Charlie Hebdo: Norway's Christians didn't have to apologise for Anders Breivik, and it's the same for Muslims now

It's as if no one in any Western country has ever gone berserk with a gun in a public place before

Mark Steel
Thursday 08 January 2015 19:34 GMT
Dave Brown's illustrative take on the Paris attack for the Friday 9 edition of The Independent
Dave Brown's illustrative take on the Paris attack for the Friday 9 edition of The Independent

The important thing must be to establish the rules, so we can all get along. To start with, are you allowed to be critical of Muhammad at all? For example, can you suggest that while he was generally perfect, he could sometimes be quite forgetful, and wander into Mecca saying "what did I come out here for"?

If you say "he was the best prophet going, but I have to be honest and say he was shit at table tennis", does that warrant an execution or just a wallop with some pebbles?

And are all images banned, as there seems to be some confusion over this? Maybe there’s a moderate wing of Islamic State, that says it’s alright as long as he’s drawn from the left as that shows off his best side.

Can you draw him if his face isn’t revealed, like the band Slipknot, or The Stig? There should be an agreed and written code, as the stakes for getting it wrong seem to be fairly high.

I suppose the one comfort we can take from this week’s events, is that some of us are lucky enough to live in a society based on Western values, because in countries like America you can’t imagine a lunatic ever going berserk with a gun in a public place.

One way in which we’re ensuring we protect those values, is by demanding all Muslims denounce the gunmen. It’s true that every Muslim leader in Britain has denounced them several times, but that’s hardly sufficient. They might denounce them at five past three, and then again at twenty past three, but what are they doing in between? For all we know they’re blowing themselves up at bus garages.

So to truly distance themselves from the shooting, every Muslim should have to draw their own satirical cartoon involving Muhammad trampolining on a pig, so we know we can trust them.

Similarly, when the Norwegian Christian Anders Breivik committed his massacre, all decent people marched straight down to the church and yelled "oy vicar, why haven’t you issued a statement condemning the shooting"? And politicians insisted Special Branch must infiltrate every C of E jumble sale to prevent similar radical movements growing throughout Surrey.

When Newcastle gunman Raoul Moat went crazy, I’m sure I remember interviewers, callers on phone-in shows and website forums insisting it was up to so-called moderate Geordies to denounce these atrocities, and X Factor started that week with Louis Walsh saying he wouldn’t take part unless Cheryl Cole condemned this "foul evil act of pure foul evil, carried out by her own people".

Police hunt for Raoul Moat in 2010

Nigel Farage has concluded the murders in Paris prove there’s a “fifth column” seeking to destroy us from within, adding “On a cultural level, what price anybody who is a stand-up comic, a cartoonist, a newspaper columnist, who wants to say something critical about Islam at all?”

This is a fair point, because it’s hard to think of a single newspaper that at any time has ever said anything critical about Islam isn’t it? The Daily Mail for example is virtually a tabloid version of The Koran, and reading The Sun is like watching a Bin Laden video with added tits.

Out in rural Kent, where Nigel Farage is standing to be MP, it’s just Allah Allah Allah all day long. You try buying a buttered scone in Broadstairs during Ramadan.

The claim that Farage and many others appear to make is that Islam is inevitably violent, to which others reply that it’s a religion of peace, with each side quoting chunks of religious text to make their case. But this probably doesn’t help to settle the argument, as every religion’s holy book is a chaotic mixture.

The Old Testament is like an episode of The Sopranos written by someone on crack, with prophets murdering children for calling them "baldhead" and nations destroyed with locusts. But most of us can pass a church without thinking "we should deport those loonies, they want to turn you into a pillar of salt".

Because Christianity can be interpreted in any way you like. You can be a Christian and believe that means you should be generous, peaceful, modest and love thy neighbour. Or you can be a Christian and be a Tony Blair. There’s room for everyone.

The same could be true of all faiths, its followers ranging from the heroic to the despicable, all of them justifying their actions by finding the relevant quote in their holy text. So the most logical response to any supposedly religious act is to respond to the act and not the religion.

But there is one other possibility that’s been overlooked. Maybe the murderers are confused by the British government’s attitude towards crazy Islamic gunmen, which has appeared inconsistent.

Not long ago President Assad of Syria, whose record for madness and violence is exemplary, was invited by the Prime Minister to stay at Buckingham Palace. And the rulers of Saudi Arabia, who recently got through 19 executions in one month, are sold billions of pounds worth of weapons. So maybe the gunmen’s strategy was to prove how mental they were, thinking they’d then be invited for biscuits with The Queen, and then be asked to do a deal for a tank.

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