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UCC Express - Charlie Hebdo

On the morning of Wednesday, the 7th of January 2015, the west was delivered yet another chilling reminder of the dangers of religious extremism. It could be said that those living in the Middle East, and most recently Northern Nigeria, have been ignored as they consistently profess to be acutely aware of the lethal cocktail uncompromising adherence to ‘religion’ makes, when combined with impressionable and angry young minds. The rise of the 'islamic state' has shone a light on just how brutal human beings can be to one another, when faith differences and interpretation of the creator of the world they seem intent on destroying, come into the equation.

I am not Islamophobic, I am religious-phobic. I despise any ideology which fuels minds to murder, rape, oppress and divide in the name of their said God. Ireland knows more than most nations, how damaging strict societal and individual adherence to religious teachings can be, having suffered from a century of conservative Catholic teaching and abuse. Has it benefited us? I think we all know the answer to that. As long as religion has existed, innocent people have been slaughtered and oppressed in it’s name. The only thing that has changed has been the religion guilty of the atrocities in given periods of time. It begs the question, does religion deserve respect anymore? Does the peace it gives those who believe in it’s Gods, justify the hurt and atrocities it inflicts on others, believers and nonbelievers alike?

Whatever the answer to that question, no religion can be above criticism. However no religion deserves unfair castigation either. But make no mistake about it, the gunmen responsible for the atrocity in Paris shouted the name of ‘Allah’ as they murdered innocent people in cold blood, however one must question their actual allegiance to Islam, given one of the men they murdered was in fact a Muslim police man. The attacks in Paris have exasperated the flames of fear the rise of 'islamic state' have sent throughout the world in recent times, but it must be remembered that their main victim group is the people of their own faith, whom they slaughter in the name of their ‘God’, every day. So, as the globe is gripped in fear once more, watching the rise of dangerous religious fanatics, it is critical to remember that Muslims themselves are the main sufferers, all at the hands of their fellow faith believers. Nevertheless, religion remains the root of this evil.

Islamic leaders have condemned the heinous attacks and forcefully rejected its link to Islam, but this avoids the point, that without Islam these murders would not have happened. They have spoke about the need for all people, whether believers or not, to respect their God and their beliefs. And this is where I have a fundamental issue. I respect all individuals equally, irrespective of their beliefs. I respect someones right to believe in Jesus, Allah or The Flying Spaghetti Monster, if they so please. But do I respect the actual beliefs I believe to be preposterous? No, quite frankly, I don’t. We live in a free society, and if I and others are to respect the religious’ right to believe in what they want, they must then respect both my right and the right of others, to not only not believe, but to draw, write and say whatever we like about something we have no faith in, that’s the way free democratic societies work. 

Is my position consistent? Probably not. I abhor the idea of a comedy sitcom about the Famine, before even seeing it, and have objected to it. But that is comedy poking fun at real death, a historical fact and not a belief system. Nevertheless it is something I need to reflect on myself, as it is inconsistent. It is other people’s right to make fun of something I don’t see as funny, whether I like that or not. However, It is safe to say I will not murder in the name of the those who died in the Famine. All this aside, the real worry I have about all of this, besides for the innocent lives that have been and will be lost, is the cheap fuel these attacks give to the far right parties and groupings. UKIP, Marine Le Pen and the wider far right in Europe, who have been gaining popular support in recent times, rub their hands with glee, as yet again religious fanatics divide people, communities and nations, and threaten to destabilise the political and societal landscape of Europe. The prospect of a powerful far right in Europe worries me just as much as the threat posed by islamic state, boko haram, al qaeda and religious fundamentalists worldwide. Integration is a complex issue, one that is not solved by the murder of those who don’t share your beliefs, nor by the electing of fascists and racists to power, but by the coming together of all people and the breaking down of the walls that separate us. I believe religion to be one of those walls, a wall too insurmountable to conquer, in the absence of its fall.

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