Bohanon: Reflections on Je Suis Charlie
by Cecil Bohanon, Ph.D.
“During my time in the camps, I had got to know the enemies of the human race quite well: they respect the big fist and nothing else; the harder you slug them, the safer you will be. People in the West simply will not understand this.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Most of the Left has figured it out: We in the West, and by the West I roughly mean the United States and its NATO allies, have been under attack by Muslim whatever (you fill in the blank). Some say Muslim extremists, some say Muslim radicals, same say Islamofascists, some say Muslim terrorists.
Call them whatever, it is clear that these people are not just a few guys in a basement somewhere in Pakistan. They are organized and engaged in coordinated attacks on the West. They influence existing states (Pakistan, Iran), and they have a state called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). They are persistent, and they are not going to disappear from the scene any time soon.
These terrorists are evil, and no amount of being nice, saying nice things, refraining from referring to them as Muslims, extending a peaceful hand in friendship, listening to their concerns, apologizing for colonialism or the crusades or engaging in constructive dialogue is ever going to tame them or constrain them. Nor will it influence their recruiting ability. In fact, such politically correct nonsense probably helps them recruit.
The (French magazine) Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are offensive, very offensive. In most every Muslim country, they would be illegal, as would similar expression in many other places (think China and Russia). A majority of people in the world believe the government should ban such cartoons.
We in the West are in the minority. Most of the world does not accept our notion of unbridled free speech. That is also why this Islamic brand of terrorism isn’t going away any time soon. Western values are not universal or even commonly held — no matter how many times we sing Kumbaya or wish otherwise.
I hope the Right will figure out: While way too many Muslims either explicitly or implicitly sympathize with the terrorists’ aims and methods, there are untold millions of Muslims who hate these terrorists as much as we do. I know. Some are former students of mine who are in their native lands taking great risks trying to fight these forces of evil. They understand the Solzhenitsyn quote better than any of us possibly can.
And I hope all will understand: These are the Muslims we should court, aid and support. They were marching in Iran in 2009. They opposed the Assad regime in Syria. They are in Kurdistan. They removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt. They are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do they agree with us on matters of free speech, public decency, gay rights, etc.? Probably not. Their governments will not be carbon copies of the United States or Western Europe. Under their rule, magazines such as Charlie Hebdo will be illegal, but they will not insist they be illegal in our country.
Is there a risk some of these allies will be insincere and turn on us? Yes, we live in a real world. The acid test is whether they are intent on killing us or undermining our way of life. If we have good reason to believe they are not, we should support them as they fight the common enemy in our midst. It is time for the U.S. to stop abandoning our friends in a futile hope of persuading our enemies.
Cecil Bohanon, an adjunct scholar and syndicated columnist with the foundation, is professor of economics at Ball State University.