Erasing Extremists

9 Jan

What an interesting time to be alive and flooded with thinkpieces. Interesting because for the first time in a while few of these thinkpieces agree with each other, and the ones that do agree with each other make strange bedfellows. The dividing line cracks right down the center of murder of 12 people in Paris by alleged Muslim terrorists (at the time of writing this very little has been verified).

No matter what you think about the tragedy there seems to be two ideologies forming.

1) This act of terror is a aberration and the work of extremists

2) This act was a tragedy but was a long time coming due to oppression

I have little interest in critiquing Islam. It isn’t my place. As an American and an ex-Catholic I am more than happy to spend the rest of my life tearing that particular religious wall of bullshit down, but I am interested in the two ideologies above.

1) This act of terror is an aberration and the work of extremists

This is supported by mainstream Muslim organizations (collected here and here) and seems to be most polite way of going about this. It’s also a very traditional way of responding to religious-based violence.

2) This act was a tragedy but was a long time coming due to oppression

This is the more interesting of the two because it points to a darker reality than the one above, and it erases extremism without people realizing that it does so. This op-ed by a radical Muslim cleric expresses the pains of consequence, not aberration, not extremism. This op-ed makes the tragedy universal, and puts forth the idea, again, of historical oppression having consequences, driving people towards sad ends.

Here’s the thing, the above two articles are by Muslims, one radical one not-so-much, but a large number of mainstream (and independent twitter) lefty voices agree with the sentiment. Slate on Charlie Hebdo’s and Parisian racism, and this Joe Sacco cartoon.

Think about any acts of terror or extremism done in the name of people you belong to. It doesn’t have to be murder, it can be stalking, gamergate with nerds or the college rape epidemic and men, riots, the death of the two NYPD cops in New York, really think about these and consider the two ideologies above.

Which do you believe? You can’t believe both. Either the work of extremists defy the stated wishes of your group, or none of us are extremists, we are all just powder kegs waiting for enough push to go off one day.

If extremists exists then we must live with their possibility at all times–and our work will never be enough to truly keep the peace. If they don’t exist then we are all responsible to put in the work to keep the peace, and any disruption to the peace is a collective failure.

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