Tuesday, January 6th , 2015, in remembrance of the Magi who followed a star to visit the new-born Christ child, epiphany was being celebrated in France with the usual tradition of eating an almond and butter stuffed gallette. Whoever bites on the hidden ornamental figure is pronounced king and wears the paper crown. Very few remember the blood drenching of the day following Epiphany. When the Magi failed to report the location of the Christ child to King Herod, he had every new-born baby massacred.
In a macabre display of blood-letting on the day after Epiphany, two French citizens by birth decided to avenge the insult to the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) who had been satirized in cartoons by the French left-wing weekly Charlie Hebdo in 2006.
The magazine had rerun the Danish Juland Post’s cartoons and added a few of its own. Islam having a strong aniconic tradition, a graphic representation of any of the prophets mentioned in the Holy Qura’an is taken as a deadly insult. That includes Hazrat Issa, (Jesus Christ), Hazrat Musa(Moses) Hazrat Daud (David) and of course Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).
The preceding decades have seen strong criticism of movies such as The Last Passion of Christ, King David, The Ten Commandments and others, banned in most Muslim countries. Although there was no lampooning of the prophets, yet their graphic representation was enough to incense the Islamic world. Muslims do not, by and large, feel that a simile might lead to a metaphor and thus become a pardonable offense. Nor do they appreciate the didactic value of image-based teaching.
Not where their holy prophets are concerned.
Eight years after Charlie Hebdo exercised its Voltairian right to use satire in order to draw public attention to situations in need of remedy, the French born brothers Kouachi burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, coolly shot dead the editor, ten of his staff, two police officers, and calmly walked out declaring that they had avenged their prophet.
That may be, but the act has received condemnation from Muslim clerics across the spectrum of the Islamic world.
The perpetrators were cornered in business premises and shot dead by France’s elite GIGN counter-terrorism troops. Their associate had taken hostages in a Kosher supermarket, killed four, and also been shot dead.
The final body count between January 7 and 9 was twenty including the three offenders, with twenty-one injured.
Paris was terrified and France was outraged.
Some mosques were defaced, but in general there has so far been no repressive backlash on France’s five million Muslims unrelated to this misguided act.
Which, its savagery apart, it is.
Somewhere down the line, the perpetrators gave the perceived interests of the Muslim Umma a higher priority than the land of their birth. They elected themselves judge, jury and hangpersons on the behalf of Muslims who, however incensed they might be on the issue, do not believe it justifies cold blooded murder in the name of their prophet.
The Kouachi brothers had obviously rejected their affiliation with their welfare nation state. That association is one of the foundations of the vaunted French public education system, which failed the Kouachi brothers and the French nation when and where most needed. The Kouachi brothers too, failed their system and deliberately betrayed the land of their birth.
Something is rotten somewhere, in and far beyond the state of Denmark.
Attacking Charlie Hebdo for its cartoons eight years after the commission means that the act hopes to generate a backlash on Muslims, widen communal gulfs and destabilize France. And that is strategy beyond the reach of the Kouachi brothers.
Someone somewhere is pulling global strings following an agenda with strategic objectives. A million marchers in Paris led by forty-eight world leaders bursting with high-calorie semantics that make good press will not impress them.