Taken in isolation, the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the subsequent murders at the Jewish shop are to be condemned because unarmed civilians were gunned down by what can only be described as lunatic fanatics armed to the teeth. Those guys were cowards not martyrs.
It is far too easy for us here though to believe this kind of thing could not happen on our turf. One in every seventy people in Ireland claim to be of the Muslim faith. How or why they have chosen to come to this cold and wet Atlantic outpost is not at all clear but many have fled persecution in their homelands. They have brought with them their culture, food preferences, languages and religion and are free to do so. Indeed our Constitution protects their rights in this regard.
Contrast that with many countries in the Middle East where you can be physically assaulted on arrival for wearing the Christian cross around your neck. In most Muslim countries, peoples from the western democracies are tolerated because of their money or expertise but frankly, they are not wanted there. Muslim clerics warn of the dangers of being "infected" by free fun-loving westerners and our kind are routinely kept far away from the local population, particularly their women. Could you imagine us insisting on that regime for Muslims here?
Dr. Ali Selim, spokesperson for Irish Muslims, was very vocal about the Paris atrocities issuing dark threats to any Irish publication who reprinted the "Charlie" cartoons. While stating that Muslims are tolerant he claims that the cartoons give offense to them. But offense is something that is taken not given. The majority of Irish people would not take offense at such a thing. Unflattering images of Our Lord and elders of the Catholic Church are routinely published in our media and some people like that and some don't. That is the nature of the freedoms we citizens have earned.
But Dr. Selim doesn't seem to truly understand what it all means. He says he supports freedom but I don't believe his definition of freedom is not the same as ours. Irish people are FREE to convert to Islam but Muslims in their own countries are not free to convert to Catholicism. There are about the same number of Catholics as there are Muslims in today's world. Catholics believe their God is the one true God while Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad has shown them the one true God. In that sense it is a stand-off.
We Irish though can be dubious about things that we don't understand and have various levels of resentment buried in our National DNA. While we are rightly viewed internationally as generous and welcoming we can equally develop a short fuse for things we feel threatened by. Currently we offer an easy tolerance of others practicing any religion they choose and indeed we hear many people now on the media who profess to believe in no form of religion. Not too long ago such views would have been unacceptable here.
Fundamentalists of the Islamic faith believe we are 'infidels' as they call us, so we are no better than dogs and this justifies unarmed christian civilians being gunned down on the basis of Jihad or holy war. Deep down then, they appear to view us as inferiors who must convert to their view of the world or be murdered. Now that, I suggest, is truly offensive. Worse than offensive though, it is damned dangerous. Muslim terrorist attacks around the world are carried out because they feel they have a right to do so. That right is conferred on them because of a twisted interpretation by their elders and justified because we in the West are unbelievers.
If that was the end of it though, it would be a no-brainer. Just arrest all of the Muslims and send them home. But then there is the actions of America in their self-proclaimed role as the "World's Policeman." Since the turn of the century and before, the Americans have systematically undermined and then overthrown the Governments of several Muslim countries. Their ham-fisted approach in each case has left devastation in its wake. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are now ungovernable and the rest of the middle-east is tethering on the brink. Hundreds of thousands of young men are left without either a living or a future and are easy prey for the radical elders of Islam. Hatred of the West was spawned on all our behalves by American military action against them in their own countries and the backlash is now coming home to roost.
We in Ireland have not had any experience yet of radical Muslim action and indeed, in recent years I have met and befriended some Muslims here in Cork. You'll meet good ones and bad ones as with anything else. But even though one of the guys I met was an Arsenal supporter, I was willing to treat him as just another guy but if he'd thumped me for being a Christian I would most certainly have got back up and returned the compliment. And what would that prove?
Where does that leave me then? I'm sixty, white and Irish living in my own country. I do not support what America is doing in its own interests around the world but I also condemn radical Muslims for what they do. As Christians I believe we have a responsibility in Europe, (and therefore Ireland too), to the unfortunates refugees from the Middle East and we should take some of those poor people in. But let's not be fools for the worst of them either.