Francisco Goya, El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason produces monsters), 1799, print N°43 of the Caprichos series (Museo nacional del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am using the above image for the third time, by choice. I cannot find a better picture than Goya’s 43rd print in his series of 80 prints entitled Los Caprichos. It is a fine illustration of what happened this past week in Paris and Jeddah.
A Tale of Two Cities
—Paris and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
It seems a tale of two cities.
This past week, Paris was besieged by Islamic extremists. Twenty persons are dead. The weekly Charlie Hebdo lost essential members of its staff. The paper will publish a survivors’ issue, a million copies, but it could be the last issue. Whatever the fate of Charlie Hebdo, the attack will remain an indelible page in the history of France.
But on 9 January 2015, two days after the Paris tragedy, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, former blogger Raif, or Raïf, Bawani was flogged publicly for having expressed, in his blog, a wish for more religious tolerance and individual freedom. Mr Bawani’s wife and three children are now living in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The massacre in Paris is by far the greater tragedy, but Mr Bawani’s family are refugees in Canada who live in my community.
“Je suis Charlie”
— I am Charlie; Dammartin-en Goële; and the Hyper Cacher
However, let us first look at the killings that shocked France and turned millions of individuals around the world into Charlie: Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie.)
Extremists Chérif and Saïd Kouachi first killed 12 persons in Paris. They got away temporarily and hid in a printing business, at Dammartin-en-Goële. Lilian Lepère, a 27-year-old graphic designer, was ordered to hide by the owner of the printing business, Michel Catalano.
However, hidden in a cardboard box under a sink, Lilian was texting information to the police and continued doing so after Michel Catalano left the building. Chérif and Saïd Kouachi were shot by the police at Dammartin-en-Goële. The police drove an armoured car into the building to free Lilian, still hiding in his cardboard box.
Meanwhile, in Vincennes, Amédy Coulibaly entered a kosher grocery store, the Hyper Cacher, took hostages, and killed four men, all Jewish, before the police could storm the grocery store. Amédy Coulibaly was killed.
Extremism numbing “Reason”
It was a 54-hour ordeal the French will not forget. Their and our revered “liberty” had been attacked and innocent lives taken from the centre of Paris to Vincennes, just east of Paris. The French took to the streets holding up signs bearing a powerful slogan: Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie). The French were identifying with the victims. But suddenly, the slogan was repeated around the world. It was very cold in Quebec, but everywhere people were standing vigil. The world had been mobilised and there cannot be a greater indictment of extremism.
Extremists cannot think beyond a built-in ideology, which means that they cannot think. I heard the Kouachi brothers say that they were not killers, that the killers were the French and others who kill people in the Middle East. This is a quotation and a translation. Therefore, it is not a word for word quotation, but it is mostly accurate and it reveals that extremists and all haters cannot use reason. These men could not see the harm they had inflicted.
I don’t like the drone strikes, but according to the Canadian military, they are mostly targeted. However, it would be my opinion that the enemy is no longer an “ugly” American. It is extremism carried to the point of fanaticism and murder. Extremists are of one mind, a mind that numbs the mind and conscience. Consequently, the Paris killers are very poor candidates for martyrdom. Their status is the same as “Jihadi John,” or “Jailer John” who is “presumed” to have beheaded James Foley (19 August 2014), Steven Sotlov (2 September 2014), David Haines (13 September 2014), and Alan Henning (3 October 2014). Jihadi John is a cold-blooded assassin who makes his victims blame their country of origin: the US, Great Britain, and now: France, a symbol of liberty.
Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris, but the terrorists could have been the Taliban or IS. The United Nations has not defined “racism” per se, but it has defined racial discrimination, and it seems we are looking at naked “racial discrimination.”
“The United Nations use the definition of racial discrimination laid out in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in 1966: any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” (Part 1 of Article 1 of the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. (See Racism, Wikipedia)
“Je suis Raif ”
— I am Raif
Last week, the wife of Raif Badawi, 31, was living a nightmare she could not share with her children. She was hoping her husband would be spared part of his ten-year sentence. He was to be flogged beginning 9 January 2015, and he was flogged.
As I wrote above, events in Paris dwarf Raif Badawi’s demise. He is a Muslim who had a weblog and, as I wrote above, advocated greater religious and personal freedom. He was arrested in 2012 on the grounds that he had insulted Islam and was sentenced to a ten-year term in jail, a fine of $266,000, and was to be flogged publicly 1,000 times, 50 blows at a time for a period of 20 weeks. The first whipping session took place on Friday, 9 January, and the second is scheduled for next Friday. So people were outdoors in the bitter cold holding up signs with the slogan: “Je suis Raif.”
What is Bashar al-Assad doing?
There are cultural differences between certain countries of the Middle East and the rest of the world, but these should stop where inhumanity begins. The events of the past week, cold-blooded killings in Paris and flogging in Jeddah are the epitome of what Al Gore called an “assault on reason.”
“El sueño de la razón produce monstruos”
My computer seems to be dying. The screen is grey. It was repaired, but to no avail. I hope this post will be published. I started writing it on 8 January.
My kindest regards to all of you.
© Micheline Walker
10 January 2015