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The making of a terrorist and the meaning of secularism
  • Charlie Hebdo
    Charlie Hebdo
The neighbours thought he was a gentle guy, always busy with his cellphone and ready to carry heavy bags of groceries for old ladies. The police knew him, because he thought going around carrying a screwdriver or worst is perfectly acceptable in European countries. The Immigration did not ask that much: when he arrived in France he declared to be a minor, and a protection for humanitarian reasons was immediately granted without further questioning. His family, brothers and other relatives, was already in France, and they welcomed him at home. The story of the guy who used to call himself Ali Hassan or Hassan Ali, is very similar to many other stories. The boy did not carry a passport, of course, so the authorities had to trust what he said. Pakistani Embassies all over Europe, in fact, usually refuse any cooperation with immigration officers or police. The case of the Pakistani Ambassador who had to leave Serbia in April and created a diplomatic case because he was refusing to identify pakistani citizens arrested as illegal immigrants and then turned out to be related to terrorist organizations resonated, but this line of conduct is a standard one. So, Ali Hassan or Hassan Ali remained in France protected by the French state and getting subsidies payed with French taxpayers money. He was in Paris since three years but, in all this time he could not manage to learn a single word of the language spoken in the country that hosted him and gave him the means to survive. There are, all over Europe, free classes of local languages for immigrants, and organisations, especially in the case of minors, helping refugees and immigrants to integrate and to find a job. If you want to do it, of course. Hassan had no job, except for spending time on Facebook and other social media with fellow pakistanis. This is where he learned of the existence of Charlie Hebdo, where he learned they had re-published the cartoons for whose existence 15 of their cartoonists and journalists died. On social media he learned his Foreign Minister was condemning the cartoons and saying that: “No amount of condemnation is enough”, his fellows countrymen were shouting “Death to France” and burning flags with the approval of the Government. He learned by minister Qureshi that there was a rise in racism and islamophobia so, depite being given asylum and money to survive by that same islamophobic country, he decided to act. Shooting a video first, like a good nice jihadi, where he introduces himself as Zayed Hassan Mahumud, resident of Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab and, in tears, announces his will to vindicate the Prophet and dedicates a qalma to Ilyas Qadri, another father of jihadis in pectore and maker of terrorists. Hassan called the family, according to his father, and said God had chosen him , and assigned him the duty to kill the blasphemers. The rest is history: he stabbed two people, wich both survived by a strict margin. His dad, meanwhile, is praising his son in an interview to the the news site Naya Pakistan and congratulates his good boy for the attack: “My heart is filled with joy” he declared. Adding: “I'm willing to sacrifice all my sons to protect the honour of the Prophet”. And he is not the only one. Many people in fact, are reacting saying “Charlie Hebdo offendend and provoked Muslims” so, in their opinion, stabbing and killing is just an obvious a consequence of it. What they don't get is that, unlike Pakistan, France is a secular country. Europe is a secular entity. Where 'secular' means that for the State there are no christians, muslims or buddists or whatever but only citizens. And those citizens are expected to abide to the Constitution and to the law, bound to to follow the same rules. “My dear Countrymen, the battle for the Republic is, in this moment, the battle for secularism”: this is how the French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the country at the beginning of September, in occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Third French republic. In the same occasion Macron made many reference to the Charlie Hebdo trial, that had just started, and to the values of the Republic, the values inherited from the French revolution, the values that should and must be shared by any citizen of the country. Or any guest. Libertè, egalitè and fraternitè: none of them, according to Macron, it is possible without secularism and freedom of speech. And he is totally right. The battle for secularism, the battle for the values shared by all Europe, the values of the French revolution, the values shared practically by all the European countries are not negotiable. Europe guarantees and protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech and non-discrimination on a religious or racial base. If you don't like a cartoon or a movie, simply don't buy it or don't watch it. There have been battles in the past, both in France and in Italy, for movies or satirical cartoons targeting the Catholic Church, and the Church regularly lost any of its battles. What Qureshi and his goons don't get is that Europeans can agree or not with the low grade, gross humor of Charlie Hebdo, but will do everything to protect its freedom of expression.
Francesca Marino