The Attack on Paris (RELS 348)

Olivia Ward, in The Star magazine, reports that the attack on Paris exposes the old colonial wounds. The writer further states that savage attack on French satirical magazine has already sparkled another bitter debate: on religious sensitivity and freedom of speech.

The brutal killings of the editor, cartoonists and other staff of the irreverent satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, along with two policemen, by terrorists in Paris was in my view a strategic strike, aiming at polarizing the French and European public. Most French citizens and other western countries strongly believe that Islam and possibly Al-Qaida propelled this act, as they believe that the name of their most respected elite in the person of prophet Mohammed was been ridiculed in the newspaper

Considering that relations between France and Islam were strongest in North Africa, where France established an empire snatched from Ottoman vassal and claimed Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in the early twentieth century. The writer of this article is of the view that the attack on Paris might be revenge from the above-mentioned countries in retaliation to the ill treatment they received from them during the colonial era. He believes that the French needs to come to terms with their colonial past.

In this blog, I personally disagree with the writer’s view because I am of the opinion that most Muslims are not interested in terrorism neither are they interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. Many Muslim immigrants in the postwar period to France came as labourers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such acquiring western education, excelling in sports and succeeding in other profitable activities that he will help enhance their standard of living.

Even though Western Muslims remain excluded from national dialogues regarding the question of social cohesion, the historical continuity of racial discrimination, coupled with a ramped up pursuit of strategic objectives across a number of Muslim countries during the last two decades have seen to it that an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility has permeated the public sphere in the US and revived the legacy of intolerance in Europe. This notion of the “West and the rest” prompted Edward Said to argue a lot in his book on orientalism. (Irwin 2006, p. 300) asserted that Orientalism fostered a plethora of narratives of oppression, and its argument fed into subaltern studies.

Therefore, in order to understand and counteract the violent behaviour of extremists, these tragic events should be examined in light of this context, rather than through the lens of free speech. By contrast, the abhorrent violence by some Muslims is a recent phenomenon, and one that must be confronted by addressing the failure of western liberalism to live up to its stated ideals, not by reflexively continuing to sing its praises.



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