Charlie, Ahmed and those of us in Central Europe

For some in Central Europe, the Paris terrorist acts have once again confirmed their conviction that free speech, Muslims and peace simply don’t fit together. At the V4 Revue we believe that terrorism knows no religion. While Europe can’t ignore its security, it has to stand behind civic freedoms and fear cannot overshadow the conversations we need to have about migration and the coexistence of our many cultures.

Photo: CreativeCommons/Sozialfotografie [►] StR

14. 01. 2015

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Not everyone in Central Europe “became Charlie”, but many paid their respects to the murdered journalists, expressed solidarity with their families and devoted at least a few minutes of gratitude for our freedoms, including free speech.

Some of our “Charlies” also looked around the world and saw that respect for this freedom is not unique to the West. As evidenced in numerous expressions of courageous solidarity even from countries in the South and East – including Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon – it is quite clear that freedom of expression is dear to people all over the world, even in countries where some Westerners, brought up within a distorted narrative of uniqueness, would not expect it.

And some of our “Charlies” also became “Ahmeds”, honoring the murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet, and also saying: ‘Yes, it is possible; coexistence of cultures is not a hell.’  After all, Mr. Merabet was one of many French Muslims serving republican values, and died at the hands of followers of a very different faith than he knew.

A number of V4 journalists and politicians spoke out and wrote columns asking their co-patriots not to fall for cheap and distorted explanations of this being a religious war or a clash of civilizations.

Yet there are also those who used this occasion to praise ethnic purity, burden their citizens with threats of phantom dangers and bad days to come and discourage them from something humans all over the world share: curiosity about those who live in a different way.

Arguing day after the terrorist attacks that the problem is migration or cultural diversity, and not clearly naming terrorists and followers of totalitarian ideology as the main culprit is not only cynical, but it also brings Europe less, not more, security. Importantly, it does not show much respect to the victims, who by the way, have mocked the fear-mongering rhetoric of anti-immigration politicians.

These claims sound embarrassing coming from politicians and “experts” hailing from a region from which only recently people were fleeing; a region that has benefitted from migration since it became possible; and a region that is now interestingly so reluctant to open doors to people suffering hardships.

At the V4 Revue we are not afraid to be curious, just like we are not afraid to defend civic freedoms and human dignity. While we are preparing forthcoming in-depth stories on migration, consider two statements from countries that unlike Central Europe actually experienced terrorism recently:

Three years ago, Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg spoke at a memorial service for almost 100 Norwegian young Social Democrats murdered by a madman and self-declared fighter against “Islam”, who was born and raised in Norway.   Stoltenberg said that, ‘our answer is more democracy, more openness and more humanity; but not more naivety.’

A few days ago, the French President François Hollande asked the French people to maintain unity, even in the face of racism and anti-Semitism. Hollande said that, ‘these mad men, these fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.’ Hollande also called on, ‘all French men and women to rise up together [this past] Sunday and to bring with them the values of democracy, liberty and pluralism, which we all hold dear – [those values] that Europe in a way represents.’

Finally, to all our fellow journalists, commentators, experts, some of whom were not sure whether all Muslims should plead innocent and apologize now, here is something for you: meet James and Richard.

V4 Revue

V4 Revue

is a webzine bringing analysis and commentary on Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak politics and society.