Monday, January 12, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the BFMs

Here’s a new acronym, BFM, which you may feel free to use anytime people with guns attack others who are armed only with pens and pencils. BFM stands for Bunch of F*cking Morons, though you can substitute Fearful, Foul, Filthy, or any number of F words if you’re a sensitive soul or small children are around.
There are a lot of BFMs around so it somehow made perfect sense that when he was in Yemen, Said Kouachi, one of the FMs and perpetrator of the Charlie Hebdo murders, was roommate with another FM, a Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdumutallab. You don’t remember Umar? The underwear bomber? In 2009 Umar boarded a Detroit-bound airplane with an explosive device in is BVDs. The thing didn’t explode and neither did Umar who is now spending a long, long time in a maximum security prison.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre quickly became a handy political football. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, in Paris for the million-strong march there, suggested all French Jews move to Israel for their safety because, as we all know, Israel is so much safer and less prone to terrorism than is Paris.  Really, Benjamin?
Marine Le Pen, head of France’s anti-immigrant Front National party, showed up at the demonstration as well to show the worthiness of her cause, and in Germany, a wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric surged through the country. Throughout Europe, the fear is that other BFMs will take it upon themselves to demonstrate their lack of courage by attacking easy targets. It takes neither intelligence nor bravery to assassinate intellectuals and/or reporters (the terms are not synonymous) and it’s an unfortunate certainty that in the very near future some other FMs, seeing the international commotion created by the January Hebdo attack, will seek to add his or her name to the FM pantheon. No one, of course, remembers the names of the FMs, so there’s not much of a legacy there, but to a FM, that will not be a deterrent.
Some four millions people in France showed their solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Heads of state came too, as did artists and writers and musicians. Another few hundreds of thousands across the world showed up as well, and all, each and every one, claimed “Je suis Charlie.” They’re not, of course.
The problem with massive outpouring of emotions such as the ones demonstrated over the weekend is that feelings aren’t facts. Once the outrage passes, then what?
In France, anti-Semitism is on the rise again. Nothing surprising there; France bears a sad history of such behavior dating back to the Middle Ages. With five million Muslims in the country, there’s also been an anti-Islamic backlash that has manifested itself in truly dubious fashion—banning scarves from public schools and prohibiting Islamic women wearing a chador or hijab from operating motor vehicles. Thousands upon thousands of French–born Muslims and more recent immigrants live in what can only be described as ghettos that offer little education, high unemployment, and a completely limited future. This has to change. Massive public demonstrations are good but useless if not followed by action to better the fates of the minorities.
Feelings aren’t facts, and that’s a fact.

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