Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo, Chick Tracts, and Getting a Grip

As I'm writing this, 19 folks in France have died because — it's complicated.

Assuming that the Kouachi brothers had religious motives for killing folks at the Charlie Hebdo offices is, I think, reasonable: but it's an assumption.

Assuming that Charlie Hebdo's distinctly irreverent treatment of Islam led to this week's attack is — that's complicated, too.

I think it's likely that the Kouachi brothers were upset about Charlie Hebdo's satirical treatment of their faith. BUT that's no excuse for killing people. Not in France. Or, for that matter, America.

Ironically, one of the non-Kouachi dead was a Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet.

This post is mostly about living in a world where we're not all alike: and whatever else comes to mind as I write it.

First, though, something really important: remembering the folks who died.

Some of the 19 known dead are important by my culture's standards, others not so much:
No pressure, and this is just a suggestion: but prayer for the dead, their kin, and friends, couldn't hurt.

Hamyd Mourad And Assumptions

Hamyd Mourad's name keeps popping up as an accomplice in these killings. He's 18, much younger than Cherif (32) and Said (34). (BBC News (January 10, 2015))

A melodramatic tale could be woven about him — idealistic young man falling in with bad company, and all that.

That would be pure speculation.

Back in the real world, Hamyd Mourad apparently touched base with police when he learned that his name was being linked to the killings: and was released. (The Independent (UK), The New Yorker (USA))

I think jumping to conclusions is a bad idea. So is assuming that someone is guilty because they have the 'wrong' ancestors, or talked to someone who knew a suspected criminal. I've discussed cool heads, lukewarm brains, and regrettable assumptions, in another blog. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (February 15, 2011; July 30, 2007; July 2, 2007))

Having Irish forebears, and knowing about 'No Irish need apply' notices, affects my attitude, and that's another topic. (July 6, 2014)

The last I heard, police are still looking for Hayat Boumeddiene, who may actually have been involved with the fellow who attacked a kosher supermarket.

Satire and Death

"The paper's controversial 3 November 2011 issue, renamed 'Charia Hebdo' (a reference to Sharia law) and 'guest-edited' by Muhammad, depicted Muhammad saying: '100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing.'

"There have been two attacks presumed to be in retaliation: one in 2011 and one in 2015....

"...2015 attack...

"...During the attack the gunmen were heard to shout Allahu akbar, 'the Prophet is avenged', ... [30[[38][39][40] ... President François Hollande described it as a 'terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity'.[40] The two gunmen were identified as Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, French Muslim brothers of Algerian descent. [41][42][43][44]..."
(Charlie Hebdo, Wikipedia [emphasis mine])
I haven't heard any reasonable alternative to the most obvious reason for Cherif and Said Kouachi's actions on Wednesday.

They were probably upset about at least one of these Charlie Hebdo issues:
  • February 9, 2006
    • Front page cartoon of a weeping Muhammad saying "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" ("it's hard being loved by jerks")
    • Inside, "Mahomet débordé par les intégristes" ("Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists")
  • November 3, 2011
    • This issue renamed "Charia Hebdo" (a reference to Sharia law)
    • "Guest-edited" by Muhammad
    • Muhammad depicted saying: "100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing."
  • September 2012
    • Satirical cartoons of Muhammad
      • Including nude caricatures
Charlie Hebdo was fire-bombed and its website hacked in 2011. Maybe the attack wasn't related to their November 3, 2011, issue: but it might have been.
"...Charb [Stéphane Charbonnier] was quoted by AP stating that the attack might have been carried out by 'stupid people who don't know what Islam is' and that they are 'idiots who betray their own religion'. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said his organisation deplores 'the very mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet but reaffirms with force its total opposition to all acts and all forms of violence.' [19]...."
(Charlie Hebdo, 2011 attack, Wikipedia [emphasis mine])
Charb isn't available for comment this time around. She was killed Wednesday.


I've run into quite a few opinions about killing folks at the Charlie Habdo offices and at that supermarket. Some are, I think, sensible:
"...Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Sunni Islam's leading centre of learning, called the attack 'criminal' and said 'Islam denounces any violence'. The Arab League also condemned the attack. Pope Francis called it 'abominable'...."
(BBC News (January 7, 2015) [emphasis mine])
If you're waiting for a rant about Muslim — or Catholic — hypocrisy, you'll have a long wait.

The psycho Santa of 2008 was Catholic; and so, apparently, is Emmanuel Uwayezu. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 22, 2009); A Catholic Citizen in America (December 26, 2008))

The 'pedophile priests' story has been in abeyance for a while, but there's an American election coming up: and that's yet another topic. (Pedophile Priests, Ephebophilia, and Facing Facts link list)

I didn't become a Catholic because Catholics have been perfect people for the last two millennia. Some of us have fallen short of our ideals: spectacularly. We're still cleaning up the mess left by Charlemagne's Verdun massacre. (May 18, 2014)

As for Muslims — my understanding is that Islam is at least as decentralized as Protestant Christianity, so it's small wonder that local and regional cultures affect what individuals and communities believe.

Then there are syncretic belief systems like liberation theology and voodoo, combining Catholic and local beliefs: and that's another yet again another topic. (June 19, 2009)

I agree with Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Arab League, and Pope Francis — killing those folks in Paris was a very bad idea.

I'm sure that some Muslims don't see it that way: and that some Catholics have more zeal than common sense.

Bottom line? The world's 1,800,000,000 or so living Muslims, and 1,190,000,000-plus Roman Catholics, are not all alike. We share a common humanity, and I'll get back to that.

Getting Angry, Staying Angry

I grew up in a virulently anti-Catholic part of America.

I don't remember seeing any Chick tracts, like the 'death cookie' one that made national news a few years back: but rants about the 'Whore of Babylon' were hard to miss. (March 5, 2010)

Jack T. Chick's "Mamma's Girls" tract (2012), warns us that the Catholic Church is run by Satan: and created Islam, Communism, Nazism, and Freemasonry.

I am not making that up.

The historical figures in "Mamma's Girls" are real. What Mr. Chick apparently thinks they did is — quite imaginative.

Unhappily, quite a few folks seem to believe Mr. Chick's version of reality.

Again, if you're waiting for a rant: you'll have a very long wait. I don't like the streak of anti-Catholicism that's part of American history and culture, but posting a screed won't help. (October 26, 2012)

Don't get me wrong. I can be very emotional about my faith.

That's okay. Emotions are part of being human. But "...conscience is a law of the mind...." We're expected to use our brains. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1762-1775-1776-1778)

Crazy assertions about my faith make me angry: momentarily. But I'm learning to think before I act.

Anger is a particularly serious sin, since it can lead to other sins. (Catechism, 1866)

I'd better explain that.

Anger, like any other emotion, isn't good or bad by itself. Emotions happen. It's when my reason and will get involved that it's an issue. (Catechism, 1767)

If I hang on to anger, letting it build into a desire to harm or kill someone else: that's where it becomes a sin. (Catechism, 1762-1775, 2302-2303)

Like it says in Romans 12:19: "...'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' "

There's Matthew 7:1-5; and Catechism, 1861; too. I'll leave the judgment of persons to the Almighty. God is emphatically not someone I want to defy. (September 11, 2010)

Again, I'm learning to think before I act: or write. Occasionally I don't catch anger, or some other impulse, in time. That's why we have the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. (Catechism, 1422-1470)

Looking Around, Looking Ahead

In a way, I can understand why Jack T. Chick and others have an attitude about the Catholic Church. We're huge, ancient, and — for the most part — 'foreign.'

We were around before the Roman Empire collapsed, and were global before internationalism was cool.

We're καθολικός, universal: not tied to any one era, nation, or culture. We see humanity as a huge, but sadly-dysfunctional, family. (Genesis 10:1-32; Catechism, 360, 396-409)

As part of that family, I have obligations:
That love can't be safely abstract. I've expected to live as if loving God, and my neighbors, matters. It's not easy, like the time when someone stole the parish church's Gospel book. (September 4, 2011)

Since we're supposed to love our neighbors, all our neighbors, social justice is a priority. That doesn't mean forcing everyone into one cultural mold, or insisting one one 'correct' form of government. We're not supposed to be all alike. (Catechism, 1901, 1928-1948)

Not all Catholics are comfortable with that, of course.

I have the advantage of being an adult convert, one who accepts the need to re-learn just about everything I thought I knew about Catholicism. Spending my teen years in the '60s helps, too. In a way, I never stopped being one of 'those crazy kids' who thought we could do better.

Some folks see how much the world has changed, think it's the end of civilization as we know it: and see that as a bad thing.

I think it's the end of civilization as we know it, and about time. I remember the 'good old days,' and they weren't. (August 31, 2014; February 9, 2014)

The world our descendants live in won't be perfect. But if we maintain what is good in our societies, change what is not, and keep working: I think their world will be better.

(From Raphael-Lacoste, used w/o permission.)

And that's — still another topic.

More about living in a big world:


Brian Gill said...

I've been told that another death has been verified as being connected with the Charlie Hebdo killings.

Clarissa Jean-Philippe, police officer, was killed at or near the corner of Avenue Pierre Brossolette and Avenue de la Paix in Montrouge, a southern suburb of Paris. (

I will be pleasantly surprised if the death toll does not continue to go up.

Again, this is just a suggestion: but prayer for the dead, their kinfolk and friends, couldn't hurt.

guy fawkes said...

If the French gov had prohibited mocking religion, those horrible cartoonists, the policeman, and the killers would be alive today.

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.