23-year old French citizen of Algerian descent dies from a sniper’s bullet. Earlier this citizen kills three unarmed soldiers (it appears that two of them were black-skinned Muslims) and three all the more defenceless Jewish children and a rabbi who is taking care of them. One of the girls tries to run away. The assailant gets her, catches her hair and shoots her in the head. He is recording everything with his camera, and at home he edits from the recording a macabre video clip full of recitations from Koran and of religious songs. The film reaches the media after his death. Someone found it on the Internet.
A few weeks earlier. On the Sunday morning American sergeant stationing in Afghanistan kills sixteen innocent people. Age and sex don’t matter to him. He drags out a random citizen of Kandahar from her home and hits her head against the wall over and over again until she drops dead. He tries to set fire to the children. He himself is a father of three.
While reading these reports, we can already talk not about the clash of civilizations but the clash of barbarities. The West brings the war to the East and vice versa. They both have clear intentions to impose their rights, norms, and customs on the others. It is an ideological war in which trained spells become a weapon, and an enraged ignorance becomes a shield. Because a battle declared in the sphere of ideology has to be taken and won there.
Robert Bales, the American soldier who committed the Afghan slaughter, killed – as the experts claim – because of a mixture of some alcohol, stress, and family problems. We can try to imagine sergeant Bale’s life short before the massacre – keeping in mind the realities of life in the American unit stationing in Afghanistan. He cursed the locals a lot, the temperature not much less. He rather didn’t ask himself: what are we doing? Or even: what should we actually be doing?
Was he, like some other soldiers, urinating on the bodies of killed Afghans? Was he planting them weapon already after the shooting incident, in order to know who they were shooting to?
Or was he taking photos with the dead bodies? Probably from time to time – with the public’s laughter – drunk and simply tired he was saying ‘I would fuc***g kill all of those “scumbags”.’ Until one day putting spin on reality was not enough for him and he made a step further. He killed as he was saying. The public stopped laughing.
Omar Dakhhane, born and living in Algeria, a member of Amnesty International, described his recent visit at a local hairdresser. The TV in the salon was tuned on Algerian news relating the negotiations of French police with Mohammed Merahem – the killer from Toulouse. One of the workers commented on it ‘The guy is a hero. Good job!’ Indignant Omar asked how one can call a baby killer a hero. He heard a reply ‘And don’t you know what those Jews are doing to Palestinian children in Gaza?’ Omar emphasizes that he hears this spell almost at every turn.
The Muslim world does not obey any political correctness which would not involve its own culture – it feels entitled to discredit any other ethical system. It operates on dichotomy: we are right, the rest of the world is not. The priestly caste, which has an overwhelming impact on societies, loves to highlight this fact – they were indignant about the image of Mahomet in Danish cartoon, but were indifferent to the massacre carried out by Merah.
By contrast, the world of the European civilization obeys the broadly understood political correctness overzealously. Morally disarming relativism loses proportions. Islamism is not Islam, and criticism of Islam is not Islamophobia. It is difficult to spot these facts in a public sphere, because where there is no space for a matter-of-fact criticism, thinking based on extremes appears. Maybe Robert Bales really believed that he is fighting against terror, when he kills innocent people? Except that the term “fighting against terror” is a cliché that is devastating for a healthy world view. As if I said that during the Second World War they fought against Blitzkrieg or with kamikaze pilots – I define the method of combat, not a real, requiring a close recognition enemy that Islamism is. Terror is only a tool in its hands. A spell precisely. A threat of vulgar demonstration of power, which the West is afraid of since the 9/11.
We are not able to help the Muslim to deal with their extremes and extremities. We are not able to create for them space for healthy public debate and widening the spectrum of acceptable values. The western civilization had built up its resistance by fighting with clericalism, working out unprecedented scientific and social development against the religion, not thanks to it. Against the churches, republicanism won with monarchism, and democracy won with aristocracy. Against popes, patriarchs, and pastors, lightning conductor, contraceptives, or the railway were accepted. They were once (and contraceptives still are) not less controversial than Montesquieu’s tripartite system, Voltair’s freethought, or Jefferson’s religious freedom. The West is not able to pass on all of this to the Muslim world, or all the more to impose them. The Enlightenment ideas are not a collection of words of wisdom that can be put in 140 signs on Twitter, and democracy is not a pot plant – it has to grow on its own soil, even if the soil is impoverished by hundreds of years of physical oppression and mental isolation.
What the West can actually do is to relax its constrictions relativizing political correctness. The West is the most critical about itself and loses proportions towards others; the West seems to be unhealthily reserved, or irrationally radical.
Unhealthily reserved when respect for feelings becomes the organizing rule of social co-existence, even for the price of contempt for reason. Advocates of Islam changed the way of thinking of the West: first they extorted restrictions on publication of “Satanic Verses” (passing a death penalty on the author), three decades later the British Government – already on its own initiative – removed “Three Little Pigs” from the reading list finding the story too offensive for the Muslims.
Irrationally radical when it involves into an ideological fight on spells, like through the rhetoric of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, or on methods: “The Jews are killing the Palestinian people? And later those take their revenge on Jewish children?” = “ If the Afghans are shooting to us, why shouldn’t we kill some of them in their own houses?”.
The boundary between the ridiculousness and terror is blurring very fast, when in the one part of the city the adversaries of Israel’s policy are shouting “we are all Hezbollah”, and in the other part a neo-fascist youth is marching under the swastika, and there is no one else among them.
Let us not call „the culture of honour” a custom which allows one to kill their daughter because she was raped, or „bounden duty” killing apostate Rushdie, who by literary fiction insulted religious feelings.
At the same time let us definitely separate categories of nation and religion. We shouldn’t think of every Egyptian or Pakistani as of Islamist, because in this way we encourage very often sparse and not representative groups to speak in their name.
Let us not be deluded by the dogmas which put spin on reality on both sides: neither those religious ones from Teheran, nor those relativizing from Amsterdam. In mosques there should be no encouraging to destroy civilization based on different values, at universities the critics of Islam should not be measured in different way than the critics of Catholicism, the same as there should not be an arbitrary assumption that the Muslim do not want to and cannot be a part of society. Cultural relativism is nothing more than using double standards protected with a cordon of psychological terms like “Islamphobia” – the spell overused and, completely like accusation of racism or anti-Semitism, excluding from the debate and from the circle of civilized people. The respect for Muslims means demanding from them as much as we demand from ourselves.
This fight can be won once for all. One military or propaganda campaign will not settle it. Military victories will turn into a failure, and the place of one killed man will by taken by five more, until the West and the East condemn both Merah and Bales.
„It is not the war that is so scary, but the world after it. The world in which we are stuck like in a marsh, the world of hatred and slogans” – George Orwell “Coming up for Air” (1939)
Translation: Magda Goździk