In light of recent events in Paris, namely the mass murder of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, I have decided to write down my 2 cents.
For those of you that have been living in a small hut deep in the boreal forests of Yukon for the past little while, here is what happened: Three masked gunmen showed up at the office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication in Paris, resulting in the deaths of 20 people, with 21 more injured. Most of the victims were cartoonists who drew some pictures of Muhammad. This has sparked, yet again, a great debate about freedom of expression and Islam’s threat to western democracies, while at the same time, on the other side of the fence, sparking a debate about people instigating these shootings by unnecessarily irritating Muslims with these anti-islamic publications.
Myself often being a target of (petty and insignificant) verbal abuse for my unpopular views about religion and various irrelevant Bronze Age gods, I feel like freedom of expression is a subject dear to me. Never mind the content of my videos, some of it has been labelled as shit, and some of it indeed IS shit, but the point remains: I am entitled to have whatever opinion I want to have, and as long as I have access to this great medium called “The Internet” I’ll use it to spread my opinions, and it is my wholehearted belief that people who do not like my rants and bullshit can simply switch off and not watch/listen to my crap.
Well, apparently this is not the case for hundreds of thousands, or millions, or hundreds of millions of Muslims… Islam has a strong tradition of aniconism (the practice of or belief in avoiding or shunning images of divine beings, prophets, or other respected figures), and it is a particular offence to make a picture of Muhammad. No one, NO ONE is allowed to break this rule. It’s in the Qur’an. But that’s not all… Prophet Muhammad is so precious that religious proscriptions around him apparently spill outside of the Muslim world. Thus, never mind if you are not Muslim, you are apparently still not allowed to draw Allah or Muhammad, never mind who you are, where do you live, and whether or not you share this socially acceptable schizophrenia called Islam!
I have a massive problem with this. It essentially is same as “you cannot eat ice cream because people somewhere else are on a diet”. This is bullshit! Imagine what the world would look like if Hindus decided that their rule against consumption of beef had to be enforced globally, and offenders would get shot… Hey, how about Jews? No more bacon! Catholics? Imagine people around the world not being allowed to work on Sundays, because someone’s bronze-age god declared them rest days…
How about this: It’s YOUR religion, so YOU follow the proscriptions, but leave everyone else alone! You religion is YOUR problem, not mine.
This is not the first time there has been a general freakout about offending the Prophet and his followers delicate sensibilities. In 2005 Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten published some cartoons of “Moe” which immediately caused several Muslim organizations to demand that the Danish government intervene and shut down the publication. Naturally, Denmark being a democracy, and for free speech, the government declined to get involved, which immediately resulted in rioting in the Middle East and a barrage of threats against the newspaper specifically and westerners generally. Embassies, consulates, and churches were burned, 200 people killed, hundreds of unnecessary apologies issued by uninvolved bleeding hearts, and lessons learned. But not really… I feel very strongly about the fact that it is not for the West to learn any lessons here and change their ways, it is actually time for the Muslims to learn that their Bronze Age derived religion is a outdated vestige of a barbaric and embarrassing time in human history and we better get rid of this shit especially if we are to share this planet with the 7 billion people living on it in 2015.
Why do these people freak out so much about these stupid pictures? Why are they ready to kill for their god? Why do we, citizens of western countries like US, UK, Australia, Canada, and many others refrain from stabbing our neighbours for making fun of Santa Claus or Queen Elizabeth? The answer is already there, and has been for a long time: We don’t give a shit, they do.
Religion and tradition has a tremendous hold on these people’s lives, it permeates every aspect of it, and one does not simply decide to stop caring. We live in a privileged part of the world where religion is largely cast aside and only of importance only to a small number of increasingly deranged folk. This is not the case in islamic countries where people get beheaded for saying silly things like “there is no god” or “I like other men”…
Now, put yourself in their shoes. Admitedly, we do not give a shit about Muhammad any more than we do not give a shit about Allah/Ganesh/Buddha. Ok, fine… But what about Jesus? Nope, not too many fucks given. Virgin Mary? Not in the US, UK, or New Zealand, anyway. What the hell? Do we not give a shit about anything?
Not true. We simply give a shit about other things.
As a little experiment, try to imagine the reaction if you published a movie or a cartoon poking fun at September 11th attacks, or the Newtown shootings… Can you imagine being attacked for it? This is the thing, someone would actually likely get fired up about it and if they had a chance, they would like to hurt you. The only thing that would hold them back is the fact that most people would be willing to chock it down as a case of someone simply trying to piss them off, which could deserve a punch, but not necessarily a bullet.
But the difference is only that of a degree.
We have our taboos, others have theirs. We do not give a flying monkey’s ass about Muhammad because he is not important in our culture, but try to walk through Bronx carrying a “niggers shouldn’t marry” sign, and you will get shot. For a bit of writing! Unbelievable.
Try to dress up in a full SS uniform and walk through Warsaw or London. Odds are someone will tune you up real good. For some clothes!
Don’t even try to be publicly gay in Russia…
So, yeah, stupidity reigns the world. The images above are very offensive to a large number of people in the west. But just because something is “offensive” to me or you, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be shared publicly. If racists cannot share images stereotyping black people and if assholes cannot share homophobic cartoons, then similarly artwork/commentary advocating racial integration, animal rights, or LGBT rights could also get pulled. The image below would piss off a lot of people. Should I not share it here? Should I be more considerate of racists, homophobes, and assholes?
Freedom of expression should always supersede people’s right to feel offended. If you are pissed off about something, go ahead, write/doodle/sing/blog/yell. But do not try to take away other people’s rights to do so. And do not shoot…
Here is the problem: people are all too willing to hurt others whenever they feel like they have been disrespected, and the remedy for this is to simply chill the fuck out. You don’t need to exchange words for punches, you can simply reply with more words. Second problem is that something as stupid and insignificant like religion is, of done reason or another, seen as one of the most significant things in the world. Dumbass stories about prophets, flying monkey gods, gurus, virgins popping to babies, and countless others are seen as literal truth, and needing physical defence against any disrespect. This is mental, and most of us are allowing this to happen.
Religion, for some reason, seems to be off-limits to rational query. We question our doctor’s decisions, we question our politicians’ decisions, we question our parents, brothers, sisters, neighbours.. EVERYONE. We question everything. We question questions. But no one questions religion! This is one of the greatest scams perpetrated on humanity, and we need to correct this.
In the last few days I have seen a tremendous number of comments on Facebook, and nothing boils my blood more than regressive assholes who do not grasp the concept of “freedom of expression” who say stupid shit like “they deserved it for stirring up hate” and “no surprise there, they show no respect for other people”. Offensive cartoons should be met with offensive cartoons, no 7.62mm bullets, you bunch of idiots! Have a look at some of these Facebook exchanges:
Now, check out this long one…
Anywho… After that last comment, Stephen XXXXXXX was uncomfortable with the tone of the discussion and took down the whole thing. He included a note explaining his reasoning. The note started with this:
“I did something today that I’ve never done before. I deleted a FB posting I made and all the comments that were made to it. It made me sad to do so…”
A few blah blah blah’s later, this appeared in the feed:
Yes. He just wrote that true muslims completly (sic) respect the freedom of speech unless it doesnt offend [their] religion.
Fuck me sideways, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT! They respect freedom of speech, until you offend that fucking religion, and then embassies get burned, riots start, and people get their fucking brains blown out.
But, of course, those are not the REAL Muslims. Real Muslims are the pious, peaceful people who only happen to read books chock-full of instructions about stoning, beheading and other peaceful activities. But no one does anything. Only reading. It is a club, and you get kicked out of it once you detonate your suicide vest or stab someone. Those stabby, explosive ones are not members. You must remember that.
How fucking irrational is that?
This bullshit happens because Islam slides in below the radar of criticism. “Ooooh, it is a religion, and you have no right to question it”. Right. If people kept it private, like their genitals, it would be none of my business, but as long as religion jams its selfish, annoying, and irrational snout into other people’s lives, it should get pushed back.
Thus this an appeal to all my atheist friends: Stand up, speak up. Don’t just sheepishly mumble “I am an atheist”. Be an anti-theist! Don’t accept it. Don’t be afraid to point out the stupidity. Don’t allow religion, ANY religion, its free reign. Fight irrationality, fight superstition, fight ignorance. Fight the idea that religion is off-limits to discussion. Kill the idea that without religion there is no morality. Slowly remove its death-grip on logic. Make it socially inappropriate to speak up about Jesus, make it unfashionable to read the Koran, make it embarrassing to wear a yarmulke, burka, or a crucifix. We do not need religion, we do not need faith, we do not need spirituality. We need empathy, we need logic.
Religion and its evils can be marginalized without hurting people. Instead of lobbing molotov cocktails at mosques, you can lob figurative molotov cocktails at people who believe in stupid god shit. This is difficult to visualize with deranged Muslims in Afghanistan, but it would do plenty good with Pat Robertson and his deranged god babble, grandma and her “chats with Jesus”, and Mormon missionaries knocking on your door. Don’t make it easy for them to spread their shit. Question, poke, and ridicule!