shameful information about events that could constitute Crimes Against Humanity.

Is not today a perfect time for us to put, once and for all, the life and dignity of every human beign as the top priority?

Peace.

No, he's there because he refuses to answer charges of sexual misconduct in the country where the alleged victims have made their legal complaint.

I think this is beautifully written and gives me hope. Though it is not the moderate or tolerant Muslims that I am concerned about, it's the potential actions of the extremists that concerns me. Islam is the largest and fast growing religion in the world with over 1.6 billion (approx 24% of the world's population) identifying as Muslim. Of that 1.6 billion sources estimate 10-15% are considered extremists. That's between 160-240 million people walking among us willing to die and cause grave harm to "infidels." As the past would show, the moderate and tolerant Germans (though in the majority) were irrelevant during the 1940s and look what happened. I consider myself an open, loving and understanding person and I couldn't care less what religion or creed my friends, family or people in my life are. But I find myself slowly getting more and more concerned with and withdrawn from Muslims because we only hear of violence and hatred in the media. How do we combat that? How do we combat a train of thought that, I, as a non-Muslim should die? Love isn't a bullet proof vest.

--- 30 people killed by a nurse out of boredom. There are a lot more people than "extremists" that you should worry about. So much news out there about crimes and people "killing", but it's the media that focuses so much on these cowards that causes the world to turn a blind eye to the crime and murder that happens EVERYDAY in EVERY COUNTRY. You withdraw from your Muslim friends? The TRUE Muslims practice their faith properly and would never hurt a soul. If you are friends with them then you will know this. Have open conversations about it, if they are true Muslims they will be able to have meaningful and valuaable conversation with you.

Extremism is a universal problem. We just need to open our eyes- beyond the rhetoric, we will realize that there are even more lethal extremist groups outside Islam. Any Mad man going on a murder spree claiming he/she is a Muslim has these claims instantly validated by the world. Yet any non Muslim doing the same will be instantly and understandably disowned and labelled a common criminal. The Bases for proclaiming Islamic faith are clear and documented-Look at all these so called Islamic fundamentalist groups- they have caused Muslims as much more harm as non Muslims- Look at the Killings in Somalia, In the Nigerian Mosque, In Afghanistan etc. Instead of demonizing and stereotyping Muslims, Why cant the world work with the 85% Muslims to address the 15% extremist population?

The problem being that the 85% do not seem to be adddressing the 15% in any visible way. Maybe there are debates happening in the Muslim community that do not receive attention from the western press. If so I should be very interested to know where they may be accessed.

Although warning against idolizing satirists, it sounds a lot like satire, particularly political satire, is deeply honored and elevated in this article thereafter. It sounds a lot like people like Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef are the angelic icons we aren't to make of satirists. I never really understood the faithful (or non-faithful) who teach against mockery and intolerance and marginalization, yet support an "art" form that consistently does this as opposed to engaging in polite and critical debate. It might be funny sometimes, but is that kind of humor worth it? Is that how the Prophet dealt with humor or criticism of others? If yes, then why and is that something we should maybe question? People also tend to favor mockery when it supports their own views/sentiments/movement against others, but they're not so happy once it's against themselves instead of others. I'm wondering why traditions of mockery are praised so much in modern cultures. I grew up hearing warnings about the (divinely-induced) consequences of publicly denigrating others who differ, but I never saw that practiced in a logically consistent way by the very people who taught it. We all need criticism, particularly of those in the highest levels of power if they are misusing their power. But to assume a role of mockery in order to achieve this... really bothers me, particularly coming from people who are otherwise very soft-spoken, educated, concerned, and forgiving when discussing important issues or engaging other people.

Using a similar analogy,how is it gay people are deemed worthy of abuse, torture and murder under the guise of loving, peaceful religions? As a gay man, I could easily be assaulted or killed in any current Islamic theocracy or a Christian country like Uganda. Is there no hypocrisy there?

Thank you for this beautiful piece. As a Muslim I especially appreciated and agree with all of my heart this point you made:
"And as for the shooters, they have done more to demean people’s impression of the religion of the Prophet than the cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo ever did. If the shooters wanted to do something to bring honor to the Prophet, they could begin by actually embodying the manners and ethics of the Prophet. They could start by studying his life and teachings, where they would see that Muhammad actually responded to those who had persecuted him through forgiveness and mercy."

..thank you Aisha...

Especially liked the context part cause it puts things into perpective not isolating this crimes as if they had come out of nowhere.

I do still feel that the fact that Muslims are a minority in France is not by design. I mean, you can not choose to be woman, you can not choose be a certain skin color that will put you into a certain minority group no matter your opinion or will. Nevertheless you can choose to belong to a certain set of beliefs, and if by doing so you become part of a minority you can not use that as part of an argument for complaining about being part of a minority. (This does not mean that you should not have all your rights acknowledged, that is a given, minorities have all the righs in the constitution of that particular country.And every so called egalitarian society should fight for those rights to be applied to everyone. )

Another issue that I don't often see taken into account is the difference between offense and damage.
One can not decide wether to acknowledge damage or not, it happens and there is nothing you can do about it, you can decide not to get too upset, but there is actual verifiable damage,( like the killed cartoonists, they can not decide not to be damaged, it was inflicted upon them and that is a point of no return.)
Offense on the other hand lies on the eye of the beholder, it is up to one to feel offended or not, so it is the person who feels offended the one that decides. People are not offended by someone or something, they themselves decide to feel offended, and there should be no one else to blame for the offense since the offended person can also decide not to feel offended.

People being so diverse ,is easy to encounter offense on almost everything in life. I am sure my eating habits offend some people, but I decided not to care what others say about it or what they eat.
Maybe we should all decide not to feel offended no matter what , cartoons about religious figures, politicians, musicians or our families. Hope the actions to come are in line with your writing above. Peace to all.

simply superb !

Thanks for this, Omid. Like you, we mourn the dead, and hope (perhaps in vain, perhaps suffering from delusion) for the best, and not the worst, in the aftermath. Khuda hafezat kunad.

Thank you for contributing a thoughtful response to this complex and tragic situation.

Beautifully put. I was particularly struck by this one turn of phrase "by embodying luminous qualities" which is a powerful entreaty, and one which I think this response itself met thoughtfully.

Beautifully written, courageous, and thoughtful. Yet, I would like to point out two things. The first is that the cartoons in CH are directed at Christians as well as Muslims and against politicians whatever their stripe. Offensive, puerile? Yes. Directed only at Islam? No. The second thing is that France, Germany, and other European countries have long histories of anti-semitism and prejudices of other sorts. It's easy to see why anyone compelled to live in the outer districts of Paris or London because of diminished economic/political access to the larger society would be bitter. But it is also true that some Muslim communities in Europe have chosen to adhere to customs and practices (particularly those involving girls and women) that are offensive. The murderers were French Citizens and for this they should be grateful because if they were being remanded to somewhere like Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Egypt, they would never see anything close to actual judicial process.

Its about criminals looking for justification for their actions. They use religion as their justification. They are criminals, their religion is innocent.

Well done. Thank you.

Dear God this is a wise response to an awful atrocity. Your God and mine weeps for the hatred and the cycles of hatred and revenge, cruel depictions of loved beings and demonic responses of slaughter. May the voice of sanity and reconciliation rise yet further from the cycles of exploitation, oppression and revenge. Maintain the sane compassion.

As I stand here on vacation in aa very Islamic country, I see many beautiful humans. Mant scared,controling in the name of a religion they corrupt in their fear and ignorance. Not that different than the way US treated Blacks and Women 100 years ago. And regretfully many Americans continue to do today. Look at yourself.

I cannot thank you enough for writing this piece. I have spent the past 24 hours scanning the media on this topic and found myself consistently disturbed by what I perceive to be a kind of shallowness in the anger expressed online. I couldn't put my finger on it until you pointed out exactly what I was feeling, which was this sense of disappointment that people are taking the concept of "free speech" and using it as an excuse to give them carte blanche to say anything they wish to say without concern to anyone else. In the digital age, we can no longer afford to hide behind the "free speech" shield - it's irresponsible, and it's widening the cultural chasm. If we spent as much time building bridges as we do burning them down, this world would be a different place.

As history is being written, so is the future. Our future is nothing without liberty in the press.-bjw

In the words of Marcus Aurelius: "Kindness and goodness should be everyone's religion" I love this beautiful blue ball we are all riding on for a short amount of time but if joining the "world stage" means having to put a limit on freedoms that we have in the west, just so we can make some barbaric gods happy and not offended, I'd rather blow it all to hell.Once again free thinkers and artists died at the hands of religion. ALL RELIGION is evil. Humanity will never be free unless we let go of these barbaric and stupid beliefs.

A very balanced comment on the tragic event, must be liked by a honest, unbiased and rational mind.

Very well written and elaborated.

Thank-you for an insightful piece (peace)! Knowing that 'victims' and "perpetrators" are part of me and I part of them does not make this easy(ier); neither does knowing that we are all only ever acting from the level of understanding and consciousness we have reached at a specific point in time in our personal and collective evolution, nor that calamitous events have been and always will be turning points and opportunities for something new and a deeper expression of love to be created. My question is not only how do I respond, but also; 'what will the collective response be as we increasingly envision this beautiful world all of our hearts know is possible?" WE ARE MOST DEFINITELY AT A POINT IN OUR EVOLUTION THAT IS CRACKING OPEN THE SEED OF THE NEW TO EMERGE, and it will be a painful 'cracking' for a while yet.

More apologist drivel. This is about French colonization of North Africa?? I mean, really??

When the world learns what humanity and listening and respect mean, and not just politics, money, what is good for them, and greed and selfishness, only then will the world become as Martin Luther King once said FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, FREE AT LAST

This isn't about freedom of speech, religion, offending someone, political motivations, colonies, or anything other than: You don't kill other people, period. It doesn't matter what they did. It's wrong. End of story.

Your article is crap because none of it matters. It is simply attempting to justify something that is unjustifiable.

Thankyou. Superbly written, spot on and shared. Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

Hamyd Mourad has nothing to do in this story, he went himself to police at the end of the day as he was in school during whole event, his classmate testified it online & real time as soon as they rode he was on the wanted list...

One could wonder how ridiculous it is to drop his name over such a national trauma (yes it's the same one, and no homonym) without even checking by a phonecall where he was. Just sayin.

This is a beautiful articulation of my mixed emotions during this tragedy. I could never imagine the pain of the victim's families right now and my heart goes out to them. This type of violence is abhorrent and we must work together as a world community to prevent it from continuing. We cannot work together if we disdain each-others culture, we cannot grow together if we don't accept our differences and realize how much beauty that brings to our existence. We will always be working towards a better existence and the ark of life will forever be moving in a positive direction. I hope that the families grieving right now find solace in their loved ones and know that an entire planet sends their support to them during this tragedy. May we grow together and not apart during this period of reflection.

Thank you for openingour eyes, see more brodly the problem

....just one thing I cannot agree with. Freedom of expression should not come with the right to offend. The way I'd put it,freedom of expression comes witha responsibility not to disrespect.

You can easily say the same thing about freedom of religion.

There is a gulf, not just a gap, of consciousness between the civilised world and the terrorist mentality exemplified by this atrocious act. We are now compelled, under pressure, to bend over backwards and bridge it. We must try and understand, that once entwined in a web of evil in which beheadings are sanctified, sex-slavery is institutionalised and indiscriminate killing of non-muslims is an ambition, every human being is desensitised to notions of civilised behaviour. Perhaps unhealingly so. For similar atrocities to be forestalled, zero tolerance to IS and/or ex-IS sympathisers is existentially crucial. However depraved it may sound, we must invest gargantuan criminal energies to identify with the. We must bridge the chasm of awareness. We must be able to tick like them. Self-preservation will always be the first law of nature.

Thank you Omid. Fantastic article .

There is a gulf, not just a gap, of consciousness between the civilised world and the terrorist mentality exemplified by this atrocious act. We are now compelled, under pressure, to bend over backwards and bridge it. We must try and understand, that once entwined in a web of evil in which beheadings are sanctified, sex-slavery is institutionalised and indiscriminate killing of non-muslims is an ambition, every human being is desensitised to notions of civilised behaviour. Perhaps unhealingly so. For similar atrocities to be forestalled, zero tolerance to IS and/or ex-IS sympathisers is existentially crucial. However depraved it may sound, we must invest gargantuan criminal energies to identify with them. We must bridge the chasm of awareness. We must be able to tick like them. Self-preservation will always be the first law of nature. The alternative is to capitulate to a reign of terror, die in beauty, choked in our noble ideals.

Great article. So thorough, well rounded and thought provoking...thank you for dharing

I am beyond impressed with what you have written. I am so proud that our marginalized community has someone like you to speak these words on our behalf. I have been spreading your article like wildfire. please do not stop writing.

Thank you for this timely and thoughtful piece. One of the points you make (which I appreciate should be read in its context, not as a defence of the killings) is: "I wonder in all the celebration of “freedom of expression” parades, whether we will pause to reflect on the French prohibition on Muslim women wearing the head-covering (hijab) in public schools, something that was stripped away under French commitment to secularism. I wonder why it is that all freedoms of expression are not equally valued." But the particular Western commitment is to freedom of speech, as a fundamental building block of Western democracy, not necessarily to freedom of expression; it is of course not absolute, but generally qualified by specific requirements such as national security (and protection of the reputation of living individuals against untruths); and the French do not execute people for wearing the hijab in schools.

Thankyou, this is an excellent and thoughtful discussion which I am sharing widely. I especially agree with you about unequal valuation of freedom of expression. We must, however, recognize that there are many people seemingly eager to take violent offence at what they see as slights on Islam or the Prophet. Why is it that that violent reponse is tolerated,and in some cases encouraged, when other religions seem to have reached the point of recognizing that violence is no longer an acceptable respinse to criticism or even offensive non-violent attack(and yes, I know that there is violent Hinduism and even bizarrely Buddhism in Asia, so largely I speak of Christianity)? The vicious cycle of Western double standards inflaming the angrymeans that seems very difficult to see a path forward. My own country Australia has not really made up for the demonization of Muslim refugees by the #illridewithyou campaign, but it did make me a little prouder of my fellow citizens

Much of this any reasonable person can say a hearty Amen to, in particular, the deep ties that exist between us all because of our common humanity, which means that everyone's life is just a precious as my own. One or two inconvenient truths are overlooked - yes there has been a history of French colonisation of Muslim countries. Not one of those who died was in any way responsible for that. Yes France has banned the hijab in public, in accordance with its national secular values. But Muslims have complete freedom of worship in France, as evidenced by the mosques all over the country. Roll on the day when the same can be said for Christians in Muslim countries. And let's not forget that while a human prophet was lampooned in cartoons in a way that I, as well as Muslims, find offensive (even while I absolutely defend the freedom of speech that permitted it), speaking as a Christian, Jesus Christ who is God incarnate is lampooned in cartoons all over the Muslim world on a regular basis, which to Christians is a far greater blasphemy. As with any breakdown in relationship, it will take great humility and magnanimity on both sides to repair relations between the Muslim and Christian communities of the world, but with a good will it can be done. We have to believe that - to deny it is a counsel of despair, and humanity can do better than that.

"all I can say is that he is beyond the need for revenge. Your actions do not reach him, neither did the profoundly offensive cartoons of Charlie Hebdo....
And as for the shooters, they have done more to demean people’s impression of the religion of the Prophet than the cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo ever did. If the shooters wanted to do something to bring honor to the Prophet, they could begin by actually embodying the manners and ethics of the Prophet."

THIS. A thousand times. Yes, this is the truth.

Thanks for your insights. Would you agree that just like everything else in creation religion is also in need of renewal? Perspectives from Baha'i's on how religion can better contribute to social change might be of interest to you as you probably are aware Baha'is have been persecuted in Iran since the inception of their faith in 1844, and yet have you ever heard of Baha'is shooting at Muslims in reprisal for the oppression they are confronted with on a daily basis?

To remember compassion while embracing humanity in its violence is a challenge. Can we answer hatred with love in the light of this needless attack? Still trying to understand it.

I very much appreciate all that you wrote. I am glad this discussion is now involving honoring all human beings in our speech and "satire." I also appreciate your statistics on European racism. As someone who is working toward ending the new Jim Crow in the US, I'm often saddened by the view I've seen expressed that we are the only white people who are racists. There's racism everywhere in the world. There must be more compassion, as you say, everywhere in the world. And efforts to learn about all the cultures with which we co-exist.

Cynthia, the USA currently has a black President -- along with several black congressmen, black governors, black mayors, and a black Supreme Court Justice -- but you believe that there's a "new Jim Crow" here? Such a comment surely must have been intended as some kind of sarcasm.

Thank you for this thoughtful and compassionate deconstruction.

Thank you Professor Safi and thank you On Being for seeking answers that delve into the complexity of our world and go beyond simplistic headlines.

This is a wonderful article. As an American, I am ashamed of what Kerry said but it is nothing new. Thanks for the great commentary.

thanks for this wonderful essay. courageous and true. let us respond by reducing the number of marginalized people and giving them a place. in many cities in france the muslims and other immigrants from former French colonies were never integrated but moved to the ghettos and crappy suburbs often called Les Zups (urban zones) or more blandly Les Batiments (the buildings). culturally and linguistically they remain separated. this doesn't mean the terrorists are not accountable for their actions quite obviously. many in the same situation have risen to great heights.

The tragedy is that we maim, kill, rape and plunder not because of religious beliefs but because of the hatred in our own hearts. There is no justification for murder. We misuse th teachings of the faith in which we believe and this is sad indeed.

This has been by far the most thought-provoking and open-minded piece I've seen on this tragedy. Many thanks for sharing it.

this is the best response i've seen. god bless.

It is very unfortunate that most of us blame West to harm our DEEN,Islam.Where as we Muslims ourselves have shown so much disrespect to our beloved Prophet(PBUH). We call HIM(PBUH)The Prophet of Mercy for all the Universe and here after but do not show it even for our own brothers and sisters.I am a strong believer that anybody who will try to know to know who this man MUHAMMAD(PBUH) is, will come to know the reality and will never indulge in violence ever.

At some point, this all gets academic. There's only one thing that matters: Every people has a responsibility to police itself, so its worst elements are not a threat to others and to itself. What the professor should really be asking is why it is that the Muslim ummah seems unwilling and unable to carry out that core social responsibility. Until that question is answered, and the self-policing carried out with the grim determination and considerable bloodshed that it may well take, it is hard to blame the rest of the world for concluding that Islam itself may well be the problem.

This is worth reading.

Beautifully articulated - and accurately summing up the reflections of millions of human beings across the globe - irrespective of their political, ethnic, nationalistic, religious or any other form of identity. We are human first and foremost -- and anything else later. Let us not lose our humanity......

Thank you for this. I hope that many, many people take the time to read it and that it gives those who are feeling ambivalent about Muslims and Islam and those who are ignorant of the context of these recent crimes something to think about.

A beautiful piece, moving, lucid, and helpful. This is more genuine, honest, and thoughtful than anything produced by the writers and speechifiers whose "je suis" pieces are on every outlet's blog right now. Thank you for writing it.

I hope, in fact, that an ou

Their hate is what we see and feel, it is quite infectious and very few of us seem to be immune it was lovely to read your post.
Thank you

thank you to the author for an interesting piece with many good points. However, Omid's depiction of Muhammad is very one-sided. He writes: "If the shooters wanted to do something to bring honor to the Prophet, they could begin by actually embodying the manners and ethics of the Prophet. They could start by studying his life and teachings, where they would see that Muhammad actually responded to those who had persecuted him through forgiveness and mercy."

Much of the time Muhammad did not respond to those who had persecuted him with forgiveness and mercy - he killed them and approved of others who killed them. The worry is that, perhaps the killers had studied Muhammad's life.

After the Battle of Badr, when Muhammad's position of power was solidified, he turned against those who had previously persecuted him to settle old scores, including al-Nader (who scoffed at Muhammad during his days in Mecca and had told better stories than the Prophet himself), the poetess Asma bint Marwan, who openly mocked and criticised the religion Muhammad propounded. Although Muhammad did not personally kill Asma he praised the person who did in front of the Muslims gathered in the mosque. Abu Afak, who was said to be over 100 years old, was killed in his sleep. And then, more disturbing still, is the account of Muhammad's massacring of between 600 and 900 Jews from the Banu Qurayza tribe.

During the night, trenches sufficient to contain the dead bodies of the men were dug across the market place of the city. In the morning, Mohammad, himself a spectator of the tragedy, commanded that male captives to be brought forth in companies of five or six at a time. Each company as it came up was made to sit down in a row on the brink of the trench destined for its grave, there beheaded, and the bodies cast therein. … The butchery, begun in the morning, lasted all day, and continued by torchlight till the evening. Having thus drenched the market place with the blood of seven or eight hundred victims, and having given command for the earth to be smoothed over their remains, Mahomet returned from the horrid spectacle to solace himself with the charms of Rihana, whose husband and all her male relatives had just perished in the massacre. [Source: W. Muir, The Life of Muhammad, (Edinburg 1923, Pages 307-8)].

Or consider this, from the most reliable of all the hadith collections.

Muhammad did sometimes teach forgiveness, but he often did not practice what he preached. Listen to the account (hadith) given by the Prophet’s companion Annas as recorded in Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 82, Number 794:
Some people from the tribe of 'Ukl came to the Prophet and embraced Islam. The climate of Medina did not suit them, so the Prophet ordered them to go to the (herd of milch) camels of charity and to drink, their milk and urine (as a medicine). They did so, and after they had recovered from their ailment (became healthy) they turned renegades (reverted from Islam) and killed the shepherd of the camels and took the camels away. The Prophet sent (some people) in their pursuit and so they were (caught and) brought, and the Prophets ordered that their hands and legs should be cut off and that their eyes should be branded with heated pieces of iron, and that their cut hands and legs should not be cauterized, till they die.

Let us take up Omid's suggestion of actually studying Muhammad's life for ourselves, and discussing this in public without fear of being labelled a hater or an islamophobe. I have found the more you read about Muhammad's life, the more disturbing it becomes.

I'm a pastor with a Ph.D. in history and theology. I am currently attending the Society of Christian Ethics meeting in Chicago It meets concurrently with the Societies of Jewish and Muslim Ethics.

My comments can be accessed here.
A Christian Right to Blasphemy?

well, i think you're not French and don't know our history nor our culture very well.To look for explanation will come. But later with time enough for knowing, and time enough for thinking.
For thinking before writing.
Satire is part of French culture, since Molière, La fontaine and even before. More than 300 years ago it became our DNA. And even before it was normal to make fun of our kings and royals. At that time it was call "lumière" and is considered by us, French people as the base of our still today strong values.
France is not a matter of communities, but a matter of values. To be a secular country means to accept everyone... and be accepted by everyone.We are not French muslim, French christens, French jews, French whatever. In our culture we are French over all.
The huge majority of people in my country do not mix everything. We all respect muslims, jews, christians, protestants, hindus... and atheists. We respect faiths and people, even extremists because they have the right to be and express.
We accept the ones who do not respect us and give them the right to speak, pray, and preach.
But we will ever stand for our rights, we will never accept satires kill.
Why what has happen in France should not be pondered?
Only because this is the first time in Human History that journalists were massively kill just because they expressed ideas.
I know most of caricatures drawn by the journalist of Charlie Hebdo may shock in the US or other countries, but keep in mind that the most caricatured in Charlie have always been catholics, God and the popes. Not Muslims, Muhammed or Allah.
How can we try to find explanation and minimize the freedom of expression in 2015? To do so, is an error and a weakness.

i apologise for my weak English, and i hope you got my message clear.

I think that any sane person (including the author of this essay) would agree that nobody ever deserves to die for a satirical cartoon. As the author takes pains to point out, context is not apology. I would like to point out that criticizing a particular expression of free speech is not necessarily an attack on free speech--it is, itself, an expression of free speech. Charb himself understood that some Muslims would be upset by some of his cartoons and he supported their right to peacefully protest as an expression of their own right to free speech. I am free to speak--you are free to criticize what I say. That is the way freedom of expression has to work. It is the recourse to violence that is unacceptable. Violence is never an acceptable reaction to speech. It is legitimate to point out that in a world awash with violence and hate, being provocative may make things worse. Simply pointing this out does not constitute an attack on free speech, it is an expression of free speech. It is not the same as trying to pass laws to take away people's right to freedom of expression, and it is not the same as resorting to threats or to violence, and it does not signify that the speaker does not value freedom of expression.

Very well said indeed Mathieu !

Thank you!

A beautiful, thoughtful, insightful, nuanced response to what has become a far too regular occurrence. I congratulate you on your writing and perspicacity and your bravery for not simply going along with the mainstream.

Thank you for this piece. A friend posted it on Facebook and I read it not knowing at first anything about you or who you are. I was relieved after the first paragraphs that finally someone was speaking with a voice of reason, a voice of calm, sensibility and a desire to deflate what sometimes feels like a balloon waiting to burst. I didn't know your religion and I'm glad I didn't until I discovered it later on. I am not religious, maybe an atheist but don't really know what is going on so atheist may not be the best title. I wanted to just say thank you for this beautiful piece. I shared it and already have had 3 others share as well. I hope the whole world can read this. If only more of us could read this. We would be in a much better place. My favourite takeaways are as follows: "I try to resist the urge to turn the victims into saintly beings, or the shooters into embodiments of evil"
"Here’s the thing about freedom of speech: There are few red lines left. In an age where almost anyone can get his/her writings published online, blocking or censoring anyone has become all but impossible. Yes, freedom of speech includes the right to offend. Yet, I wonder if our willingness to celebrate the “right to offend” also extends to us reaching out in compassion to those who are offended."
"And for those who think they are here to avenge the honor of the Prophet, all I can say is that he is beyond the need for revenge. Your actions do not reach him, neither did the profoundly offensive cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. That pornographic, violent, humiliated and humiliated figure depicted in Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons is not and was not ever my prophet. As for the real Muhammad, neither the cartoonists nor the shooters ever knew him. You can’t touch him. You never knew Muhammad like we know Muhammad."

It would have been very different had these people who have chosen to murder/kill/harm decided instead to take pen to paper and/or any art form and had responded in a different way. While it may sound overly simple, perhaps we could have called this non-violent response a positive “discourse” or effort in “communication”. Had they done this, perhaps the two parties would have agreed to disagree, or better yet agreed on some things, but not others -- and gone out for beers. You can tell me, I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Violence is simply not the answer and cannot be excused.

Iam an old woman, 92, a liberal,secular Jew who is prodfoundly moved by this message with which I whoileheart5edly agree. As a Jew I hincerely hope that there will NOT br an anti Muslim reaction by those Jews whose love for Israel sees every violent act by Muslims as a threat to Israel. I would hope that those of us fortunate enough to live in an open society -Canada in my case- will have the courage rro speak out against injustice on our part, and to work for an inclusive and just society for all whom God has created. We are all connected.

I was very moved by Professor Safi's words. He is obviously a very knowledgeable and astute person. If only more people could read this and see the truth in everything he says. Unfortunately, peoples knee jerk reaction to is throw the baby out with the bathwater. All of us rational people do not blame the entire Muslim community because of the acts of few. In the scheme of things these radicals are only a fraction of the Muslim world and as the professor says they really do not know and/or understand the teaching of Mohammad.

All religions have committed atrocities in the name of their God. I am not denying Christianity's past, but you don't see Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddists, etc., strapping bombs to themselves with the goal of achieving martyrdom and an eternity with virgins. I'm puzzled about the total disregard for the tenets of Islam when the terrorists/extemists are perpetuating these types of atrocities in the name of Allah. Why does this happen with such regularity? What is happening within the religion that these beliefs seem to be spreading at such an alarming rate? The things these criminals believe aren't even part of Islam (72 virgins, etc), so what causes the ignorance about the religion they claim to be warriors for?
I ask these questions from a true position of ignorance and a pure desire to understand. I don't mean disrespect, and apologize if my questions are seen as such.

The attacks are outrageous and no way do the following questions condone or try to explain the horrific acts in Paris. Do you think it adds to reasonable debate to depict religious icons(Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha, etc.) as silly or debased? Is making fun of the Pope or Netanyahu different than making fun of the Biblical God? Should there be lines that reasonable people shouldn't cross? If so, what are they?

This is a measured, comprehensive and ever so well reasoned article. Thank you.

Wonderful, wonderful article. I will post it as many times as my finger can click. As a Muslim, I was touched by your insight and I've looked for the way to say what you said, but couldn't find it. Thank goodness for the pen, for it is YOU who has managed to pen what I could not. Thank you.

these are words from my heart. I wish everyone would read this enlightened article. Thank you for it.

I am impressed with this article written by a nephew of one of my school mates.

Lazy humans tend to want to centralize evil doers, and when someone no matter the belief system does an horrific act, they are sadly, reinforcing the negative view others not of the same belief may have. As an American I do not want to be lumped in with the horrid Westboro Baptist's, KKK, and other horrid folks. So I shant lump all men and women from whatever group in with the few who do horrid things to others.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful well-reasoned reflectionm that is wise enough to know when to deviate from an academic perspective when it comes to matters of faith. Yours was one of the many links I followed reviewing the discussion called for by Adam Mordecai. As could have been predicted, the threads were as full of rants, bigotry and anti-(any)religious hatred that Mr. Mordecai specifically wanted excluded in favor of a deeper discussion, based on the perception of his own error in understanding the nature of Charlie Hebdo's work. I am far less knowledgeable than you, certainly about Islam, and also about French context, from which I 've been removed for far too long. Nevertheless, it is my wish to take the time to write my own spiritual reflection on this multi-layered tragedy. Thank you for your invaluable perspective.

Read this article, my sweetheart.

Love,

S

Lets become world citizens respecting each other. Love all. Allah bless us with the knowledge of the right path.

Read and study forever.

Thank you for your cogent, compassionate and thoughtful essay. It encompasses what I'm feeling as I view this world of savagery where we're becoming so hardened to the cruelties we inflict on one another. Love, communication, and a genuine desire to understand one another is the only course to follow if we're to save our species. Otherwise we are doomed.

thank you for your cogent, thoughtful and insightful essay on this painful subject. Love, communication and mutual respect are needed if we are to be saved as a species. Otherwise, we are doomed.

Beautifully written. I too have wondered how far we can push the so called freedom of expression and not be cocerned about sensitivity, civility and a modicum of respect for our fellow human beings

thank you so much foe expressing what i felt without having the proper english vocabulary to express it....
indeed i agree that it is too easy, to "terre a terre" to say "freedom of expression"...without taking into accountthe past relation between the so called westernd society and the rest!
how did so many Arab established or exiled themselve to Europe?now that they are part of that society, why not accept them for who they are? and impose a mutual respect? look at what Trudeau dit in introducing and recognizing multiculturalism...It works very well in toronto...who cares if you feel like covering your head...why would Charlie find it OK to offend so mab\ny people in the name of freedom of speech?he did not desserve to die like he did! The comedien Dieudonne is being persecuted for making fun of Jews, I feel he should find a better topic...but how can france say no to Dieudonne and Yes to Charlie?I don't believe in that kind of freedom of speech

Thank you for your writing. It is an enlightening one; I share it to my families and friends so we can keep our peace within ourselves. Itbalso helps me to answer the questions from my family and friends. The hardest part is how to answer to our children's questions and concerns. As Moslem, we never are taught to be violent, Never to approve violent criminals .. While, so sudden now it is a challange for them to say, "Yes I am a moslem" - without being prejudiced that because they are moslem they might be considered as they agree with the terorist/Violent Criminals" - especially when they are away from home :(.
It is a crime to human and our lives. It is a crime to our freedom.
We don't deserve to live in the saddened and frightened world any longer - we are free, yet responsible to our lives and acts : for now and "later" ...

Thank you so much foe expressing what i felt without having the proper english vocabulary to express it....
indeed i agree that it is too easy, to "terre A terre" to say "freedom of expression"...without taking into account the past relation between the so called western society and the rest of the world!
how did so many Arab established or found themselves living in Europe?now that they are part of that society, why not accept them for who they are? and impose a mutual respect? look at what Trudeau dit in introducing and recognizing multiculturalism...It works very well in toronto...who cares if you feel like covering your head...why would Charlie find it OK to offend so many people in the name of freedom of speech? He did not deserve to die like he did! The comedien Dieudonne is being persecuted for making fun of Jews, I feel he should find a better topic...but how can France say no to Dieudonne and Yes to Charlie?I don't believe in that kind of freedom of speech

This article is its own refutation. You will never see Muslims engaging in this level of introspection. Western civilization acts superior because it IS superior. Western civilization has accomplished great things, made many errors and repented profusely. Islamic civilization (such as it is) has accomplished little, committed monstrous crimes and apologized for nothing. Enough is enough.

Dr OMID SAFI Thank you for your insight and for sharing your gifts.

Thought provoking...

Respect for each other's diverse beliefs and practices and compassion for those who suffer= liberation

Thank you for writing this wonderful and insightful article. You explained this whole situation that doesnt favor any one side, and is kept in a way where each side can have appreciation for the other; thus, take this as something more meaninful and put into proper perspective. What I wanted to offer is how it is Charlie Hebdo who screwed up and how racism should reduced if not eliminated. I wanted to reflect on the consequences of this whole situation, so allow me to explain:

Excuse me if I sound like insensitive but it seems like Muslims are obligated to hold a worthless Je suis Charlie sign, or else Muslims will be considered pro-Terrorist/extremist if they dont. Everyone feels bad for France that they are having freedom of speech and expression taken away from them, and people had to die. Simultaneously people also need to reflect on how we should respect everyone and anyone's cultural beliefs, and since Charlie Hebdo didnt they paid a hefty price for it. This also goes for the accused murderers. If they really were Islamist extremists and killed for the sake of the religion, then they clearly were not taught Islam properly or ever took the time to read the Quran. Had they gone through these measures, then they would have taken peaceful measures with Charlie Hebdo to perhaps stop publishing filthy propaganda.

First of all France treats Muslims like 2nd and 3rd class citizens in their country. The first guy who got killed in the incident was a Muslim guy, who was shot for defending this worthless magazine for insulting and pissing on his religion, and he gets killed for it. They have condemned females from wearing hijabs in school and banned the burka altogether. They even have a political party that is trying to change the way Islam should be preached. Freedom of expression my a$%!!!!

As far as the incident goes, freedom of speech can be whatever you want but it should never be racist. If you want to use freedom of speech to insult a religion then do it, but there comes consequences with it as we saw with this incident. I dont see Charlie Hebdo as trying to be cute or funny but rather trying to scrutinize and insult Islam. Dont tell me they're trying to do the former. In fact when the magazine made fun of Jews, they were quick to take it down and stop in the future all because they're scared and were a bunch of kiss-ups. In fact a Hebdo worker got fired for refusing to take down Jewish sattire from their magazine. Can we say DOUBLE STANDARD?!?! When has racism ever turned out for the better or ever be beneficial??? PROBABLY NEVER IN HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Thus a group of people got killed for it. NO TO RACISM!!! NO TO HATE!!! Im sorry that a group of people had to be killed leaving their families and friends with a bitter taste in their mouth, but I cant say Im sorry that the situation took place to begin with because this is what happens when racism becomes commonplace.

Perhaps this magazine should reconsider their objective, their aim, and perhaps go in another direction. As if France didn't hate Islam before the incident, if that was the case then don't give citizenship to foreign Muslims or work permits in the first place, then expect them to put up with Islamic insults. With the anti-Islamic speech and expression that has been going on for quite some time, did you France honestly believe that not a single bad apple would eventually scratch the surface sooner or later? How can we forget the history that comes with this all. France did colonize Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia for quite some time and inflicted acts of violence on its people, mainly Muslims(article made mention of this too). Most of the Muslims who live in France today are descendants of those places, so rightfully so those people might hold a little grudge towards France. What goes around comes around, ey?!?! Surprinsingly and painfully the Muslims have dealt with enough shit in your country and its unfortunate that somebody had to pay the price for it. FRANCE WAKE UP AND BE AWARE OF YOUR DOUBLE STANDARDS!!!

lowzy group of zionist trash, eh? i guess you know a thing or two about double standards, when your whole point is about 'saying no to racism and hate'. maybe instead of putting legal/political pressure to combat cartoons that they felt offended them, those 'lowzy zionist trashes' should have murdered the whole team of cartoonists? then perhaps they would be worthy of your understanding and compassion?

Thank you for your inspiring notes. It answers and becomes my responses to my kids, friends and families on what had happened.
Agree with you, it was an incident of violent criminals.
I have been educated and raised to respect other; I have been taught that killing a man is like killing a whole mankind.
And, I always trust and hope we can be freely living in this world without being afraid to be judged and "prejudiced" that we agree on the act of terrorism, just because we are Muslim.

From Malaysia we extend our sincere condolences to the families and condemn the actions of the barbaric act of the killers. Wonderful write up and a very enlightening one which will soften and open up all hard hearted people. Most so called JIHADIS and even Muslims don't even know that according to Prophet Muhammd(PBUH) the BEST JIHAD IS TO SEEK JUSTICE FROM AN UNJUST RULER and no where was violence stipulated.ISLAM is a religion of PEACE and the so called JIHADIS have not only tarnished Islam but brought disrepute to the entire Muslim world.
Let us look at each other as HUMANS first and keep religion private and not to bring them to the streets.
WE ARE ONE RACE-HUMAN RACE
WE ARE HUMANS FIRST
JIHAD for JUSTICE ( following Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) manner of LOVE and NON- VIOLENCE ).

This article seems to blame the West, almost like we are apologising for their actions? French invading Africa??

It was a CARTOON, and they drew Jesus and other religious figures too. Why do the muslims take offence and push their archaic views on our world?

They are so behind evolution, and Yemen is not in Europe - so we are not likely to hear about it.

This is a concern for Europe. We live in Europe.

Thank you for sharing valuable insights, introspection is essential, it prevents snap judgements and easy answers or thought reflexes, like 'more police' and 'less privacy'.

This is an excellent article, but it confuses faith with religion.Have your own faith in a 'god' if it helps you: it is when you adhere to a religion that the problems start. There is always someone at the top telling you how to behave,and how to obtain everlasting life,whatever religion or faction you 'believe in'.

A beautifully written essay. Thank you for this balanced view. I too share this opinion and agree that compassion is the proper stance, not blame. All humanity feels victimized by this insanity, but out of this crisis perhaps there is an opportunity to behave in a better manner towards each other.

Just great, wise, compassionate. Thank you!

So refreshing and hopeful to read a clear, thoughtful article advocating meeting hatred and violence with love.Vilifying any person or group continues the cycle of violence. My hope is that more articles like this reach the mainstream media.

Extremists, whether "Christian" or "Islamic," are the thoughtless and prejudiced persons who zealously attack those who threaten their closed view of reality. It is hard to read this when filled with ange at the recent terrorism, but it is a thoughtful response of a devout Muslim that Western Christians would do well to consider.

The second last line of Mr. Sharif's reflections sums up the whole. Would war, terrorism, or any other violence even be possible where true compassion reigns? Would any inequality to men and women take root if greed, selfishness and righteousness were laid to final rest? Alas, we were perfect in our creation, perfect in our mothers' wombs, perfect at our birth, and have been learning and practising our imperfections ever since. We can only maintain our own, small individual souls, and try to keep the flame protected from the storms of this fragile and beautiful planet. Every ocean is formed of countless drops of water, every field with billions of blades of grass. Each of us is capable of the most horrific acts, and each of us is capable of the most sublime acts of compassion. I pray that though I am not perfect, I shall try to protect the flame of compassion in my heart, so that if it threatens to die, I shall do what I can to protect this one little corner. The more each of us imperfect beings tries to do likewise, the larger shall grow the oceans and fields of compassion in this world. Not every drop of water is perfect; not every blade of grass is symmetrical, but the whole is what creates the pattern. Let us change the pattern.

Your words comfort & inspire me. I needed your words this morning. I went to your essay in search of understanding and I found it. An understanding that is itself not static and promotes the possibility of increasing my own understanding. Warmly, rOSIE

This is a beautiful, compassionate intelligent and uplifting meditation--thank you for calling all of us to our better selves, in love and humility.

Thank you!
in the middle of all the angry reactions that i read these days, this text is like a light that made my heart warm.

" I try to resist the urge to turn the victims into saintly beings, or the shooters into embodiments of evil. We are all imperfect beings, walking contradictions of selfishness and beauty. "

Resist the urge? The urge? What is the Urge? The urge is the ability to make sound judgement about the full scope of an event unfolding. To weigh up justification for actions leading to events and to discern from that judgement an understanding of right and wrong. To resist that 'urge' is to resist the very thing that has brought our western civilization from that of Barbaric culture to one of civilized rationale.

On a spiritual plain there is no right or wrong, right or wrong are both components of an individual's perspective, that is, if you are a deer it would seem wrong that your baby's life had been taken by a Lion. However if you were that Lion it would be wrong not to take that baby deer and leave your own children starving.

However we live on a perspective plain and it is the ability to discern right and wrong that makes us who we are. We are not all walking contradictions of selfishness and beauty nor is this author under any spiritual authority to label us all from her somewhat limited perspective...a perspective that suffers from an internal fight against the urge to perceive.

Thank you for this. I will read it many more times and, share it with many people!

Thank you for this thoughtful and human essay. I think one big problem we all have is trying to understand the effects of culture and history on people whose background is different from ours. And we fail to understand our own internalized stereotyping.

In freedom of expression, humor has a big place. Humor should be pondered. The capacity to accept humor, allows people not to take things too seriously, a flexible thinking.cr My other thought is that people who perpetrate those kinds of crimes against a host country no doubt feel disenfranchised. An immigrant myself, I know everyone has choices other than to kill and destroy.

I have a question for you. When will Islam and many of its followers start to show respect for the humanity of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. As a gay man, I could easily be tortured and/or killed in any of the current Islamic theocracies. Are LGBT people less human than muslims or any other marginalized group? I ask you this because you are a scholar of Islam. Homophobia is also rampant in Christianity and orthodox sects of Judaism. I, personally, cannot respect any religious beliefs that might threaten my well-being.

These words are eloquent and ring with the truth coming from the heart. Thank you so much for a spark of sanity in the midst of chaos and confusion. May all beings be free from suffering of all kinds.

Please please, I haven't read everything yet but i have to flag there is a mistake in one the names of the perpetrators among the dead. Please correct: the last one is not Hamyd Mourad but Amedy Coulibaly.

Yemen is in a state of civil war - I don't think you can say the same about France. News like that comes from the Middle East on a weekly basis, so its hardly shocking. What is shocking is when this kind of barbaric ideology spills over into our countries.
I'm not sure if your allusion to France's colonial past makes much sense either. Yes, France committed atrocities in North Africa - as it did in the rest of Africa, but you do not see Sub-Saharan African migrants engaging in such acts (race riots etc are a separate matter from this eye for an eye nonsense you're citing).
Your statistics on the numbers of Mulsim-haters in Europe are interesting, and yet do not account for the complete absence of such figures for immigrants from India or the Far East (despite the traumatic colonial experiences of those countries) - as you put it, Europe has a Muslim problem and not a race problem.
Do not compare this with what happened in Norway. Brevik was certifiably insane and funnily enough did not go and shoot up a mosque - he may have had sectarian motivations but other factors were certainly at play there. The point is the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack were acting on what they truly believed was God's will and they, along with all the other extremists would not cite the Quran if it was such a clear cut, black and white issues. So while you and all the other moderate Muslims like to claim 'they don't know Islam', they would probably say the exact same thing about you.

"The Prophet is my life. In my heart, Muhammad’s very being is the embodied light of God in this world, and my hope for intercession in the next."

Once you take this attitude, have you not made an idol of the prophet, just as those who murdered in his name did, despite their complaint being, it would appear, that the prophet had been besmirched by depictions of him, satirical or otherwise?

Making an idol of a man is idolatry and forbidden by ALL three Abrahamic religions.

However, once one has made a man into an idol, it would appear that one then seeks special pricileges. both for the idol and those who revere the idol. Indeed, so special are the privileges sought, and too often granted, if only tacitly, that the idolaters consider themselves free to revile and denigrate those who do not share their idolatrous beliefs, even to the point of killing them, whereas those who do not share the beliefs are refused the privilege of responding in kind, even if it is only done with a pen and pencil.

Hpocrisy of this nature has so often been the hallmark of idolaters, from which ever religion they have hailed.

Glebealyth, you are spot on about the idolatry. But to make a person's manner of living or teaching the model for your life is NOT the same as worshiping an image that depicts that very same person. All of the Judaic-Islamic prohibitions are against 'graven images'- NOT philosophies, manners of living, ideologies or behavior. The Charles Hebdo journalists used IMAGES to insult the Prophet, among others. There are always consequences to insults, some more serious when they are published in a national magazine. I should think you would know that.

Thank you for finding words I have been reaching for since this (and other tragic events like this have) occurred. I am reassured by your sharing such far reaching thoughts, that there may be many who reflect more deeply with such love and understanding. To give value to freedom of speechand life, is to respect one another as all sacred beings, struggling to make sense of a world and life that is at once exquisite and excruciating. God is Love, and we are all capable of perpetuating love and kindness and a better world by practicing these values as much as humanly possible.

The author's arguments break down the moment that the Hyper Kasher slaughter is added to the story. The people killed in the Hyper Kasher market were killed for no other reason than the fact that they were Jews. J-E-W-S. It was a terroristic atrocity that stains all ofthe Muslim ummah, and the entire Muslim world needs to look in the mirror and figure out what it is about their faith that would have so many of its adherents engaging in such conduct and so many showing silence in response. This is happening again and again and again. Enough with the et tu quoque arguments, the rationalizations, and the bombast. Look in the damn mirror, figure out how to stop your co-religionists, and end this! Nous en avons marre et une changement vient bientot. C'est mieux si cette changement est fait d'abord chez vous.

Brilliant words of wisdom.
Apperrently this highly trained and well organized attack era have been identified from a drivers licence left behind in the car, oh! At 911 they left passports behind

Thank you for this wonderful response to a violent and terrible act.
As people of faith we must respond with love and reach out to those around us.

Well said. But there is an elephant in the room. There are dozens of Christian organizations and hundreds of self-identifying Christians traveling to West Africa to fight Ebola and save lives. I cannot find a reference to any Muslim organizations sending people there for that purpose. There are however thousands of self-identifying Muslims traveling to Syria and Iraq to train to take lives there and elsewhere. Why does the that interpretation of Islam motivate muslims in that direction and to that degree and not to the other? Other than very small and localized groups like the KKK there are no meta-Christian, international organizations I am ware of recruiting people to kill in numbers such as as exist in the circles of Islam.

It is all too easy now for crowds to assemble with symbolic pens and placards. And even easier for political leaders to mark their respect, calling for the need to uphold democratic values. It is, of course, much more difficult to pull people together when values are not shared and where many consider themselves marginalised and marked out as outsiders.Unfortunately, however much we may seek to change and influence the world with words, all sorts of other economic, political, religious and social actions are also badly needed. That is not to underestimate the vital importance of free speech and expression, which we should all endeavour to support. They will always be key to democratic freedom.Those who are pro democratic debat and freedom of expression are likely to assert these values in rational ways. But by far the biggest danger is likely to be extremist reaction. This is a VERY difficult time for good Muslim european citizens with sincere beliefs and values. THEIR freedom and identity are now likely to come under even greater attack. I suspect that those behind the terrible acts in Paris will delight in any actions which pull our hard one freedoms further apart. What happens on the streets of Paris and elsewhere over the days ahead will put democracy to the test. Those who assert "Je suis Charlie" need to guard against being hijacked by unscrupulous bigots, racists and extremists. It is all too easy to fan the flames of hatred. Pens,words and placards will not be enough.

Beautifully written and argued.

My own thoughts.

Evil is not a spontaneous creation but a child of many parents - even the vilest acts do not exist in a vacuum.

Civilisation is not a naturally occurring state, but an artificial construction whose fragility we can only really see when it is attacked from within by hate and those who deal in hate. The battle for civilised behaviour is a real one which cannot be fought with guns and knives,

We must appreciate that, in the complex mosaic of human and international relations, political expediency and individual ambitions (often greed or poorly targeted revenge) have been far more powerful drivers than any claiming of objective moral high ground. Yesterday's political foes can become tomorrow's political allies without changing one word of what they think or say.

As nations we have made choices about where and how to intervene and more importantly where and how not to intervene. These actions have too often fertilised the ground for a crop of hate rather than purging it.

Somebody once said that we have nothing to fear except fear itself.
But fear and hatred go hand in hand, a vile chicken and egg pairing.

We should fearful as much of hating, as of being hated.

You take issue with the sacred freedom of expression in France -- where all outward expressions of religion are banned in public schools and public office (not just head coverings but also crosses and stars of David). Of course, outside of these public institutions, these are not banned and citizens can do as they please. Could you please explain the origin of Islamic law that forces women to cover their hair, head or entire body? Did Mohammad create these laws? Why do such coverings vary from the niqab to hijab and burka? And I see by your photo that you are free to bare your own head -- so why must Muslim women cover theirs? I believe that France's law restricting head coverings is rooted in promoting equal rights for women and not in blocking freedom of religious expression.

Excellent food for thought. Thank you for your honest, balanced, and beautifully articulated reflection on this tragic event.

I wrote the piece copied below here after the most recent U.S. terrorist attack, the Boston Marathon bombings. I am grateful that Safi addressed the complexities with intellect and heart. No, there is absolutely never a justification for such violent acts and we must still look at underlying issues that contribute to political, economic, religious disenfranchisement and give rise to such hatred. The Blood We See; The Justice We Choose

A bomb explodes. It is always the same. The traumatized, injured and dead need tending. What nation, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation does not matter. Tragedy breaks us open to the primal and personal. In these moments, we experience our humanity. The blood, burns and brokenness are ours, the deaths counted, mourned. It all matters. Here.

In short order, we need more than the first response. We need truth, meaningful stories and justice. This, too, is always the same. Everywhere.

Blood on foreign soil runs red to death, too, if left unchecked. Faceless, uncounted children maimed or incinerated by drone bombs are grieved by someone. There.

Identifying terrorists as domestic or foreign matters less and less, as hate embodies and inflames both. Plant a bulb or make a bomb, we co-create this world. Every action rippling out to seen and unseen consequences. And if my terrorist attack is your collateral damage, then justice is another bombing victim and the only blood we see is our own.

Thank you, MALI, for pointing out an important point: by law,NO religious symbols can be worn in the French public schools. The spread of misinformation obviously will not help create dialogue or understanding-so thank you.

I live in France. From what I observe, as an American, a foreigner,of the complexity of what is occurring here,I can see, with so much grief, the deep harm and shock this act of criminal violence has caused. Since I have been here for many years, I am no longer as used to this kind of senseless savage mass murder, as it doesn't really occur here as it unfortunately does too often in the U.S. It is difficult, perhaps, for Americans to imagine this country's profound shock. That it occurred to silence journalists(judgements about their work are irrelevant)and their freedom( to publish whatever rubbish they want), strikes at the core of what is important in French culture and tradition-and to French people, of whatever faith or no faith. Like most, I hope that the fact that these criminals chose to defame a religion in the act of committing atrocities will not create more racists(who,by the way, are sadly about as prevalent here as they are everywhere else in the world).
I agree with those who have said that the more French Muslims are a visible part of the demonstrations of solidarity and unity now being called for here, the more the killers will be isolated as the sick individuals they were. The challenge now, I think, will be for everyone to get down to the long complex messy work of figuring out how to actually achieve that deep solidarity so that there really is no space allowed for this kind of profound trauma. Je suis Charlie-we all are.

This is a very brave essay. Unfortunately it is all too rare that clear-eyed reality prevails in the face of tragedy. Usually the only responses we see are the race to point fingers or the maudlin sancifying of victims and companion villifying of perpetrators. Omid says we need to begin with the human beings. Regardless of our emotion-laden opinions, human beings exist on all sides of every tragedy, including this one. But our blinders are already in place. Before reading this essay I noted on a news feed that French authorities have "declared war". Somehow this does not seem to be fertile ground for authentic and meaningful dialogue. Looking through the comments below, we are are barely able to respond to each other with compassion and civility. This does not bode well for our ability to listen to those whose views may differ from our own. Somehow we never seem to learn that violence only insures more violence. The only thing we gain from violence is more fear and more hatred. A few years ago in the wake of 9/11, Krista launched a series of talks aimed at restoring civil discourse. Perhaps it's time to try again. It's never too late and always necessary.

These eloquent and heartfelt nine points to ponder are where we must start from, and where we must begin to understand (Seldom easy)each other, and begin to live in empathy with and for each other.Thank you for these thoughts.

I would add that the giga-tonnage of explosives measured down to the propellent of a single bullet thrown at Iraq and subsequently Libya and on to Syria have sent shock waves throughout the muslim world. At least a million dead and 3 million refugees fleeing the conflagration in Iraq alone that the Western powers set in motion. How's their freedom of speech going? Until the masses study the case from at least Sykes/Picot to the present, the political class will continue to lead them astray.

Thank, thank, thank you for such an articulate and heartfelt piece. I will be sharing this far and wide. Many blessings to you sir.

Thanks for your reasoned & compassionate response!

Thank you for your words

Mr. Safi, You expressed so eloquently all that I have been feeling and thinking over the past few days. Thank you for being the conscience of our nation.

Possible solutions:

-Have a proactive policy to tackle racism and alienation in French society - diversity awareness in schools and work places, positive discrimination and mixed housing to prevent the development of 'ghetto' type situations

- Cease American / European appeasement of terror dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Quatar who terrorise their populations with the extremist laws that have the threat of death and torture hanging over their citizens for simply expressing their freedom of speech. They also funding extremists in the Middle East sush as those behind the Islamic State.

- Force Israel to abide by the rulings of the United Nations

- Commit to a programme of complete military withdrawal from the Middle East and a commitment to non-interventionist policies.

I meant to also say that this is a very erudite, intelligent analysis. Thanks for taking the time to think about the issue and sharing your thoughts

It is striking to see how many of these "solutions" are political ones. Ultimately,political actions have to be be taken.

So whether "Israel abides by the ruling of the UN" is a reason to attack French Jews who have no influence on Israel's actions. 100% of the attacks on French Jews has come from French Muslims. Muslim antisemitism is very real and has permeated Muslims countries. The antisemitism that Muslims have absorbed is classic Western Christian antisemitism. Moderate Muslims believe that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true. Forcing Israel to abide by the rulings of the UN which does not treat Israel fairly won't change that.

Absolutely EXCELLENT article! The BEST written, balanced and intelligently thought out and communicated piece that I have read in years.

Bottom Line: Everyone has to deal with humanity, and without a doubt they are the WORST PREDATOR on the face of the earth! I beg of humanity to put human intelligence to work and own your actions and choices!

This excellent article would be the foundation of a civilized discussion on how to live together as different races, religions, nationalities and ideologies. Rather than cower in fear for the future, why not create millions of groups exploring each other's beliefs and find ways to live together?
Muslim and Christian and Jewish and all other religions must find ways to articulate in an increasingly crowded world lest we destroy it for everyone. It has taken a couple of centuries for Black and White to live in an integrated society, but we proved it could be done at the deepest levels, so we need to shorten the time for finding ways for us to compromise and integrate our religious beliefs. I refuse to believe that it is impossible; I lived through the segregation times and now live in an integrated society. Never surrender to fear and never let the terrorists drive our lives! The love of God [by whatever name] simply must prevail. Let's begin by NOT retaliating against an entire religion.

I have no words
that is why I love
and care

Yes! Yes! Yes!
It is all lost in the analysis.
Love is lost in a deep well of words.

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, yes. Must always be enshrined in law. But not unlimited. For example, the Public Order Act in the UK creates a context that discourages words and actions that cause offense. We must protect our freedoms, but at the same time, in the interest of our desire for 'peace on earth, good will toward men', why not encourage a new form of political correctness that seeks to prevent gratuitous offense. We try to teach our children to voluntarily censor their words. Why not encourage voluntarily consideration by publishers of the possibility that it would be better for social cohesion to avoid certain kinds of words and images that are known to be likely to cause deep offense. It is not politically correct to use certain words against people of different skin colour. Why not cultivate a social norm that it is not politically correct to insult people's religion -- whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever. Let's encourage a social ethic of being kind to one another. While cherishing our freedom to choose to offend.

People who choose to separate themselves from others cannot practice tolerance as they do not accept the ways of others...Why would someone choose to wear demeaning clothing saying to the world" I am nothing" I hide my face because I live in a world where women are garbage. Is this an example of tolerance or sexist injustice???

As a woman who is Muslim, I've chosen not to wear a hijab, but I believe, as an American, that every Muslim woman has the right to wear a hijab. Before I converted, I felt sorry for the sisters that would wear a hijab--as I assumed someone made them wear these clothes--but when I met real Muslims, I realized that this is not the case--any ore than a Jewish man is forced to put on a skull cap. It simply was something erroneous I was taught. I now not only do not feel sorry for a Muslim woman who chooses to cover her hair,I find myself defending her right to wear what she chooses. The assumptions you make about Muslim women being "forced" are simply not correct. I was wrong about it too---so I point the blame at a 24x7 media, who does very little self-correcting and very little work on understanding the real issues Muslims face--which, ironically, is not the problem of being forced to wear the hijab, but the very real problem of being forced to take it off--as the law now says in France. Brave French people, who are NOT Muslim are defending those rights of Muslim women and I applaud them for helping people see the true issues and not the false ones that the media imagine that are the root of the problems.

Nice words but several errors. For example
"I also wonder what we do when the “freedom to offend” is not applied equally across the board, but targets again and again communities that are marginalized and ostracized."

Hebdo targeted everyone again and again including Presidents

Dear Mr. Safi,
Your analysis is beautifully nuanced and at the same time clear. Thank you so much. I did not know I needed your words until I finished your post.

It is tragically true that there is a deafening silence from the Muslim nations concerning the killings in Paris. But it is also true that this event occurred in an apparently Christian nation,much as 9/11, or 3/11 or the London bombings. It has only been the French Muslim community that has shown solidarity with the slain journalists. This is evidence of change, that there exist Muslims who understand and support the concepts of freedom of speech and a free press.

This can begin a conversation between the Muslim communities and their American and European host nations that supports democratic principles.
There is a common proverb in the United States that says,"you can say what your heart desires, this is a free country." That is a guarantee of free speech. But you cannot guarantee against the consequences of that speech. Freedom from consequences is NOT guaranteed, and therein lies all rub and risk.

No one likes to be offended, least of all a revered or honored person who represents the values of hundreds of millions of followers. Someone here said there are still red lines - boundaries or limits that should only be crossed in very grave circumstances. We do not see Muslims holding up Jesus or Moses to scorn or ridicule and understandably so. There is a vast world of difference between philosophic and cultural differences and the sea of images we are confronted with daily. We can discuss interminably how philosophies and ideologies differ between religions, but stark and offensive images cannot be recalled.Therein may lie the true 'freedom of the press' we have come to connect with freedom of speaking through writing.Ideas and concepts do not wound as hurtfully as actual images. We can understand the prohibition against images, especially human ones, in the Judaic-Islamic theologies.

Nicely put.
People have forgotten...not so long ago there was a terrorist movement called the IRA.
They killed a lot of people over many yrs, Irish versus Irish, all the same colour, both sides supposedly 'Christian' YET it was never imagined for a minute that ALL Irish people worldwide were brutal thugs to be feared.
It's just that it's easier to hate when the people involved are ethnic/look anything but Western.

Thanks for these moderating thoughts which acknowledge that human events actions are usually not so very back or white, nor easily labeled.

I hope that people will educate themselves, to learn, to forgive, not to hate.

Thank you, Omid! This is by far my favorite essay of yours. You've expanded my understanding of this tragedy by describing its multifaceted context while at the same time emphasizing its enormous human toll.

Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for so masterfully writing this.
Best,
Katherine Murphy
Former academic of Religious Studies, forever student and advocate for broadening our minds.

Your logic flows like de river in Egypt!

A well thought out essay, thank you!

Many thanks for this wisdom.
Freedom of speech yes, but one that includes respect, even in availing oneself of that freedom - in my view none of what happened was necessary.
Salaam.

At times like this, we need to go deep within. A reflection of these external atrocities by and against humankind, some louder others quieter. By stepping back to process these horrific news, one hopefully gain some equilibrium of these situations, not necessary needing to understand, or personalising all too much of our human emotions in the equation, but maintaining our own anchor and centredness in all these, with kindness and compassion.Thank you Professor Omid Safi for your poignant post.

This essay is beautifully written and speaks eloquently to the need to broaden our lens to see through the views of compassion,of truth, and of historical understanding. Too often we respond through the lens of prejudice and fail to recognize the stereotypes that we unwittingly support. There are indeed intragroup issues within every racial, ethnic, religious, and national group. We must not allow the actions of a few to paint a picture for the whole. To do so only perpetuates misunderstanding and prejudice. Thank you for sharing a balanced perspective that helps to shed light on this tragic situation and the compulsive response to center on a few as representative of a total group. I am frequently reminded of the phrase from the prayer that we need to "not so much seek to be understood but to understand."(St Francis)

if your prophet is your life, please help me understand why islam as a whole doesn't turn on the extremists. why do they harbor them? why do they allow them to preach and teach, recruit and fundraise in your mosques? why are they allowed to teach little boys to hate and kill right under your noses? 5 miles from my home in the united states, there is an extremist preacher from IS in the mosque. he is preaching and teaching hatred. he is recruiting and fundraising for IS. yet the leaders of that mosque made a public statement of condemnation for the shootings in paris. simultaneously the members of that mosque are being both things at once. I don't understand how they can. if they really want peace as they claim, why don't they show that preacher the door? peace is not achieved by allowing everyone's ears to be filled with hatred.

I don't know Mohammed to be forgiving. I know him as a caravan raider, thief, rapist and beheader of his captives. That doesn't sound divine. I know he called for a successful killing of the Poetess. I think there is so much personal violence committed by Mohammed that a certain percent of Muslims will always turn to the ways of the Prophet.

Beautifully written and BALANCED reflection on the recent tragedy in Paris. All non-violent revolutionaries (i.e., Jesus Christ, MLK, Mandela, Ghandi) embodied the same message-- conduct yourselves with integrity and compassion as you labor to change hearts and minds. The only true and sustainable way to get rid of your enemies is to convert them into friends.

Religion is not the problem. Whether Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.: none espouse killing or intolerance toward others. The hate & sickness within certain people is the problem. Religion is an excuse.

I don't know when you wrote this, but you didn't mention the four Jews who were murdered at a kosher supermarket. The Muslim world has been permeated by classic Western Christian antisemitism. Many moderate Muslims believe that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true, for example. Jews all over Europe are being threatened and harassed by Muslims.

There is also a large population of Jews from the former French colonies in Northern Africa in France. They are being attacked from all sides. I just bought a book by Maud Mandell called The History of Muslims and Jews in France, but I haven't started it yet.

I don't think that you can ignore Islam as a motivation. As a Jew, I don't discount Judaism as a motivation for Jewish terrorism or Christianity as a motive for Christian terrorism or Buddhism as a motivation for Buddhist terrorism. There is a dark side to every religion.

I think that if you look deep enough into "what it means human" (in Bernard Malamud's memorable phrase), you'll find a longing, a craving, a need for protection.

We are mortal and exquisitely conscious of it, of our limited opportunity on this Earth, of our inescapable end, of our unestablished meaning, of our questionable worth. The mixture of mortality and such consciousness is a heady combination, unique among living things, and it sets us on many different paths seeking what the religious often refer to as "salvation." But whether we seek such salvation, such protection, from a frankly religious conception of the cosmos and our place in it, from philosophical contemplation, scientific inquiry, or through aspiration to heroism(including both patriotism and religious martyrdom), or through romantic conquest, or indeed through the distractions of acquisition, entertainment, and submersion in consumer culture--what stands out to me is that we're all trying rather desperately to address the same crying need, all in the same boat on a barely navigable sea.

Our choices of path, or how to paddle, range widely from the benign to the malignant, constructive to destructive, and are subject to moral judgment as "good" and "evil." These choices are informed by a host of factors, ranging from the genetic to the cultural and socio-economic, to the familial, intimate, and deeply personal. But, all these circumstances notwithstanding, as conscious mortals we are each doing the dive of life in the most difficult possible degree of difficulty--some variant of four somersaults with three and a half twists in pike position, with the only guarantee being that we will hit the water.

How many of us feel intrinsically protected? How many of us feel the grace to be born, see the world, and die without having to prove anything? How many of us don't experience a terrible existential pressure to prove our worth, vindicate our existence? So much of human behavior is driven by this need and, while we may rightly judge that behavior, we are obliged as well to acknowledge and seek to understand the need. It binds us together.

We may ask what is the point of any religion, philosophy, contemplation, exploration that doesn't ultimately bring us to this place of mutual recognition of and compassion for what it means human?

Excellent piece of writing and needs to be read by as many people as possible.

Thank you,valuable reflections. We must all "fight" for our values. Through discussions and writings, not arms. Easy access to arms is a major problem.

Each one has a right to a peaceful "civilization", in their manner. But those who do not allow such, should be " bombed" with information and protests. Most likely ISIS, al-Quaeda, Al-Shabab and Talibans, all who declare themselves Muslim, can be better handled, influenced by Muslims. My duty is to try to influence persons like BehringBreivik and other racists here. We all have a duty as humans to work for our ideals in our closest surroundings.

Thank you for your thoughtful and humane reflection on the recent Paris attack. It is easy for many to simply react from the gut and to view this attack as s imply one more expression of hatred for the West. If we can transcend these gut reactions and engage our full range of compassion and connection, perhaps we will reach those whose lives have become so dominated by violence and hatred that they only know the world through violence. I believe that many of these terrorists have not known the power of human connection, compassion, and love that comprises democracy in which all are valued. However, we live in a world of laws which are designed to right wrongs, and that is the course we must now follow. We will attempt to right this wrong, and our response will most likely be viewed as one more act of Western domination which will result in more violence. Thus, the great divide between human behavior and the ideals that inspire us continues to widen. In today's world, it seems that the everyday reality of human behavior is ahead.

Agree wholeheartedly.

"Imagine" ...John Lennon

Well written. Agree wholeheartedly.

This was a wonderfully written guide to understanding these afoul events.
However...
I learned that historically, Muhammed came to power through waging holy wars. Isn't it this example that motivates some young Muslims?

Thank you for this thoughtful commentary. I am moved by your description of your relationship with Mohammed. Several comments: 1) Juan Cole elaborated his statement that the massacre was likely intended to elicit a French backlash by explaining that such a backlash would facilitate recruitment to al Quaeda.

2) You claim in point #2 that we do not know the political motivations of the "shooters." The police had a phone conversation with the terrorists - from The Guardian: "In an interview before he was killed, Cherif Kouachi claimed that he was sent by al-Qaida in Yemen, as a defender of the prophet. He said he and his brother had been funded in this by Anwar al-Awlaki.http://www.reuters.com/video/2015/01/10/charlie-hebdo-gunman-says-funded-by-al-q?videoId=361728389 In a separate interview, Coulibaly said that his attack had been ‘synchronized’ with the Kouachis’ Charlie Hebdo attack. Coulibaly claimed a link to ISIS.

I understand the concern about anti-Muslim sentiment, however, it seems to me disingenuous to call the terrorist/assassins "the shooters," - their actions were intended to foment terror - and they had clear links to jihadists.

Yes, let's respond to hate with love.

Thoughtful and interesting write-up. Thank you.

What a worthwhile article.

Let us all agree on this: terrorism is bad. However, I believe that terrorism is not restricted to guns only. As terrorism is multifaceted and could be soft and hard, and scales up to taking lives. However, intimidating people and making fun of them making people uncomfortable is also some sort of terror and could escalate to severe terror!

Again, in order to avoid future sad incidents like the one had, it is imperative to avoid antagonising people. The satirist work of blasphemy against an icon like prophet Mohammad is bad, distasteful and unnecessary to say the least.

Please do not resort to the freedom of speech, as if you have to apply it then apply for all without discrimination against any individuals or groups. The question: can anyone in free France dare to make a bad comment against the holocaust?!,

I wonder why we're not seeing signs in Paris, after the coordinated Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo publication and a Jewish grocery, that read "Je Suis Juif" (I am Jewish), along with the ubiquitous "Je Suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) signs?

I think the treatment of many Muslims worldwide has created conditions that make extremism appealing. If our world was more equal and the greedy would share their wealth around so no one goes without we would likely give individuals confidence to integrate and be happy. Unlikely tho' I think because there are a lot of very greedy people out there who will never be willing to share to help others.

Murdering someone because you do not approve of their opinions is unacceptable.If they did not like what the cartoonist published perhaps they should have use the justice system to sue. This is a much more peaceful way to settle problems in modern society.

Thank you for effort and thoughtfulness it took to write this. I agree with every word you wrote.

A very thoughtful and revealing post. I only wish more Americans would think like the Norwegian PM.

I can't agree more! This is a beautifully written article. While we condemn violence for whatever reason, we cannot condone vile and pornographic images of any profit just because we do not agree or like the religion they established. To practice sensitivity and tolerance and not insult people is always a good rule of thumb and good manners. Ridicule of religion, ethnicity, nationality or race is always a no no! People who do not mind dishing out would definitely get upset and insulted if the tables were turned around. Freedom of expression has its limits; there is such a thing called "the fighting words".

I found this piece a thoughtful reflection on an utterly horrific situation. A depressing number of our comments here seem not to have heard what the author has said. Emotions run too high for that. Too much loss, grief, and the bitter rage that so easily overwhelms any thought of the larger contexts within which oppression and terrorism take place. I cannot bring myself to view this as being about religion. What cries out in my ears are suffering, ignorance, and desperation, and the brutality that ignorance and anguish engender. May we all seek justice with compassion and an end to violence and oppression--everywhere, for everyone. My heart goes out to all of the victims and their loved ones. And I pray for insight and compassionate action in the world.

To portray this episode as the struggle of satire vs. Islam misses the fact that Muslims themselves have a proud legacy of political satire. In places like Iran, Turkey, and Egypt there are many journalists and satirists languishing in prisons because they have dared to speak the truth — often against autocratic and dictatorial rulers.
================
I think that's pretty much the problem right there, isn't it?

"Let me put objectivity and pretense towards scholarly distance aside. The Prophet is my life. In my heart, Muhammad’s very being is the embodied light of God in this world, and my hope for intercession in the next."

The prophet is not the problem... it is your religion... or in fact any organized religion. Roman Catholic, Protestant Christian, Buddist, etc... so many rules that members of religions use to judge, qualify and kill non believers.All in the name... the name of all that is holy. Religions spout the finest words yet bring out villainy in their pious members.

Today we were moved by the collective positive energy of 4 million people rallying in support of their much cherished national values. Today the French have become a beacon to the free world. May this be the "Tipping Point" that so many have been waiting for

My hope is that intelligent discourse such as this rises to the surface of the worldwide response to these heinous acts. I see a bumper sticker often that says "coexist" using symbols of the three faith traditions who pray to the same God.Now more than ever, I hope people abide by this advice...

Thank you for your brilliant expression of wisdom. May we all learn tolerance, acceptance and love from this tragic event.

I appreciate the overall tone of Professor Safi's piece, but I don't agree with a number of his points which read as an attempt to white-wash or "tone down" the motivations behind the elaborately planned attack and murders in Paris and to subtly deflect "blame" in a different direction (back at Western society, both past and present). In reading those portions of the piece, I was reminded of one of the West Side Story laments: "Officer Krupke, it's just my bringing upke." As a graduate of the university at which Professor Safi serves as Director of its Islamic Studies Center, I hold him in high regard. However, I hope in this instance other members of the Center do not necessarily engage in the same sort of blame game deflection.

I very much agree with you, thank you for sharing. Below my text.

On the Paris Attacks: Hoping for the triumph of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité“ – No More Violence

by WS

I am horrified by the Paris attacks, I find all killing in general such a primitive reaction. However, the reactions on social and traditional media compelled me to write. What is France going to do? What are we going to do?

If as Le Monde puts it, this is France’s 9-11, will die-hards within France now start hashing plans a la Bush-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld-Cheney to invade Yemen?

That strategy has not seemed to work for the US in Afghanistan or Iraq. I was also reminded of a similar French episode when I watched for a second time “The Battle of Algiers” by Gillo Pontecorvo. The film is a docu-drama on the period pre-Algerian independence between 1954-1957. In the film, there are “terrorists” whom after 130 yrs of French colonization blow-up cafes, stores and even a night club frequented by women, men and children with bombs planted by young women. When one of the leaders of the “terrorists”, Larbi Ben M’hidi, is taken prisoner by the French paratroopers and asked during a press conference: “Isn’t it cowardly to use your women’s baskets to carry bombs which have taken so many innocent lives?” He replies: “And you, isn’t even more cowardly for you to attack defenseless villages with napalm bombs that kill many thousands of times more? Obviously, planes would make things easier for us. Give us your bombers sir, and you can have our baskets.”

I remember 9-11 and the reaction of a nation to the event. Army enrollment went up and there was a patriotic enthusiasm to “go fight” the war. The terrorist act in the Twin Towers mobilized and “patriotized” individuals. Do we not think then that every time the West utilizes a drone and kills people out in some Muslim country we are creating many other soldiers to go fight in the name of Islam for the Caliph? Why would these people’s reaction be any different? If we think it is different, then we should watch the August Vice News video on ISIS and the indoctrination of the young children and begin thinking otherwise.

I saw the video of Amedi Coulibaly this Sunday on YouTube at the same time I followed the procession in Paris on-line. Once again, what this guy and the Kouachi brothers did has no forgiveness, yet one must watch the video. I saw certain media outlets summarize it as Coulibaly “ranting against the West”. It could well be, but if we reduce it to so, then we must describe what comes out of many Fox news journalists daily as “ranting against everyone” – and we don’t.

Back to the video. What interested me is that it brings about many of the same complaints /rationale as say the young Tsarnaev now on trial for the Boston bombing. In the case of Tsarnaev the words were: “Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that… I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all…. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.” Yet we can ignore him and say he is "ranting" since he is “demented” – a radical. Yet it is such a similar attitude of a certain President: “Let me be clear. Our first line of defense is a simple message: Every group or nation must know, if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating… In the defense of our nation, a president must be a clear-eyed realist. There are limits to the smiles and scowls of diplomacy. Armies and missiles are not stopped by stiff notes of condemnation. They are held in check by strength and purpose and the promise of swift punishment”. We should listen to him because he is sane, he is not "ranting". Right.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Einstein and I don’t see why it should not apply here. Whatever the French response should be, I hope it is not more war and violence. German journalist, Jurgen Todenhofer in his 25/12 interview for Al-Jazeera seems to agree.

Our current policies are helping (I am not saying they are the single cause) entrench a group of people’s ideology into something more radical. I do not believe the Muslim majority wants this radicalism amongst their midst, it is up to them however to figure it out.

I don’t have an answer I confess. However I am praying this is not France’s 9-11. I hope that “Liberté, égalité, fraternité“ triumphs this one time and France shows the rest of the world what it is to be the mature country that allowed Charlie’s Hebdo to express itself and gives us all a different solution.

Dear Omid,

I would like to share with you two news that I received in the same day of the tragedy:

-A meaningful Thank You from a High School in Herat:

-And a meaningful update from another Highschool, always in Herat, Afghanistan:

I hope you will take the time to report the good news from the 55,000 girls we work with you.
Feel free to address any question you might have.

Regards
Francesco Rulli

10) Inquiry into Ideology

Beautiful. Thank you Mr. Safi.
What is the opposite of 'more democracy, more openness, more humanity'? What is the consciousness of those who do not embrace the full humanity of all of humanity? It is a form of tribalism along with an anti-rationalism. We have to inquire into this consciousness.
Despite important differences, radical Islamist and Nazis ideologies share elements of egoic tribalism combined with an anti-rationalism that make both distinctively anti-Western. With radical Islamists, instead of a racially linked nationalism, a religiously based community / tribalism informs their vision.

For the similarities and differences between these ideologies read 'The War Against the West' 1938, by Aurel Kolnai, pages 1-60; see especially the section 'Tribal Egotism Versus Humanity and Objective Standards', p. 29 :

Kolnai quotes and then writes:

"In the eventful spring of 1933 General Hermann Georing (minister of the Empire of Prussia) in reply to certain reproaches declared: "As for me, I am subjective, I commit myself to my people and acknowledge nothing else on earth. I thank my Maker for having created me without what they call a 'sense of objectivity' ".

It would be difficult to express the essence of national Socialism more succinctly. The nation as the ultimate standard of its own conduct – or, to put it in still more fundamental terms, the absolute subjectivity and sovereignty of the closed social group – is indeed the moral character of the new Germany. The nation (in this pretentious and comprehensive sense) owes no allegiance whatever to humanity as a higher unit or to humanity as the embodiment of generally applicable laws and conventions. It constitutes a world apart, responsible to no human tribunal outside its boundaries and, as another aspect of the same idea, it towers above all human rights within them. For the negation of humanity and negation of the rights of man are mutual implications. Humanity is not merely a larger nation or state made up of states, it is the community of all who are endowed with a human soul, and transcends the limits of any closed and organized collective body; on the other hand the rights and freedom of men in any such collective group in a relation to its rulers by no means pertain simply to any "part" without any "whole" but depend on the fact a man in some way represents humanity itself as opposed to the organize social body, which always fails fully to comprehend the spiritual substance of its members. Now Nationalism, in this strained form of all-pervasiveness, maintains that the closed collective body, as a clearly defined unit of mind, will and power, is the ultimate reality in human life, all other things being fictions, false prejudices or the expression of base material interests. According to this conception, the executive of the national will does not act on the half of "the citizens", nor need it conform to the rules generally observed by men in their dealings with one another. The reader should realize that this attitude extends far beyond mere patriotism or even jingoism, and equally far beyond mere dictatorship or state omnipotence in the technical sense. Individual rights are not encroached upon, they are deprived of meaning; the access to humanity is not obstructed, it is entirely cut off; humanitarian standards are not violated or disregarded, they are denied outright. Once the particular group has superseded humanity, then q individual, far from having merely to submit to stern governmental discipline, is philosophically consider and politically bound to live under the absolute domination of his own particular group over his wishes, mentality and habits. It is no longer a question of state reason, but of reason engulfed in the state; violence is no longer means, it is the natural expression of the spirit underlying the new structure of the state; the voice of the ruler does not nearly drowned the voice of the individual soul, it entirely assimilates it. ...
I merely wish to point out that the Nazi attitude, when contrasted with more civilized and complex societies, is somehow strikingly reminiscent of certain fundamental features of such tribes, and that the mental revolution accompanying National Socialism reveals, in its conception of the ultimate problems of the value of man and his subjection to power, a mysterious reversion to prototypes of that kind. No further comparison between Nazi Germany and "uncivilized" societies is intended. Nor should the primitivist ideology of Nazi Germany, in so far as it exists at all, be considered willful evil or stark madness."

Sogood to have well consideredinformation put out. As a Christian I am hurt when Jesus is defamed or His name is abused but I think Jesusdoes not need my defence. I believe He would rather I reflect His way, His love and compassionfor people in my life.This is powerful. Let us all reflect what is good and right.

Thank you for this thoughtful and wise response to the unspeakable happenings in Paris. May love and hope grow from the ashes to flower with the fruits of love.

Masked gunmen burst into the Paris officers of Charlie Hebdo killing journalists

Surely the world should condemn this violence,

But apparently the victims had provoked the attack.

Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere insulting of religious figures.

For example, the same journalists had shown nuns masturbating and Popes wearing condoms.

They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses.

What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed.

What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years.
On this aspect, He is in total agreement with the Muslims

Donohue suggests that editor Stephane Charbonnier was murdered because of his own ego and arrogance

Catholic League President Bill Donohoe feels that Muhammad may not be sacred to him but it would never occur to him to deliberately insult Muslims by mocking him using filth

What you say may explain SOME of the reasons these terrorists act as they do. It does not, cannot, in ANY way, justify it..

I wish all thinking and caring people would read this intelligent reply to the damage done in France. I agree with the focus on the dignity of human beings and the dignity in the treatment of others!

I have a question: Do all Muslims believe that Islam means "Submission" and if so, does that mean that all Muslims--if they are true Muslims--expect the rest of the world will eventually submit to Sharia Law?

Brilliant Omi. Personally I hope it will be widely read and heeded, not only in the former colonizer states, but in the Muslim homelands where there is little or no freedom of expression, of choice or speech; where people of other 'faiths', women and gays are so badly treated... may your 9 points go some way to help those tyrannical states ponder - love is the way. Namaste. David

Well balanced provides plenty of food for thought.

Moving explanation/interpretation of Paris shootings

At issue here is the concern that the Muslim community has not taken up arms against its own Islamist radicals.
This articles explains an interpretation by on individual with a liberal bent; but this man is in the minority.
It is the 'moderate' who will still defend the actual words in the Koran and the Hadiths. Some say that anything in the Koran and the Bible can be 'cherry-picked' to justify any and all points of view, including justifying the extremists actions. The 'moderates' cannot police their own radicals for this reason.
Somehow, it is the responsibility of the liberal Muslims to start naming and shaming, and to start to enforce the concept that the modern laws in an equitable democracy have the highest precedence in our society, not religious dogma.
The analysis by the writer is all well and good but will not effect any change in the status quo until respect for the laws of the land is firmly established in the minds of the 'moderates' first.

Thank you for the article link. I must admit the place where I struggle the most is with understanding whether moderate and liberal Muslims also want an Islamic State and universal submission to the Quran or whether they don't care about that, attributing that desire strictly to the extremist element. I think the world needs to be educated as to what Muslims--all Muslims--actually believe/advocate. Some say peace. Some say jihad. I don't know who the real Muslims are. I can tell people what all genuine Christians believe, what the Bible says about how the Gospel spreads, the concept of grace, and how the timelines of faith and death interact.

All with grace and kindness.

Thank you for alerting me to this post. I have a renewed hope and a new appreciation for the human spirit. Amen!

Thank you for this. Powerful and thought provoking. Let this always be about the humans. All humans. As Lina says, "let's respond to hate with love..."

I was trying to put similar thoughts together, but this writer has a much deeper insight into the situation than I do - a non-muslim living a life of comfort in Canada.
Yes Freedom of Speech is to be cherished, but so is respect and consideration.
It is a fine line between brilliant satire and hate speech. Much of Charlie Hebdo is quite hateful and cruel. We in the Western world with our huge egos are so quick to express our opinion. Perhaps we could learn something from other cultures where expressions of opinion are measured with respect. The shootings were hateful acts that arose out of the hateful foment of satire.
Yes.... we need more expressions of love and thoughtful reflection and less hate.
Perhaps there is a grain of wisdom in our mothers reminder "if you don't have something positive to say, don't say anything at all"

These are good words and give a much broader context to processing this tragedy than certainly I had given it.
Thank you. As one who sees in Jesus the pattern of how life is to be lived, I find your essay compelling!

Jihadis are violent individuals who should therefore be separated from open, free society. The fact that they embrace certain forms of 'Islamic' belief might be taken into account in special prisons. Can at least some of them be released from their violent ideology? Those who continue to be a danger to others might have to be kept behind bars for the rest of their natural lives. In the USA, we should probably create new federal laws against violent behavior motivated by known Jihadist beliefs. And we might create special prisons in the hope of rehabilitating some individuals: .

Thank you Omid Safi for what is perhaps the most profound meditation that I have read on what occurred in Paris. I am deeply sympathetic to the situation of disaffected French Muslims caught in the context of a xenophobic France. You elucidated their plight most eloquently. However, I think you misinterpreted John Kerry's reference to "civilization itself" vs "civilizations". We cannot take an equivocating intellectuaized position on genocide occurring in the Middle East under ISIS or in Africa under Islamic extremists. The "civilization itself" to which John Kerry refers most absolutely embraces peace-loving Muslims as well as the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Islam. Muslims are most definitely included in the "us" of the civilized world. Even the Kouachi brothers who as native speakers spoke French fluently had the potential to contribute in their way to French civilization if only France could find a way to welcome and empower their Muslim communities

Thank you - I agree with everything you have written so eloquently - particularly point 7 (context is not an apology) and 8 (Muhammad's honor - he is beyond the need for revenge).
I also agree with some of the comments that we Muslims need reform!

I thank you for articulating an experience that myself, as an American, welcome hearing about. More and more as time goes on I am thankful that those of the Muslim face are finding a way to express to "westerners" the unique perspective that the long tradition of scholarly thought blended with an arm's length view of "western ideals" can inform. Not only how thoughtful non-westerners view us but also a more nuanced view of who we are and how our collective actions affect others. We need to understand that nuance and understanding has often given way to something else, in the name of "free speech." Our American founding fathers NEVER intended the concept of free speech to be compulsive verbal and conceptual offensiveness, as John Stewart sometimes is, particularly when he makes sexual jokes about actual human persons. It was intended to elevate the dialogue as, paradoxically, satirists like John Stewart often do. I often hear the concept of free speech addressed as an absolute right and need to offend, in order to protect it's nature. My irritation is that free speech doesn't need to be "tested" via lewdness and crudity in order to be preserved. That is an artifice that creates a lot of low level behavior that has no real justification and drags down and numbs our collective sensibilities.Nor was it ever intended to be a justification to demean the "other"as it is so often used.I also appreciate the point that satire is not the exclusive territory of western intelligence, but one tool of humanity has used over the ages use to help make sense of things. I am well aware that my viewpoint may be interpreted as repressive of free speech. In my mind that illustrates my point of how little understood the concept is by Americans who believe they are champions of it. On the other hand, free speech is supposed to protect dissension and political discourse that doesn't fit with the status quo, and the status quo is a moving object and envelopes artists and filmmakers as well as the FBI and the Chamber of Commerce.Bottom line, in America you won't be jailed for an offensive cartoon, but you might be economically or otherwise harmed for a disagreement with those in power(blacklisting is one of the clearest examples of this, and all you have to do is read "The Burglary" by Washington Post's Betty Medsger to have examples of this) . How do we keep that from happening? By elevated discourse, vigilance and and thoughtful action. Then America could really shine and join with the rest of the world in living up to its ideals.

Very lovely. Thank you for writing this.

Excellent piece. Was feeling I was the only one with a few qualms....

I loved this article but was disappointed that he neglected to mention the deaths at the JEWISH SUPERMARKET. I am hoping this was a literary decision to keep the focus on freedom of speech. I have heard from friends living in France that antisematism is common in France and their history during WWII shows the same. There were few signs that said Je suis (Jewish ).

This says it all. By far the best, most considered, most compassionate and understanding piece I have seen. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

All religions are false and counter to reason. Some are worse than others, and some cater to the extremist thoughts of weak-minded losers. Seacrest out.

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