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In the time of “The Absurd”; Pens against Bullets!

The fumes of “The Absurd” are spewed across the world so much that makes us think, “We’re just looking at a Surrealistic painting!”

Massacres are committed in the name of religion. While brains, logic & reason are in coma! The extremists claim themselves as judges & executioners in order to render absolute judgments against who-they-think-are Godless or renegade. In addition to that, they make sure to execute their rulings with their own hands and weapons.

When ignorance prevails alongside extremism and narrow-minded attitudes, and when dialogue, discussion & tolerance are no longer in the scene; the art of sarcasm revives and attempts to express itself in several peaceful ways: Songs, music, caricature, theatre, graphic art, poetry, literature, jokes & stories.

These arts become tools of implicit criticism sometimes, and for explicit criticism in other times. It also serves as a way of expression of beliefs and thoughts against the forces that attempt to muzzle opinions and manipulate emotions in the name of religion one time, the ruler in other times and in the name of motherland many times.  


The attack on the artists of Charlie Hebdo was expected with all those threats that they were constantly receiving, and in spite of that, they carried on publishing their cartoons, without giving attention to the threats or surrendering to them. Their opinion was reflected in the words of Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephan Charbonnier, when he said: ‘I prefer to die standing than living on my knees’.

If the target of the attackers – who succeeded in killing 12 French citizens, among which were 10 journalists, when they attacked the newspapers’ offices – was to frighten each and everyone who might consider mocking religions or expressing his/her opinion freely, then I can say that they have failed; because the French people in general & the whole free world condemned the attack, and declared that the incident won’t terrorize them, it will rather make their beliefs about the necessity of breaking up terrorism and about freedom of expression more persistent.


The more terrorism escalates the more creative people become in expressing their disapproving and angry opinions against it, especially with the modern social media channels. And the more bloody killing scenes ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq & Syria, since April 2013) presents the more famous become jokes, songs & cartoons that mock their terrorist group and the thoughts of the extremist groups in general. Those reactions come to clarify that the practices of such groups do not represent practices of a real state and that those groups has got nothing whatsoever to do with Islam.

I recall one meaningful joke about ISIS, which reveals how superficial they are, and how far they are from Islam. The Lebanese joke tells that a couple; a man and his wife, were waylaid by 2 men from ISIS. The ISIS men wanted them to recite some verses of Quran to prove that they were Muslims as they have claimed to be. The man recited some verses of the Bible, which he is used to recite in his prayers as a Christian, the thing that convinced the attackers and made them release the man and his wife! When the wife was wondering about the secret that saved their lives even though they failed in reciting any chapter of the Quran, the husband said: “If they were Muslims in the first place would they ever do that to us?”

Alongside jokes, sarcastic singing bands emerged such as “Firqat Al rahel Al Kabeer” (The Great Departed) band, which featured the irony between the tolerance of Islam and the practices of the Islamist groups that kills and bombs in the name of religion. They mocked ISIS is a song saying:

“Madad Madad” (O! Aid and Support) from you our master Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi … O ruler in the name of Allah, oh champion of the laws of Allah, oh driver of Allah’s worshipers from an abyss to an abyss

Madad Madad from you our master Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi … and because Islam is a religion of mercy … we are going to slaughter and distribute meat … And in order to reduce traffic jams, we will just blow people up… and because there shall be no compulsion in religion let’s kill the apostates, and the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Christians, O what a loss! …. And because revolutions are seditions, and women’s hair is also a sedition here we are all crashing against a wall … and there will be no one left but the everlasting face of Allah (God)”.


In Yemen, many jokes that mocked the Houthis emerged as well, to criticise them by making fun of their militias and its violations of the right of freedom of expression. The Houthis assaulted some journalists, artists, political activists and prohibited singing in the territories that they controlled. In reaction of the Houthis practices, many songs emerged protesting against the ascendancy of the armed groups. Such as “Mal Al Houthi Malou” (Which means: What is up with that Houthi?) which presents an alternative music to the popular “Zamel” music and religious chanting.


In "Little Mogadishu" neighbourhood nearby Nairobi, a young group formed a band called “Waayaha Cusub” (which means The New Dawn), to use music; rap & hip hop in particular, in fighting the extremist Somali group “Al-Shabaab” (Islamist militant group). The band aims to spread the message of nonviolence through organizing concerts in Kenya & Somalia. The founder of the band “Shine Ali” composed a song after the attacks on Westgate Mall in 2013 entitled:

“Don't join the terrorism, don't kill anyone”. In a way to clarify that, the Holy Quran does not ask for or accept killing as a way to paradise. 


Freedom is indivisible

Let us think about the testimony that the Palestinian artist “Sa’aed Karazoun” posted to Facebook regarding the murder of the journalist and editor “Michel Renaud” who was killed in the Chrlie Hebdo attack while visiting some of his friends at the paper. Karazon stated:

“Very sad news this morning; I received a message from France this morning informing me of the death of a person who I respected and considered a friend. Michel Renaud was killed in yesterday’s attacks. That is very ugly news. This man visited Palestine in 2008. I met him. He loved Palestine in a wonderful way. He worked so hard for a long  time and with keen interest until he could invite me to France to open my exhibition “Palestine is Beautiful” in November 2009. (Biennale du carnet de voyage de Clermont-Ferrand). This man believed in the Palestinian issue and in me. I do not know what is behind this incident! Was it a conspiracy or an actual act or whatever … What is really sad is the killing of such an innocent and good soul”.


In a simple and yet deep reaction to the violent attack that targeted the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo in France, January 7th 2015, the French people held pens in solidarity with the victims, and declared that the attack on press is an attack on freedom. “This is after all the country of Voltaire, of Zola; we have to fight for freedom of expression”.

Some Islamic elementary schools held papers with this phrase written on it “Not in my Name!” this slogan was shared by thousands of protestors in France and the world, they declared: “They wanted to kill Charlie Hebdo; but they have only immortalized it”.