Germany’s Angela Merkel was there arm and arm with French President Francois Hollande. They were there to show solidarity in the face of the gruesome murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and policemen. Binyamin Netanyahu was there. So was Mahmoud Abbas, who was strangely smiling in a sea of glum faces. Also present was David Cameron. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita also went. Putin did not go, but sent his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. King Abdullah II of Jordan also went along with many leaders from around the world.
But no Obama.
Joe Biden and John Kerry did not go too. Eric Holder was in town, but opted out. This strikes me as a deliberate act by Obama to snub the event. The question is ‘why’. His spokesman gave some lame excuse that the onerous security arrangements would have inconvenienced Parisians.
I think the real reason lies elsewhere. In my opinion, I think Obama was sending a message to Muslims that he sympathizes with their anger at those who mock their prophet. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was prompted by the cartoons about Prophet Mohammed.
In a speech following the Benghazi attack, Obama said, ‘The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.’ Mocking the Prophet of Islam was precisely what Charlie Hebdo was doing in their cartoons.
Obama may have lied about keeping your health care plans, red lines, transparency and many things, but he meant it when he made this promise to Muslims. Going to the Paris march himself or sending someone more high ranking that the US ambassador would have been construed by the jihadists and millions of Muslims who support them that Obama supports Charlie Hebdo’s right to lampoon their Prophet.
Obama, having lived in Muslim majority Indonesia, must understand Islam pretty well. He would surely know that criticizing their Prophet would enrage Muslims, sometimes to the point of violence. As I explained in my earlier article, there are a number of hadiths in which Prophet Mohammed ordered people to be killed for poking fun at him.
Lest there be doubt as to what mainstream Muslims feel about those who blaspheme their Prophet or insult Islam, here is a partial list:
1) The Salman Rushdie affair. The Ayatollah Khomeini gave him a death sentence for writing the book, ‘The Satanic Verses.’
2) Egyptian student, al-Banna got a three year sentence for atheism and insulting Islam.
3 ) Rally in Pakistan honored the Charlie Hebdo killers.
4) A Saudi blogger sentenced to 100 lashes and 10 years’ jail for insulting Islam.
5) Even in supposedly ‘secular’ Turkey, a composer Fazil Say, was convicted of insulting Islam on twitter.
6) In ‘moderate’ Indonesia, where Obama spent a few years of his life, an editor was charged for publishing a cartoon which Muslims consider as blasphemous. The chief editor faces a 5 year jail term instead of the death penalty, a requirement under sharia. I suppose that is why Indonesia is considered as ‘moderate’.
From this quick survey, you can see that the penalties for insulting Islam or its Prophet ranged from a prison sentence to the death penalty. Therefore, it seems the most likely explanation why Obama stayed away from the Paris march was because he knew that the majority of Muslims sympathized with the aims of the Charlie Hebdo killers. Some may not agree with the violence while others actually approve the killings. But nearly all Muslims agree with the aims, which was to stifle criticism of Islam and its Prophet.
The Paris march by one million people was also an affirmation of the values of the Enlightenment which includes free speech. Pity Obama decided to side with the Muslim world than with western civilization.
A successful businessman and author, Robert H. Lee has spent years extensively researching the history of nations for his book Saving Democracy from Suicide. (LINK: www.savingdemocracyfromsuicide.com) A self-professed Americaphile, Lee resides in Singapore with his family, but he previous lived in the United States where he went to the University of Michigan for his MBA.