Some More Stuff on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Re-posted and edited together from this thread (

The two brothers who killed the staff at Charlie Hebdo and the other guy who killed the people at the kosher market explicitly said that they were doing so to avenge the damage done to Muhammad’s “honor.” Plus, when someone shouts, “Allahu Akbar” while brandishing an assault rifle, is there any real doubt that religion is motivating that person? I do not think that Islam as a whole is responsible for this tragedy, but a particular strain that arose in the mid-twentieth century from the works of one Sayyid Qutb, whose writings inspired Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and probably other groups as well:

The problem is that this school of thought is becoming more popular as secular states in the Islamic world teeter on the edge of collapse. The reason why groups like the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaeda are able to flourish is because there are many areas in developing nations that are outside the reach of the recognized governments, so these militant groups are able to set up shop promising security and a holier way of life. Unlike the Cold War, where people living behind the Iron Curtain were enticed by American music, blue jeans, and cars, those who have fallen under the sway of militant Islam aren’t interested in anything we have to offer, whether materially or ideologically. The name Boko Haram, which supposedly means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa says it all. Given this, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to win this “War on Terror” unless we’re just supposed to wait a couple of hundred years for the people living under these regimes to tire of them.

Whether one calls Anders Behring Breivik a “Christian terrorist” depends on your definition of Christian. As you know, Europe is much more secular than the United States, so when European right-wingers use the word “Christian,” they usually mean it as a racist dogwhistle contra dark-skinned Muslims, rather than an indicator that “Jesus is my personal lord and savior” as an American right-winger would. Breivik has called himself “100 percent Christian” while at the same time denying the existence of a personal god. To him, being Christian means celebrating Europe’s traditional Christian heritage (however he defines that), not being a believer in the Nicean Creed or seeking to be a follower of Jesus. His motivation for the 2011 terrorist attacks appears to have been naked racism and xenophobia, rather than Even Marine Le Pen of the National Front, the preferred political party of the SSPX, is a staunch supporter of secularism and does not appear to be particularly devout. I suspect the only time Le Pen goes to a church is for photo-ops. As much as Breivik and Le Pen might wax on about the glories of Christian Europe, both would likely find the American religious right’s propensity to insert Jesus into everything to be crass and embarrassing.

I think a better American analogy to the Charlie Hebdo killings would be anti-abortion violence, which is clearly religiously motivated and intended to terrify women and medical providers from seeking or providing abortions. As with the Charlie Hebdo killers, the perpetrators of anti-abortion violence think that they are acting on behalf of God and expect to be rewarded thusly in the next life for their “valor.” You may recall the 1994 case of John Salvi, a devout young Catholic, who committed a mass killing at two abortion clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts:

The problem I have is how far should we as a society go to protect religious sensibilities. The interpretations of Islam that forbid images of Muhammad also say that none of the prophets should be depicted, which includes Adam, Noah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and other notable figures from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Why stop at cartoons? This means that if we really want to be sensitive to Muslim concerns about depicting prophets that we should get rid of all the religious art in our museums, get rid of all the stained glass windows in churches, burn all the children’s picture Bibles, and so on and so forth. The fact that these religious images were created in a spirit of devoutness, or at least neutrality, doesn’t make them any less offensive for those Muslims who find depictions of the prophets to be blasphemous. This is why the images were torn or hacked out of the Hagia Sophia when it fell into Muslim hands, despite the fact that the pictures weren’t created with the intention of being offensive.

There are conservotrad Catholics who would find the many of the topics discussed on this blog, like the full recognition of LGBT people into the Church, the mocking of Cardinal Raymond Burke, or the idea of women priests, to be blasphemous. The late Fr. John Richard Neuhaus thought that the media exposure of the clergy sex abuse scandal was offensive and went to his grave defending Marcial Maciel. Yet we don’t pull punches when it comes to criticizing the conservotrad contingent or going into places theologically or sociologically that the self-appointed Church watchdogs wouldn’t approve of. I get that many people who consider themselves progressive don’t feel comfortable critiquing a religion like Islam that they don’t know much about or that seems to be under attack by xenophobic conservatives, but a pluralistic society can’t single out certain religions as being okay to critique and put others on a pedestal.