Five days on from the shooting at Charlie Hebdo and it has been a roller coaster of highs and lows.
The tribute to the murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet by his brother, and his appeals for unity was one of those moments when you feel proud to be a member of the human race. At the very same time as his pain and his grief threatened to overwhelm him, he displayed nobility, generosity and gave an intimate and touching portrayal of his brother. I’d vote for him.
One low spot was reading in todays’s Metro (a free paper and a rag) that the wife of someone who is believed to have mentored the Kouachi brothers is living, on benefits, in the UK. Somehow, I feel that the Metro, and most probably the Standard and the Mail, has rather missed the point of yesterday’s magnificent turn out of unity, despite the pages devoted to it.
Another low spot was hearing how David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, thinks the time is right to allow more surveillance. This is an echo of what the police said the other day. So, and not for the first time in our nation’s recent history, civil rights are to be eroded in the name of security. Do notice how a) those civil rights are never restored, and b) how ‘eavesdropping on terrorists’ does not preclude eavesdropping on everyone.
In France, the military are on the streets to protect the public. This sent a chill down my spine. Too often, in too many countries, the military’s protection has turned into something much more sinister and controlling.
I understand that this week’s edition of Charlie Hebdo is now going to have a three million print run, (get those collector’s copies; surely they must include a cartoon about the suddenly inflated sales and fame) and will have a cartoon of the prophet Mohamed holding up a Je suis Charlie placard. That, I like.
The discussions about free speech and freedom to offend rumble on. I feel these are timely and good discussions. If we self censor in order to save the feeling of minority groups who suffer prejudice and ignorance every day, that sounds good to me. If we self censor because of fear of retaliation I am not happy. But it is a subject that merits greater reflection on all sides.
Much hilarity this side of the pond about a self-proclaimed expert, Steve Emerson, who said that Birmingham was a totally Muslim town where non Muslims dare not enter. News to the Brummies who with their flattened Midland vowels sounded both shocked and amused at this inaccurate description of their city. One went so far as to say that the world could learn a lot by seeing how different cultures and ethnicities exist side by side there. Emerson also claimed there were no go areas in London where Muslim police enforce Islamic values. News to me.
There is no denying that extremists of all kinds are a threat. We in the west have helped create the current situation in Syria and we are turning our backs on it. As people try to flee a terrifying and murderous regime, we talk about not being ‘able to afford’ to accommodate them. No wonder people are radicalised; no wonder they see western countries as the enemy. Sixteen people died in France last week due to these attacks and millions took to the streets. The number of people dying in Syria, the children left orphans, who are just a sentence, if that, on our nightly news bulletins, are legion. They are people too, and we need to stand up and support them. Here is the link to UNICEF’s appeal.