OPINION: Who is the real enemy?

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at jhess14@kent.edu.

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at [email protected]

John Hess

I wish that I could find the time to mourn for those killed in Paris on Wednesday morning. I wish that the world were that simple and the nature of evil that straightforward. To western eyes, it may seem that evil fits neatly beneath the foreign-looking turban, behind the wild beard of the orthodox Muslim. Evil is a strange thing. It is malleable, fluid and can hide anywhere. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack this same malignant force multiplies and prepares to attack from an entirely different direction.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was followed by a number of assaults on Muslim buildings and businesses. Authorities believe these to be ill-conceived counter-attacks against “radical Islamists.” This is not the case. The people of these temples are not terrorists. They share a common faith in the words of the Quaran, but their interpretations of its commandments lack the violence of “radical Islam.”

This second round of attacks has not occurred spontaneously. There has been a powerful reaction to the increasing presence of immigrants, particularly Muslims, across Europe. The depth and expanse of this racist pushback against immigrants has created a renaissance of far-right political agitation and action. France’s increasingly popular National Front Party has already seized the opportunity to attract people to its xenophobic cause. In Germany, just a few days earlier, 20,000 people gathered for an anti-Muslim rally in Dresden. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, American hawks (more like buzzards) descended, blaming Muslims and Arabs as a whole for the violence.

Back in Paris, memorials for the victims begin. Among them is Officer Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim man who died in defense of the liberties which many claim are incompatible with his faith. Good, like evil, is a strange thing. It can be found anywhere. When we close our eyes to good and see only evil, it should be no surprise that is just what we find.

Can’t we just grieve? Can’t we just be angry? This crime was done by real people—a real enemy. Why complicate things? 

Absolutely. Please grieve. Please be angry. I, as much as anyone, would take the fight to the enemy. However, the identity of the enemy is not so easily discovered. He doesn’t wear a certain type of clothing, have a particular color of skin, or pray to one god. The enemy is anyone who would have us believe that there is no alternative but violence—whether fundamentalist Muslim or white supremacist.

If this battle must be fought, then let it be fought with the weapons of Charlie Hebdo—with satire and words. Let the ink fly—explosions of thought and expression careening every which way. Bring these guns to bear on the enemy of peace wherever you find him—on the web, in this very paper, or even the pages of Charlie Hebdo itself. Much criticism has been rightfully leveled at Charlie Hebdoas it often danced gleefully over the line between meaningful satire and barely-concealed racism. I encourage anyone reading this to look online for more on this matter. The beauty of the freedom of expression is that it extends to the freedom to criticize. 

If you have any thoughts feel free to stop me on campus and share. I’d be glad to talk.