We think the Paris terrorists were offended by Charlie Hebdo’s satire. What if we’re wrong?
We’ve bought the idea that Islamic terrorists are genuinely outraged by satirical cartoons. But maybe we’re playing into their hands.
Here’s a theory. Terrorists aren’t offended by cartoons. Not even cartoons that satirise the Prophet Muhammad. They don’t care about satire. For all I know they may not even care about the Prophet Muhammad.
Instead, they merely pretend to be offended by cartoons, in order to give themselves a pretext to commit murder. Murder so horrifying, on a pretext so unWestern, that non-Muslims – blinded by grief and rage – turn on Muslims. Blame them. Persecute them. Burn their book, attack their mosques, threaten them in the street, demand their expulsion from Western societies. Actions that, in turn, scare Western Muslims, isolate them, alienate them. And thus drive some of them to support – and even become – terrorists.
Result: terrorists swell their ranks for a civil war they long to provoke non-Muslims into starting.
In our angry innocence, however, we persist in thinking this is somehow about cartoons. In thinking that the terrorists “win” if we don’t reproduce those cartoons, and “lose” if we do. As if, at this very moment, terrorist leaders across the West are privately wailing in anguished disbelief because satirical cartoons have been reproduced this morning in several European newspapers.(“Disaster! Our plan has backfired in a way we couldn’t possibly have foreseen! Ink really does beat Kalashnikovs! Satire defeats us once again!”)
On the whole, I’m not sure that’s very likely. I don’t think the terrorists “win” if we fail to reproduce cartoons. I think the terrorists “win” if we leap up, gulp down their bait – and hate Muslims.
This is not about satire. This is beyond satire.