Hello. Two months have flown by since I started this weekly commentary. The big news this week has been the attack in Paris, starting off with the disgusting and cowardly attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday, both men have now been killed by French security services after what looked like the two men having decided to make their final stand in a print works by charged out of the building and were shot. I assume that most of you, like me, have been following the tragic events from the attack on Wednesday to the gun man appearing on the streets of Paris killing a female police officer a few hours after the first attack and then the simultaneous events at the print works and the supermarket. In moments of tragedy humanity rises up, as shown by so many people in Paris holding a night vigil and a lot holding a simple pencil above their heads as an expression of support and the right to freedom of expression – the pen is mightier than the sword. Many did this even though there were at least three gun men still on the loose. What does this mean for most of us in the West, or all of us really who don’t want to be relegated back to the Stone Age?
Firstly, it looks like the two brothers, who were known to French security forces, were funded by the al-Qaida branch in Yemen, which is one of the largest al-Qaida branches left after the death of Osama bin Laden and the ripping apart of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It looks like these two brothers were operating almost like sleepers as they seemed to be from the old school of terrorism, not new radicals from Syria or Isis camps as they both may have had training and been funded by terrorist groups pre 9/11. Cherif and Said Kouachi may have both been followers of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drones in Yemen some time in 2011. Said Kouachi travelled to Yemen during 2011 and is known to have had some contact with a training camp there. The other brother, Cherif had already been convicted of terrorism in 2008, for trying to recruit fighters to go to Iraq, Inevitably, now after the fact, the question is why these brothers have planned and waited so long and why now? It does looks like the Yemen link is accurate and the two brothers clearly attacked the satirical magazine because of its cartoons on the prophet. Osama bin Laden’s words against the West talking about the prophet are widely known and there were already police protection measures in place at Charlie Hebdo due to threats but the Kouachi brothers had been so under the radar that in recent months surveillance had stopped on them. Terrorism has been on the increase ever since Bush said that those unfortunate words, “war on terror” with the result that we have blood on our streets with attacks in Britain, Australia, Spain and now France. Islamic radicals have attacked almost all the major countries on the planet – why are they doing this? To any rational person none of it makes any sense. They are targeting a combined population of around one and a half billion people and an act of terror, tragic as they are, is not going to achieve anything to further the extremist’s point of view. If you look at this, through their cloud of insanity, then the bottom line is that radical Islamic fundamentalists think our countries are wicked and corrupt and have no moral compass and are a bad way for humanity to live. OK, let’s just view their opinion- putting their actions to one side for a moment. As a statement on western society, I’ll be honest, they do have a point. I mean if we look at our societies, us in the developed (there isn’t a word for all combined Christian/capitalist countries) world do live in societies that are fairly morally bankrupt. If we look, objectively, I do find myself complaining about the state of the United Kingdom its’ inequalities, its’ social barriers, sexism, racism – the fact that we promote (lets be fair) idiots and morally backward people over and above real talent by our obsession with fame and the ‘celebrity’ world – I suppose I can agree with their observations so far( do you?) So let’s build on that to try and understand them, and this is where I think it starts to go awry – it seems these people, for some reason, can’t just have an opinion and that is it- to say ‘I don’t like the way that group/society live but I don’t have much to back it up, it’s not someone else’s view, just mine’ but instead of just having their opinion, these people take an extremist view, seek to make a statement, become angry because of what they perceive as their countries unfairness, inequality or whatever and join some group. This has been particularly focused on disaffected, young males who are looking for a ‘cause’, a purpose and have found radical Islam. So many young people want to be part of something, they want to be different. I recall when I was in university I shared with a Muslim guy, nice guy and certainly not an extremist, but he and his mates used to make out they were different, not really on the same ‘side’ as the rest of us – although we were all British born, Why? Because it is seen as exciting, different and all the rest, so I have to conclude that these extremists are being led to this mistaken path from the possibility, at the very start, of a moral judgement on the society they lived in and this is then dangerously cultivated into a dependency on a group mentality which stopped them looking up, thinking for themselves and seeing what the real issues are. So the question has to turn to those working to ‘grow’ members of their group – what is their objective? Terror for terror’s sake? As I have already pointed out above these attacks do nothing longevity wise, so how do we combat terrorism without crossing our own moral lines e.g. freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the like- I think it’s simple; we need jobs for all, a better life for our young adults, we need to redevelop from the ground up – through education on freedom. To do this we need to close faith schools down. I am sorry but a faith school is separatist and a source of indoctrination – if no faith schools there can be a focus in schools on education of world religions with freedom to have a view, and opinion, that can be freely expressed but not to impose it on others or have ‘rights’ that interfere with others – embedded in core standards for members of society with all sides of religion supporting this to make this happen: Imam, Bishop, Rabbi and so on – so all people understand more about faiths from all sides. Finally threats (fatwas) against nations or people because of religion need to stop. Governments need to take any such announcement against their citizens as extremely serious and take issue with regimes that proclaim them. The base layer of all our humanity is the right to express an opinion, no one should be threatened for a viewpoint.
In my view, any God has be constructed by man, even my own gods are figments of my imagination, so Allah, God or whatever you want to call it is a product of someone else’s thoughts. Muhammad and Jesus may have existed and if they did then they were men who wanted to do great things, and urged us to live better lives: their preaching’s are of tolerance, care, consideration – their stories have been passed on like facts, but like all stories, man adds to the tale so we are never sure about what we end up with – so you can believe in them if you want but remember – our actual maker, if you believe there is one, does not need man, and won’t need ‘man’ to dictate how others should speak or behave with regard to ‘Him’ – so the actions of a terrorist therefore can only be to promote his or her view over all that is attributed to any God and is an act of extreme violence and extreme arrogance.
I join with millions in sending my heartfelt sympathy to the victims, their families and to the survivors off the Paris attacks. Je Suis Charlie.