What to say in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre?
A slogan floats–‘Je suis Charlie’–‘I am Charlie’–as a gesture of solidarity.
As a Muslim it doesn’t feel enough–one is expected to also disclaim, disavow, denounce.
“Je ne suis pas la violence”. “Je ne suis pas la terreur”.
I am not violence. I am not terror.
I used to feel uneasy about making such pronouncements, because surely anyone who is sensible enough can distinguish between the extremist sociopaths of a particular religion and all its other peaceful and law-abiding adherents. This time I’m too shocked, nauseated and anguished to even feel defensive. How dare we demand that others behave sensibly when something so senseless has been committed in the name of the religion?
Because of these fuckers, I find myself feeling interrogated at immigration counters due to the ‘Bin’ in my name. Because of these pigs, I feel safer passing off as a clean-shaven ambiguous Southeast Asian while traveling in a European country. Because of these balaclava-ed sub-animals with shit for brains, the phrase ‘Allahu Akbar’ has become, in the popular imagination, more an obscene war-cry than an invocation of the sublime. (As if it has parted company with the serenity of ‘amituofo’, the cosmic vibration of ‘om’, the joy of ‘hallelujah’…)
Some might argue that the staff at Charlie Hebdo had it coming for dabbling in what Muslims see as blasphemy. And Islam has a long tradition of aniconism, where visual depictions of the Prophet are forbidden. To me though, it is an impossible task to police every single visual portrayal; crass, vulgar, insulting or otherwise. So when I see the cartoons on Charlie Hebdo or Jyllands-Posten or Jack Chick’s tracts, what I see is a likeness of a man in a beard and turban–but it is not the Prophet (even if it is captioned such), because he resists representation. Or is there too much semiotic gymnastics involved in such an approach?
There is a Malay saying–‘because of a single drop of indigo, the whole pot of milk is spoiled’. And I am afraid that the acts of a group of midnight-black gunmen has dragged us Muslims into their dusk. Islamophobes are now gleefully fondling their shiny new ammunition. Wind is puffing the sails of right-wing parties. There will be backlash. I really do not know what people are thinking when they say they are avenging God. This idea that God would need his puny creations to settle scores for Him–I find this to be a mockery of God and such arrogant blasphemy.