An Ugly Dilemma

As chance dictates I am writing from Paris, the scene of the latest, though not the largest, horrendous clash between “representatives” of the civilizations of Muslim religious believers and western Judeo Christian believers.

The clear goal of the shootings aimed at the Paris cartoon magazine Charley Hebdo was an alleged response by Islamist terrorists to punish what they described as a blasphemy of the prophet Mohamed.

Apart from the fact that there is nothing, it is reliably said, in the Koran about criticism of Mohamed on which to base an attack, the French believe in their freedoms of religion, expression and speech with the same degree of importance and seriousness as we do in the United States.

The consequences of those killings unleashed a massive wave of anger and bitterness in France and around the world against Muslim extremism. A slogan,”Je suis Charlie,” has now taken its place in the lasting phrases of the world.

There also is a questionable, but eternal, belief that the pen wields more power than the sword.

Therein lies the roots of an ugly dilemma.

[1] Charlie’s pen evidently aroused the anger of extreme Islamists, which triggered their bullets.

[2] “I am Charlie” was the response to the bullets.

Sadly no words or images can protect individual humans against the sword.

The Islamist leaders thrive on public excitement and attention to further arouse and recruit more angry Muslims.

The ugly dilemma is how to deal with the underlying problem:

–If the world refuses to play eye for eye, killing likely will go on undeterred.

–If the world is aroused to kill Muslims at random, more killing will continue and
even more Muslims may become extremists.

So what options exist for the free world to address that ugly dilemma?

The Pope has suggested that it is not a good idea to allow or encourage criticism of any religion. As the leader of about one billion Catholics his view is of understandable. He may have been trying to embrace the US exception to protection of free speech which does not allow the crying of fire in a crowded theatre. In this case, however, that is a stretch. As a man of peace, the Pope suggests limits on comment about religion in the press and the internet. In this case, he seems to be suggesting that it is not wise to poke a sore wound regardless of how the wound came to be. Sadly, it seems his thought is not going to be practical.

I have asked in recent days three Muslims, who appeared to be far from extremists, what they would do to address the dilemma.

One said: “It is all about money. The free world should create a modern Marshall Plan to seek parity of education and economic opportunity between Muslims and the rest of the world over the next half century.”

A second one said: “Kill all the Islamist extremists with whatever it takes!” I asked if he would enlist. He said, “YES!” He added that he believed less than one percent of all Muslims are bringing shame and worse to the rest of the Muslim world which is bad for the whole world.

A third one said: “Shine a bright light on why the extremists exist and who they are.” He explained that if the world only knew that the extremists are simply like the Mafia in the United States in the 20th century — a quite small group of power hungry and greedy mobsters, it might be easier to shut them down.

If there were an easy simple answer, we would already know it.

The solution, of course, will be a stitching together of the ideas above.

We should also remember that a stitch in time can save nine, but a dropped stitch …can unravel everything.


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