Muslims and Muslim majority nations, including Egypt, have roundly condemned the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper. But the ideology that informs such an attack is present not just among those with access to weapons. This Mada Masr article contains a full survey of Egyptian reactions, most of which stand against the murders. But interesting are the ordinary voices that express sympathy with the attack:
Many Egyptian social media users were not fully sympathetic toward the cartoonists killed in the incident. Business intelligence consultant Ramy Mahrous, 28, told Mada Masr that he only respects non-Muslims who are respectful of his religion.
“Otherwise, I wish anyone attacking my religion to burn alive, and I would be very happy seeing him burning,” he said.
Twitter user Ahmed Adel told Mada Masr that attacking religious symbols and religion in general is a “red line,” but Muslims generally do not take serious actions against such offenses, while the offending parties “reap the fruit of their actions.”
“Islam forced us to defend our sacred principles. [The shooting] is not an attack, it is self-defense,” he argued.
Adel recounted some incidents from Prophet Mohamed’s life that he interpreted as supportive of his position.
“All of this should make us more ardent [defenders] of our religion, if we love our religion in the first place,” he added.
In a similar vein, Sahar al-Sherbiny told Mada she believes that fervent belief could lead a Muslim to kill someone offending his or her religion.
“I don’t know many details of what happened in France, but if I saw someone offending Prophet Mohamed in front of me and I had a weapon, I would verbally warn him first. If he continued, I would kill him,” she tweeted.
Better would have been interviews with people on the street. Social media provides an artificial atmosphere that encourages the expression of more extreme views. But perhaps the relative safety also allows full disclosure.
It is wrong to generalize a people and their religion, either positively or negatively. But where there is such dissonance between cultures, it is important to see the other as a real person, and hear their real voice. It is only then that alternate policies and perspectives might make a real difference.