Dear Malin Reese,
“I would rather die standing than live on my knees”-Stephane Charbonnier
Twelve people were slaughtered in Paris yesterday. Ten of those people worked at a magazine called Charlie Hebdo, a publication that is both famous and notorious for its sharply satirical take on religion, politics and culture. The magazine is decidedly left-wing and has a history of being confrontational. I don’t love their approach but I do feel a natural fraternity towards many of their conclusions. What I do love about Charlie Hebdo is their fearlessness. The magazine believes in freedom and liberty. The ten people that died, embodied those two things so well.
These people were killed by religious zealots because they were upset about some satirical cartoons that mocked their version of God. They didn’t write a letter to the editor. They didn’t peacefully protest outside of the office of Charlie Hebdo. Instead, they coordinated the execution of twelve people because they let their delicate fucking sensibilities be bruised by CARTOONS. What kind of people would do this? The type of people that let their minds radicalize around their religious beliefs. To be perfectly clear, I’m not condemning one organized religion over another. There are radicalized versions of nearly every modern religion. I’m condemning the violence in the name of religion, the attack on freedom of expression in the name of religion and most of all the attack on being reasonable human beings in the name of religion.
There were eyewitness accounts that heard the attackers yelling, “God is great!” Malin, I can assure you that their God was nowhere near great. What can you take from this letter? Be fearless. Don’t let your convictions be stifled by the thought that they might offend someone. Be reasonable. Reject extremism, in all forms. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, be kind. And lastly, read these words by Salman Rushdie.
“Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” –Salman Rushdie