When crises occur, the immediate reaction is always to apportion blame, simplify arguments, take sides, get angry, and then do something…anything. The sensationalist press exacerbates this process, and since our politicians are so heavily influenced by media opinion, they often follow suit. Thinking outside the box is a definite no-no (see: Jeremy Corbyn).
The UK government’s reaction to the recent attack in Paris has therefore been just as expected. Events in France have given David Cameron and his Cabinet more ammo for the weapons they were already firing, while excusing them from tackling the more difficult questions. Increasing surveillance, dividing communities, turning teachers into thought police, strengthening anti-immigration sentiment; these are the orders of the day. Here’s a wider look at the causes of war in the Middle East and terrorism in the West. Continue reading
A man dressed all in black had been removing the heads from aid workers and journalists and we wondered who he really was. He’d been the British-accented ‘star’ of a number of Islamic State propaganda videos, so we named him appropriately: Jihadi John was the nickname given, as he was one of four IS members with English accents that were collectively referred to by hostages as The Beatles (the others being George, Ringo and Paul). Last week, we discovered John’s true identity – this was, in reality, Mohammed Emwazi, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti-born Londoner who had flown to Syria to join ISIS two years ago, and his backstory makes for complicated, occasionally uncomfortable reading. The truth, however, isn’t proving as popular as the story we invented for him.
Look how the press continues to refer to Emwazi by his cartoonish nickname Jihadi John, despite now being aware of his true identity. We aren’t choosing to make sense of Emwazi – we’re instead more comfortable with pretending a smiling schoolboy who wanted to be a footballer and who grew up to be both a Westminster University graduate and an IS executioner is still ‘Jihadi John’, the monstrous IS soldier who was probably just born evil. Today’s soundbite generation is too busy for the messy reality; there’s only time for the summarised storybook version of events we hear on the news.
Because censorship should be reserved for indecency, not for the parody of ideas.
Because the assumption that you can appease a small portion of fanatics whose hatred is already fundamental through censorship is severely misguided.
Because everyone has a right to choose a religion, and with choosing comes the understanding that not everyone will share the same views.
Because assuming that the Charlie Hebdo killers represent other followers of the Islamic faith is to forget that one of the 12 killed at the magazine’s offices was a Muslim police officer.
Because the suggestion otherwise that a small group of extremists represents 1.6 billion believers in Mohammed is not just absurd, but offensive to the sane majority.