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CULTURE POLITICS

From Paris with a bullet

A nation that stands for nothing is headed for oblivion

The recent terrorist attack in Paris has elicited a haphazard mosaic of responses from across the world. One comparison places it on the same level as 9/11, calling it ‘the French 9/11’. While I don’t completely subscribe to this view, I do hope that the incident turns out to be a truly seminal moment in the history of the French Republic, or all those lives will have been lost in vain.

What happened in France was an example of the tragedy that awaits Europe if it goes on disregarding its roots. Enough has been said of the provocation the Islamists felt, the freedom of speech of the cartoonists, the definition of blasphemy, and many of the things that led to the incident. But most of these explanations go just that deep. People brand their tweets ‘JesuisCharlie’, ‘JesuisAhhmed’ and politicise a matter that is far beyond politics. It is a matter of identity, of culture, and of humanity.

The attack made an outright mockery of the ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ of the French Republic. It provided an opportunity to question the very basis of these ideals. Nothing which modern France has today can explain them satisfactorily. Freedom has been replaced by independence, and the result has been the caricature of a nation that was once glorious.

Each of the bullets that left the terrorists’ guns was a resounding gong, a painful reminder that a human being is more than a bundle of flesh and bones, that the freedom of men has limits, and that violence can never be a solution to any problem. ‘Charb’ and his fellow cartoonists lost their lives because of a flaw in the moral fabric of France.

A nation that gives its citizens free rein in everything is a nation destined for anarchy. A nation that doesn’t give its citizens a definition of morals is a nation headed for decadence. And a nation that stands for nothing is headed for oblivion. All these, and more, describe France, a nation that for a long time was once the ‘first daughter of the Catholic Church’.

Yes, the cartoonists were provocative. They knew that what they were doing wasn’t pleasing to many people, and that was why they didn’t have a very wide circulation. A weekly print of 60,000 isn’t particularly big for a population of 66 million. And then bang, and literally bang, everybody knows Charlie Hebdo. The details come out in the open, and make for some pretty distasteful reading. They have been ridiculing everybody.

Not so long ago, in the time of the Crusades, France was the most prominent source of soldiers who went to liberate the Holy Land from Muslims, in the name of the Church. So much so that the Arabic word for ‘Crusader’ is ‘Al Franj’, which is the same as saying ‘the French’. Little more than six centuries later, France has been giving police protection to a man who headed a team of nihilists whose main purpose in life was to tear down that same Church, using a sickening excuse for humour, and all semblance of religion.

How, you may ask, did it come to this? France looked away from herself. France turned her face away from her beautiful identity, and stripped down her heritage of all that was once noble and honourable. And it became a den of thieves, slanderers, adulterers, murderers and pagans. The clergy, who were once the pride of the country, are now pelted with stones on the streets by small children. Symbols of religion, which used to occupy prominent places, have been removed, and those that couldn’t be removed have been named cultural sites.

And then world leaders meet to discuss security. And I hold my head in shame, because they are human beings yet act like complete idiots. It’s as if their eyes have been blinded to something that’s right under their noses. One feels like shouting at them, “You fools! The problem isn’t Islamic extremism! The problem is you!” You cannot take away a faith from a nation and expect nothing to rise in its place. The human being is inherently religious.

A healthy Muslim population, which I have nothing against, already makes 12% of the French population. Some people, foolishly thinking they are the problem, have attacked them in the wake of the terrorist incident. Some are telling them to leave ‘our country’, regarding not that some of them are third or fourth generation immigrants and have known no other home but France since they were born. The last time this kind of division was felt in Europe, millions of lives were lost.

Unless a firmer basis for ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ is found, France, and Europe, is headed, sadly, that way again. And this time, the target won’t be docile Jews.

Feature image: Source unknown.

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