You imagine a clash of civilizations: on one side, progress, on the other, barbarism. “This was an attack on our freedoms. You know they hate our freedoms.” They are one body–amorphous and dark; defined by secrecy with faces covered by beards and veils–threatening the cracks of our warm, welcoming society.
“Moderate Muslims should speak out.” These moderate Muslims with bright, open faces devoid of greivance. In Western Europe they don’t wear the veil–that’s a symbol of barbarism. In North America they may pray as often as they like, but out of sight. That’s moderation.
Twelve dead, eleven injured. This is a tragedy. “We must defy the terrorists and republish these cartoons.”
Within forty-eight hours of the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices, there are fifteen hate crimes against Muslims in France. A famous French novelist cancels a book tour. Touring his new speculative fiction about Islam’s takover of France–they breed so quickly–is deemed a security risk.
“A unity march, that’s what we need.” World leaders, famous for their disdain for our freedoms, lead the march. The world stands united against terror… when perpetrated by non-state actors… against states we like… when it is useful to do so. But the context–so many dying daily in Syria; 2000 dead in Nigeria the day of the march; generational bombing and resource predation; oil speculation and the gamesmanship of men in power–is complex.
Even anti-racists can perpetuate racism; even anti-fascists may seek power.
In the wake of tragedy, freedom is the first thing to go–because we let it. “They’re a new kind of threat, so we need new tools to fight them.”
Speak with empathy. Speak with welcome. Speak not to reify a civilizational conflict that does not exist.