Archives For terrorism

This past Wednesday, three Islamic extremists carried out a deadly attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead. A national hunt for the terrorists came to a violent end when French police caught the two remaining suspects, and simultaneously ended a connected hostage situation in Paris.

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Within hours of the initial attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French government, its people, and much of the world demonstrated outrage, denouncing the act as an assault on freedom of expression. Cartoonists around the world flooded Twitter with their own work in support; international media outlets reprinted or retweeted the drawings of Charlie Hebdo‘ artists. Others spoke out in solidarity with the murdered journalists. Even one of France’s most famous cartoonists, Albert Udezo, came out of retirement to join the movement.

The French government announced that it would give the magazine almost 1 million euros to continue operations. A Google-backed Press Fund is donating $300,000 to Charlie Hebdo. The Guardian Media Group has also pledged £100,000.

Je suis Charlie” quickly became the words of solidarity.

Mais nous ne sommes pas tous Charlie. We are not all Charlie. The 45- year old satirical magazine has built its reputation through the regular mocking of national and international figures and institutions, including religion. Their most publicized target was, of course, Islam. While the magazine’s cartoons were, at times, politically poignant, others were just simply offensive, or provocative at best.

je_suis_charlie_fist_and_pencilBabette Petiot, a French Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside, said, “Je n’aimais pas particulièrement “Charlie Hebdo,” je ne l’ai jamais acheté, parce que je trouve que c’est vraiment de mauvais gout…” [I did not specially like Charlie Hebdo, didn’t buy it even once, because I thought it was really of bad taste.]

Slate‘s Jordan Weissman, as well as others, have gone as far as labeling the magazine “racist.” Weissman writes, “This, in a country where Muslims are a poor and harassed minority, maligned by growing nationalist movement that has used liberal values like secularism and free speech to cloak garden-variety xenophobia.”

This complication provokes a necessary recalibration of the expressions of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Can we stand in silent vigil for the victims, but not necessarily endorse their work? Can we create an allegiance with the movement “Je suis Charlie,” speak out against the violence wrought by religious extremism, while ignoring the fact that Charlie Hebdo is what could be considered journalistic extremism?

Satirical writing and cartoons, like those produced by Charlie Hebdo, are meant to provoke, to challenge and often to incite. Satire raps on the door of decency and often just knocks it completely down. Satirists cross cultural lines of acceptable rhetoric with the intent of creating discomfort and provoking reaction. It is what’s expected of that genre and, within a free press, it is allowed.

With that said, quoting the famous American broadcast journalist, Walter Cronkite, “Freedom is a package deal – with it comes responsibilities and consequences.” As demonstrated in a recent New York Times article, Charlie Hebdo’s writers were willing to shoulder the responsibility for crossing lines and knocking down doors, and fully exercising their freedom to express.

In the Times article, the Charlie Hebdo staff is depicted not as radicals, militants or doctrinaires; rather they are described as fierce defenders of and believers in the freedom of expression. The article quotes Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker as saying, “They weren’t hiding behind their drawings. They knew the dangers. There had been firebombs and threats. They were actually defying a gag order given to them by extremists.”

She added that the publisher, Stephane Chardonnier, had once equally defended the rights of local Muslims to protest his paper. At the time, Chardonnier said, “We have a right to express ourselves. They have a right to express themselves, too.”

Charlie Hebdo's Editor talks to media after 2011 fire bombing [Photo Credit: Coyau / Wikimedia]

Charlie Hebdo’s Editor talks to media after 2011 fire bombing [Photo Credit: Coyau / Wikimedia]

The editor’s fierce defense of free speech is admirable. In our pages here, we write about topics and share points of view that are considered provocative outside of our collective communities. I am grossly aware that, in some countries and communities, and in many past eras, The Wild Hunt would never have been permitted to thrive. Our ability to publish, without fear of arrest or worse, is founded on the very same freedom of expression.

Regardless of the Charlie Hebdo’s content, the deadly attack was still unthinkable. No act of journalism warrants an act of extreme terror. No act of journalism warrants bloodshed.

Petiot said “Je ne vais certainement pas supporter que des fous qui furieux attaquent et tuent des journalistes et des dessinateurs pour leurs idées! Pour quelques dessins idiots?! C’est totalement et proprement inacceptable! Oui, je suis avec le mouvement “Je suis Charlie” parce que c’est une attaque contre la liberté d’expression.” [“I will not stand for some crazy people attacking and killing journalists and cartoonists for their opinions! For their silly cartoons! This is totally and utterly not acceptable! Yes I stand with “Je suis Charlie” because it was an attack on liberty of expression.]

Siannon, a Wiccan living Paris, expressed a similar thought, “Je suis bien sûr choquée que l’on tue des dessinateurs, que certains s’attaquent avec une telle violence à la liberté d’expression.” [“I am absolutely shocked that someone would kill cartoonists that people would attack freedom of expression with such violence.“]

Over the past few days, French Pagans have been attending the spontaneous vigils in public squares and lighting candles for the victims. Cogann Moran is collecting signatures on a statement from members of the French Pagan community.

Although she supports the movement, Siannon has not felt compelled to pray, saying, “Une païenne a fait une remarque qui a attiré mon attention: elle rappelait que les principales victimes étaient athées, défenseurs de l’État laïque, et n’auraient peut être pas aimé qu’on leur fasse des prières.” [“One Pagan made a remark that really got my attention. She remembered that the main victims were atheists, defenders of a secular state, and would never have liked anyone praying for them.”]

[Photo Credit: Valentina Calà/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Valentina Calà/Flickr]

I also spoke with a third Parisian, who is vehemently opposed to the “Je suis Charlie” campaign, but not because of the magazine’s content. Mariane, an Asatruar living in Paris, said:

Les deux frères ont eu davantage de couverture médiatique qu’un homme politique français ne pourrait rêver d’obtenir. Les chaines d’infos ont littéralement parlé d’eux 24/24. D’autres chaînes leur ont consacré tous les bulletins d’infos, comme si rien d’autre ne s’était passé entre-temps dans le monde entier. Même Obama parle d’eux! Il est allé à l’ambassade française avec les meilleures intentions, j’en suis sure, mais j’ai peur qu’il n’envoie un message indésirable à quelques tarés qui rêvent de devenir des héros… Personnellement, je ne me joindrai pas à la mouvance “Je suis Charlie,” parce je pense que, moins nous parlons de ces gars-là, moins nous risquons d’inspirer d’éventuels imitateurs.

[“The two brothers are getting more news coverage than any French politician could ever dream of. News channels literally talked about them round the clock. Other channels devoted all the newscasts to them, as if nothing else had happened meanwhile in the whole world. Even Obama is talking about them! He went to the French Embassy with the best intentions, I’m sure, but I’m afraid he is sending the wrong message to some crazy bastards dreaming of becoming heroes… I’m personally not joining “Je suis Charlie” because I think the less we talk about these guys, the less we risk inspiring copycats.”]

Both Siannon and Petiot noted the presence of real fear in the country as well as a notable surge in Islamphobia. Siannon said, “Les plus sages soulignent l’importance de ne pas nourrir la haine.” [The wisest and most important point to stress is to not nourish hate.”]

With that, we are reminded of the original question. If we stand in solidarity with a magazine noted for mocking religion, are we nourishing hatred or, at the very least, supporting an indifferent tolerance of it? Or is it possible to surgically separate Charlie Hebdo’s satirical work from Charlie Hebdo’s philosophy on free expression? Can we separate the content from the belief?

This brings us to the Ahmed Merabet, the French police officer who was murdered defending Charlie HebdoAccording to reports, Merabet was a French Muslim, who was guarding Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters, while those inside mocked his beliefs. When news of this spread, a second solidarity campaign was born. Je Suis Ahmed. While there is still speculation on whether he is actually Muslim, the new solidarity statement has gathered its own power, meaning and momentem. It says, “I don’t agree with what you say. But I defend your right to say it.”*

While Charlie Hebdo‘s approach to journalism is not one that I, personally, would endorse. As a writer and editor, I can’t help but approve of its fierce support of freedom of expression and of the press. Non, je ne suis pas Charlie. Peut-être, je suis Ahmed. Mais, je suis certainement la liberté.

 

* This is statement is inspired by a sentence out of a Voltaire biography written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

  • Back in April, the sale of sacred Hopi objects in France went ahead despite protests from the Hopi tribe of northeastern Arizona, Survival International, and the actor Robert Redford, who called the sale “a sacrilege, a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions.”  Now, Survival International reports that at least one sacred katsina was returned by a buyer who participated in the auction to retrieve it for the Hopi. Quote: “M. Servan-Schreiber then bought one katsina at the auction to return it to the Hopi. He said, ‘It is my way of telling the Hopi that we only lost a battle and not the war. I am convinced that in the future, those who believe that not everything should be up for sale will prevail. In the meantime, the Hopi will not have lost everything since two of these sacred objects have been saved from being sold.’” A second katsina acquired at the auction by another buyer will be returned to the Hopi later this year.
  • Are prisoners in the UK claiming to be Pagan to get extra benefits? Possibly! Though, this is a tabloid so no real data is given other than that self-described Pagans behind bars has nearly doubled to 602 since 2009. Quote: “The surge in paganism behind bars has sparked fears some may be converting for an easier life.” A Prison Service spokesperson noted that Pagan prisoners receive 4 days off per year, and no more.
  • The New York Times profiles the Living Interfaith Church in Washington, a religion that embraces all religions, even Pagans. Quote: “Some of the congregants began arriving to help. There was Steve Crawford, who had spent his youth in Campus Crusade for Christ, and Gloria Parker, raised Lutheran and married to a Catholic, and Patrick McKenna, who had been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and now called himself a pagan.” One wonders if the local Unitarian-Universalist congregation wasn’t theologically inclusive enough? Religion scholar Stephen Prothero notes that “one reason we have different religions is that we have different rituals and different beliefs. Those are not insignificant.”
  • Is 2013 the year of the Witch? Pam Grossman at the Huffington Post seems to think so. Quote: “As the year progresses I predict we will all more fully channel the spirit of the witch. Honoring the earth and our bodies; shifting away from mass-market medicines and agri-business toward natural healing and whole foods; sharing our resources rather than focusing on mere accumulation of goods; collaborating and communicating more openly; helping to elevate women and girls to equality all over the world: these are all grand workings of feminine magic that we are manifesting together.” Pardon me while I pick up every stitch.
  • Lisa Derrick at La Figa isn’t fond of Rick Perry voodoo dolls, saying “they perpetuate dangerous, off-base stereotypes and do nothing to help either pro-choice factions or non-Christians.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Eleven years after the September 11th terror attacks on New York and Washington D.C. the tragedy still informs our lives. The Democratic National Convention placed the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on the forefront of our current president’s achievements, and of course the war in Afghanistan, started because they sheltered Bin Laden, is scheduled to be waged until 2014. Indeed, one could argue that geopolitics in the Middle East was irrevocably shifted after September 11th, leading to the current tenuous situation of post-revolution politics. In short, we haven’t placed 9/11 collectively behind us because we are still dealing with the aftermath of our reaction to it.

Nightfall at the 9/11 Memorial (Photo: Joe Woolhead)

Nightfall at the 9/11 Memorial (Photo: Joe Woolhead)

September 11th was one of the things that started me on the path towards Pagan blogging and journalism. Years before The Wild Hunt I had a small proto-blog called MythWorks where I tried to find Pagan reactions to the madness that had just occurred. The 9/11 attacks awoke a need within me to find the stories we were ignoring or overlooking, to stop sitting on the sidelines of my faith community and become an active participant. I don’t think I could have realized that we would still be grieving, talking about, fighting over, and sadly exploiting, this day nearly a decade later. Some have tried to contextualize the tragedy by comparing it to larger events in wars past, perhaps in hope that it will bring perspective, but I don’t know if such a tactic can ever really work. I don’t think we should deny the ongoing importance of this event in our collective psyche.

We all exist in a changed world. As Pagans, as people who understand the power of words and actions, of the consequences of will, we have each responded in our own ways to this new reality we now inhabit. Every day we are now faced with the responsibility of how we will shape the world around us in a climate of war, fear, silence, drone strikes, and pain. Will we work to transmute our basest instincts into something nobler? We can never return to a time before 9/11, but we can work to change our culture and how we respond to tragedy. We could be a part of a conversation, a spell if you will, that brings out the better angels of our natures. I hope, that in the years to come, we can finally end the wars we have started, care for our wounded, change our priorities, and rebuild ourselves from the brokenness that so many of us still encounter.

The responsibility of existing in a world changed by horror and terror is to make sure it keeps changing, so that healing and peace can finally return. That is my small piece of magic and intention for this day. Below you’ll find some links to how other Pagans have responded to this anniversary.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you today. May we build a better world.

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Sunday.

Ardantane Needs Infrastructure: Ardantane, a Pagan learning center in the Jemez Mountains (that’s in New Mexico), is holding a fundraiser through IndieGoGo to help build a free-standing eco-friendly handicapped-accessible restroom/shower.

Ardantane

“One rather glaring problem with our facilities is – a lack of restrooms. We have one small toilet in the staff residence, but it’s not handicapped-accessible. Thus we created the HARRE Potty Project: “HARRE” stands for Handicapped-Accessible RestRoom, Eco-friendly. We figure it will cost about $15-16,000 to build a fairly spacious, free-standing restroom with two toilets, two sinks and a shower, and tie it into our water treatment system (which goes to a drip irrigation system to water our “Oasis”). We have eight or nine thousand raised, but will need about $7,000 more to get the project done. You can help!”

It’s a flexible-funding campaign, so all donations made will go towards the project. There are 28 days left in the fundraiser, and a number of perks available to those who donate.

  • Dan Halloran Undergoing Brain Surgery: New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Theodish Heathen Dan Halloran is undergoing brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. Quote: “On Wednesday, I will undergo a neurosurgical procedure to remove a benign tumor.  It’s a lengthy operation that will require me to remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.  Then, after all goes well, I’ll return home to rest and recuperate.  My doctors expect a speedy recovery, and I hope to be back on my feet within a few weeks — and get back to the business of serving you in City Hall and fighting for our district, the middle class, and our shared values.” We wish Halloran a quick and speedy recovery.
  • SPLC Reports on Odinist Terrorist: The Southern Poverty Law Center reports on the sentencing of white supremacist Wayde Lynn Kurt, who was accused of plotting to assassinate President Barack Obama. Kurt, 54, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges related to firearms and forgery. Tapes played during the trial showed Kurt saying that Obama “needs to be killed.” Kurt was involved in the racist Odinist group “Vangard Kindred” (whose co-founder is also in trouble with the law). FBI Special Agent Joseph Cleary testified that he believed “Mr. Kurt had a terrorist plan that involved the president of the United States.” During the trial, prosecutors played a video of a Odinist blot Kurt took part in, where the Norse pantheon was invoked to protect them from other races, with Nazi flags flying in the background.
  • Skyclad Ritual in India: The Times of India reports on the remote village of Handanakerae, where once a year women clad only in leaves give homage to the goddess Gonimaradamma in return for answered prayers. Quote: “I prayed to goddess Gonimaradamma for my family’s well-being. She fulfilled my demands and that’s why I performed this service. No family member or any villager forced me to do this ritual. I’ve been getting good things from the goddess and so I do this service for her. What’s wrong in it?” Women who participate in the ritual are treated as manifestations of the goddess, and any misbehavior is heavily frowned on, believing it would bring punishment from Gonimaradamma.

That’s all I have for now, have a great Sunday!

Religion and Law

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 29, 2007 — 2 Comments

The excellent blog “Religion Clause”, which focuses on legal developments concerning religion, has posted two stories today that should be of special interest to modern Pagans (and other minority faiths). The first concerns the release of transcripts from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom about the precarious status of minority religions in post-Saddam Iraq.

“This year the Commission added Iraq to its Watch List of countries requiring close monitoring because of the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by their governments. We made the decision because of the alarming and deteriorating religious freedom conditions for all Iraqis … influencing our decision to place Iraq on our Watch List are the grave conditions affecting minority religious groups in Iraq, including the ChaldoAssyrian Christians, Yazidis, and Sabean Mandaeans. These groups appear to suffer a degree of attacks and other human rights abuses disproportionate to their numbers. As a result, thousands of members of Iraqi religious minorities have fled the country, seeking refuge in neighboring states and among growing Diaspora communities in the West.”

Of the three groups pointed out in this hearing, two have ties to gnostic or pre-Christian beliefs and practice. The Sabean Mandaeans are a dualistic gnostic sect that considers John the Baptist to be their primary prophet, while the Yazidi are adherents to a pre-Islamic faith who revere “The Peacock Angel” Melek Taus. Both are facing extreme persecution, kidnappings, rapes, murders, and the very real possibility of elimination from Iraq.

“More than 80% of the Mandaean community has been displaced from Iraq to Syria and Jordan. The Mandaean community has dwindled to less than five (5) thousands today.”

Several recommendations were given by those giving testimony, but it remains to be seen if the already over-stressed military presence in Iraq will be able to make any substantive changes in conditions. Perhaps America can relax its immigration policy for persecuted groups within Iraq, taking in those who have no place to go.

The second story concerns the passing of a bill through both houses that enacts several recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Included in that bill is something known as the “John Doe Amendment” which protects people tipping off the authorities to potential terror suspects from litigation if their suspicions turn out to be unfounded.

“Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion, makes or causes to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under federal, state and local law for such report.”

What are “objective” and “reasonable” suspicions? According to the case that inspired this amendment it includes dressing like a Muslim, praying publicly, and requesting seat-belt extensions. One can only imagine how this new legal immunity will be used by those not truly acting in “good faith”, or by those who see terrorists in anyone not dressing or acting like them. If you have been wearing ritual garb at the airport in the past, you might want to think twice about doing it in the future.