Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je Suis Ahmed

Officer Ahmed Merabet, along with Officer Franck Brinsolaro, was one of the twelve people killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and is fast becoming an icon for free speech. While I have no idea what he would have wanted for himself, in my own mind I can't think of a better memorial honorific for someone in his profession.

Some reporters and commenters have said he was murdered by his fellow Muslims. I have to disagree. Merabet was a Muslim; the fanatics that murdered him are merely disassociated nutjobs who steal the name of a religion as a cheap excuse to act out their own insanity.

Who is more disrespectful, a secular satirist that owes no allegiance to any religion and pokes at the foibles of all faiths, or someone who claims dedication to a religion while making it's leader his personal bitch?

Mohammed Hanif, Pakistani author of A Case Of Exploding Mangoes, responded well to a question about Pakistan's public statements. While in Pakistan itself, insulting Islam or Prophet Mohammed is a crime punishable by death, the state has issued an official position of condemnation of the attacks.

The Pakistani government and Hanif make a point for having to play by different rules if you choose to live in a pluralist society: that you have to realize that people who have not chosen to live by the tenets of your religion are not required to obey it. If Pakistan's government and religious authorities can recognize that they have no right to enforce it's laws outside it's borders, on people who are not Muslim, so can anyone else.

That's the crux of it. People who believe they have the right to force others to adhere to their particular interpretations of belief. Given the view from the non-mainstream Pagan seats, I have a pretty wide range of experiences with that. People mock, belittle, and insult us on a regular basis, to the point of refusing to admit Pagan religions are valid or classifying us as mentally ill or criminals. I found my way here in spite of all that; the words of such people mean nothing to me as long as I can do two things:

1. Practice what I believe in a reasonable fashion for the pluralist society I live in

2. Publicly disagree with them and refute any misinformation presented as fact that I can credibly document otherwise without criminal retaliation

That's all.

Officer Ahmed stood as a professional to protect free speech on Charlie Hebdo's behalf; I count that as standing up for all of us who will not be converted even if we are silenced.

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