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On 7 January 2015, France, Europe and the West were faced with people who killed rather than let journalists expose an unpopular truth. Shouting ‘Allah is great‘, three gunmen with automatic weapons launched an attack on the satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, killing a dozen journalists and others and wounding many more. Failing to reach a Jewish kindergarten, one jihadi killed Jews in a kosher super-market.

News sources recorded reactions of horror. Almost immediately there were also reactions of joy and congratulations at the killings and woundings.  ‘This news quenches the thirst for revenge,’ said one. ‘France was [once] part of the land of Islam and will return to be the land of Islam‘ said another. Some newspapers in Turkey and elsewhere blamed the deaths on the journalists themselves.

Who is responsible for the cold-blooded murders? It was not the pope’s Vatican Swiss guard armed with pikes or orthodox Jews wielding prayer books that sent a death squad. Both the pope and Jews were satirized mercilessly by Charlie Hebdo. What are the limits to what I can say? Can I criticize just the blameworthy, murderous religious leaders and expose them and their books as frauds?

The duty of every human being is to search and find the truth about himself and about society. It is a fundamental to life. Each individual also has the duty before God to seek the truth about the Creation and the Creator.

Truth is not only the foundation of a stable society. It is the enemy of dictatorships, rascals, mafias, conspiracies and villains. The pantheistic Roman emperors decreed that British and Gaulish druidic Kelts should be put to death if found in Rome. Why? They worshipped one supreme being and began all their meetings with their recitation: ‘Truth against the world!‘ Julius Caesar records with some consternation that at their colleges in Britain they trained their youth in sciences, theology and philosophy for twenty years. Rome also decided to destroy all the Jews, and then Christianity. Instead it was pagan Rome that collapsed.

Today, in certain societies it is not always wise to speak the truth out loud. On the southern flank of the Mediterranean from the Atlantic to Egypt and Gaza, it is difficult to find a free distribution of the Bible in Arabic. Under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, curiously underwritten by the EU, Coptic Christians were islamized by force, or even crucified. Bible shops were burnt. Further east, Christians are killed as soon as they are identified as such by the Islamic State. Thus the attack is much deeper and broader than just a ‘freedom of speech‘ issue.

Democracies should be different.

Democracies, according to Robert Schuman, the founder of the European Community, are based on Judeo-Christian principles. The search for truth requires both tolerance and the means to exchange information, knowledge and wisdom. His own life experience also showed an intolerance to those, like the Nazis and Communists, who used the tolerance of democracies to subvert them.

What are the limits to free speech? This is what Schuman wrote in Pour l’Europe, p75.

In an authentic democracy, there is but one limit to freedom: the institutions of the State and society must remain protected from violence and from destructive operations. Every reform, every claim can be not only the object of free discussion, but by individuals or collective activities in relation to public authorities in the framework foreseen by law.

Violence must be outlawed, not discussion. What then is the end result of this ‘free discussion‘? Will it lead to confusion, disputes, anarchy? Clearly not. Nor did Schuman mean the rootless, modern liberalism that would not recognize truth if it stared it in the face. Because someone declares an opinion to be true, does not make it true. Discussion cannot be stopped by ‘political censorship‘ by declaring a topic to be not ‘politically correct‘. Truth has to be tested. Both the Kelts and the Jews demonstrated the method.

Democracies are instruments to search for what Schuman called supranational values: justice, truth, science and authentic communalities that bring together a Community.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: ‘Today’s murders are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations – no – but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.’

What is this ‘civilization‘? It involves rational, patient discussion, and the analysis of all dogma. How does one judge what is dogma and what is truth? Schuman continued:

There is no place here for the sort of dogmatism that can only be claimed by unchangeable and absolute truths, revealed and sanctioned by God, who is the unique Master and Judge of our consciences.

The killing of those who trouble consciences is a heinous violation of this principle.
Schuman further warned of the dangers of theocracy, the combination of religion and politics.

Theocracies fail to recognize the principle of separation of the spiritual and the profane. A theocracy causes a religious idea to take on responsibilities that do not belong to it. Under such a regime political differences are likely to degenerate into a religious fanaticism. Holy war is the most dangerous expression of a bloody exploitation of people’s religious proclivities. (p65)

Those like the Muslim Brotherhood who make an idol of the Koran make the double mistake: that of the book’s infallibility and that of confounding the realms of religion and politics into Sharia law. That governs every aspect of a human’s life. It includes death as a slave for Allah as its highest aspiration. The Egyptian people could not stomach the Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi’s deceit.

Recently, President of Egypt al-Sisi told Egypt’s top clerics and scholars at Cairo’s Al-Azhar university that they must change their {political} ideology and bring the seventh-century religion up-to-date with realities. The ideology had become ‘hostile to the entire world.‘ He asked: ‘Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion Muslims would kill the world’s population of 7 billion, so they could live on their own?

What of those who believe the Koran is written in heaven and has intolerance to kaffirs (unbelievers) written as its marching orders? Such beliefs in a movement started by an illiterate person cannot be much countered rationally by other uneducated, illiterate people. Islamic and Arabic countries are among those with the highest levels of illiteracy. Saudi Arabia did not have a single high school until 1930. (But it had the petroleum the West needed!)

For a ‘civilized person‘ to follow Koranic texts without deep analysis, reflection and discussion is as illogical as to assume that two, out-of context Christian texts such as ‘Judas went and hanged himself‘ and ‘Go thou and do likewise‘ represent the essence of a well-founded religion.

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