Originally published in Facebook on January 7th 2015.
Today a group of Islamists murdered members of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Why? Because they created satire about Muhammad.
I am so sorry for their loss. Moreover, I’m angry because they have attacked our freedom of speech. I remember an old article by my favorite neuroscientist, Sam Harris:
Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces.
We cannot live in a world with both nuclear weapons, and crazy bastards who will murder you for a cartoon. The solution lies in moral progress. Acknowledging that bad ideas, including religious ones, stem terrible actions. And so we must confront them.
But world leaders are currently too restrained by political correctness. If we are to solve this problem, first we must teach both them and voters that yes, there are right and wrong answers to human development. Killing journalists is not ok. Abducting girls because of attending school is not ok. No “cultural offense” can be ever an excuse. But this cannot be achieved by rational argument.
Humanity is first persuaded by emotion, not reason. The capacity, and responsibility for change, lies in the artists. The very people threatened right now. Those writers and filmmakers who can make you feel and condemn the horror that Charb experienced when a hooded man stormed into his office, and pointed an AK-47 at his chest. Those game designers who can make you imagine walking home at 3 am after dancing in a skirt at a party in Afghanistan, without ever turning back out of fear of being stoned to death. Once empathy and a change of heart happen, public policy can follow.
Humanity has braved violence before in the name of the right ideas. Today will not be the exception. I am so sorry for the staff of Charlie Hebdo and the police officers who suffered this tragedy. But we will not falter, and give in to the fear these murderers look to provoke. Or fall into the trap of quick fixes in the form of an eye for an eye. Progress is slow but steady, we will continue with your legacy: by -feeling- the need for change. And then making it happen. #JesuisCharlie