The massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris—where will it all end? We’ve got angry Muslims who feel their deepest convictions have been violated, and the only recourse is to kill those who are undermining these most sacred aspects of their lives. We’ve got Germans marching, protesting what they see as the incursion into their way-of-life by Muslims, and we have counter-marchers protesting the protest. There are mosques being set on fire in Sweden, and a big anti-Muslim immigration march in Milan, Italy, a country that is being swamped with refugees. A poll in May showed that in Italy, Greece and Poland over half the population has an unfavorable view of Islam. Cries of “Greece belongs to the Greeks!” can be heard at nationalist rallies. You could substitute any country and nationality in Europe in that sentence and find plenty of supporters.
Make no mistake, this is a clash of cultures that will be playing out for years, decades– everywhere in the world, with hot spots flaring up, atrocities, massacres, you name it, we’ll see it. As long as there is ammunition, access to bomb-making materials, a communication system like the internet to fan the flames, and a lack of reasoned argument to keep angry people in check, no one is safe.
When the pendulum swings the other way, when people begin to say “enough death!” it’s because something particularly horrific occurs, like the massive killings at the school in Pakistan. Then momentum picks up, and some effort is made to take out some of the most egregious assassins, but when something like Abu Ghraib or the CIA’s torture program is revealed, everything flares up again–watch out.
Where will it end? Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, as Hegel said. It will never end, just morph into something different. But if we could search for common ground, if we could ease the tensions with reasoned arguments, and a plea for greater tolerance, we would be on a better track. The world is shifting very rapidly, but no culture has ever survived forever unchanged. We are witnessing a Muslim diaspora as their homelands become so dangerous that decent people want to find a better life somewhere, anywhere. They will inevitably be changed as they move to a different country, and the host country will also change as contact is made. If we can celebrate the differences and the common ground, we might get through this without devolving into an apocalyptical nightmare.