Je Suis Charlie

For the most part, I tend to avoid politics and other such trends in my comics and websites. Political humor requires teeth I don't like to bare, and to be honest I'd rather be the cartoonist with the silly jokes and solid writing than the cartoonist that's constantly trying to rally the masses, so to speak.

I'm going to break away from that tradition for a brief moment; I cannot avoid saying something about the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters.

On January 7th, 2015 two armed men entered the Charlie Hebdo headquarters and murdered 12 people. Several more were shot and wounded, but at the time of this posting they are still alive. The gunmen targeted Charlie Hebdo after the magazine published a satirical cartoon about Abu al-Bakr Baghdadi, the jackass in charge of ISIS or Islamic State or whatever the hell they call themselves these days. They were heard shouting various slogans such as "Praise be to Allah" in Arabic as they ran. This has been classified as a terrorist attack.

Here's what gets to me about this whole incident: The people they killed were writers and cartoonists. These people saw the world through their own (admittedly unique) lens and sought to initiate discussions and ideas through their work. Charlie Hebdo has long been considered one of the more extreme satirical publications out there, often being considered as "crossing the line" in many of their publications. While many of the things they did were considered over-the-top, and sometimes even offensive, at the end of the day Charlie Hebdo was cracking one big joke at our messed-up world, and they were using pen and paper as their medium. They were not a hate group or even a hateful organization.

They never killed anyone. No one was ever known to have killed in the name of Charlie Hebdo.

And yet these people were murdered for their ideas.

The idea that there are people out there willing to kill you for expressing an idea just sickens me. There are plenty of schools of thought I find reprehensible and condemn, but I would never kill anyone for expressing a thought no matter how distasteful I considered it. We don't learn and grow as a society if we take that stance. And oh yeah, free speech. Don't forget that whole First Ammendment thingie.

At what point do people sit there and say "This person expressed an idea we don't like; they DREW A PICTURE WE DON'T LIKE, LET'S GO KILL THEM." How does this happen? How do you attain that purported moral high ground, stand on it, and then act on those impulses without a second thought? Without remorse?

I keep reading in the news one of the biggest problems facing the Muslim community today is feeling a lack of belonging in Western society. Many Muslims are said to feel the Muslim community simply hasn't found its place in the West just yet; it's in a sort of flux where they are trying to establish a sense of belonging, a niche. Without this niche the youth fall prey to these so-called Jihadists, these psychopaths that would dare warp and pervert the religion of Islam into an excuse to kill indiscriminately. These youth are being tricked into believing these horrible groups can offer them a purpose and a place in this world. I repeatedly read of Muslim clerics and imams discussing how to redirect the energy of their young men; how to bring them back to the true path of Islam that teaches peace, forgiveness, tolerance... all the things that are absent in these horrid groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, Hamas. It is being treated as a "Muslim problem."

This is just me, but I see the problem a bit differently. I don't think it's a "Muslim problem," I think it's more of a "Western problem."

Think about it.

We, The West, like to see ourselves as the pinnacle of humanity. We pride ourself in our values such as democracy, free speech, and inclusivity. We puff out our chests and brag about our accomplishments while joining together and laughing at the countries who don't do things our way. Hey, I'm not saying I think it's okay for a government to suppress its people... but I feel very strongly it's up to the people of that country to stand up and do something if they don't like it, not for us here in the West to point fingers and offer them life lessons and McDonalds in the hopes they'll change.

So if we here in the West are really so civilized, so much better than everyone else, WHY HAVE WE SO FAR BEEN UNABLE TO WELCOME THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY INTO OUR CULTURE? Why? If we're really so smart and so philanthropic, why haven't we managed to integrate a community that lives peacefully among us into our everyday lives? Why do we continue to hold them at arm's length and hope they fix this whole Jihad problem thingie they seem to have going on? The overwhelming majority of non-Muslims in the West don't understand the religion, have had little to no contact with it, and yet still see fit to cast down judgements and allow a select few groups of idiots with guns to steer our perception of one of the world's largest religions. These idiots can't educate us on the religion of Islam. Heck, for all their recitations of the Koran and all their praises to Allah it couldn't be more clear these psychos stand for blood and ashes, not religion. They have no desire to better anyone's lives save their own, but because they have bigger guns and kill more people we pay more attention to them.

Alright, we want to be safe, sure. But why do we stop at these people, why does no one in the West seem interested in looking past the guns and seeing this huge problem at our doorstep? Why are so many of us content to let talk show airheads (I'm looking at you, Fox News) offer us warped explanations of the religion of Islam and feed us incomplete or downright false information about the Muslim community? Is it that we don't care, or we forgot how to think for ourselves? Or both?

I think The West as a whole-- not just America but all of Europe, all the countries that like to sit there and say they are part of the magnificent West-- I think we all need to stand up and look at ourselves. I think we need to look at the way we treat the Muslims in our communities, in our neighborhoods and ask ourselves if we really need to act the way we do. Here in America at least the words "Muslim" and "Islam" are often considered controversial in and of themselves, and this is a commonly accepted thing for us. No one seems bothered by it.

And that bothers me.

If the West, the Magnificent, Untouchable, Better-Than-Thou West is in any way serious about tackling the problem of Islamist Extremism, we need to start by welcoming our peaceful Muslim brothers and sisters with open arms. We need to make clear they are just as much a part of our community as we are, not some strange fringe group we don't understand. Our media needs to start changing the way they report these atrocities; instead of sensational by-lines to accompany our morning breakfast, the media needs to start a campaign of education so that when the sheep grateful not to have to think for themselves follow blindly what is being said on TV, they start to hear something worthwhile, something that will make a lasting change and not temporarily spike the show's ratings. We need to take responsibility for a problem we are very much a part of, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

Because nothing is going to change if we continue to sit back and hope it fixes itself.

*hops off soap box and goes back to drawing silly pictures*