Keeping a sense of proportion

The massacre of the staff of Charlie Hebdo shocked the world.

Millions quickly took to the streets, including the Danish PM who attended a march in Paris, fuelled by a tone in some media that was borderline hysteria. 

But now the hostage-taking maniac perpetrators have been killed – in a scene resembling the final moments of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ – maybe it’s time to take stock, cool down and ask if things got out of proportion. 

A rollercoaster of emotions
It was a frenetic 48 hours, alright. Certain media and politicians were quick to advocate war. Je suis Charlie saw most of the national media reprinting the magazine’s cartoons. This all happened as the reality was dawning on many that the culprits were not spearheading anything but their own stupidity and a belief in a short cut to paradise. 
Amateur terrorists at best, albeit with military training, they left an ID card behind to lead the anti-terror police to their door. And their final bow involved limited planning and a heavy dose of self-destructive fatalism.
Until an umbrella group claims responsibility for the atrocities, we can only assume it was a stand-alone action to avenge their prophet being offended. 

A lesson learnt, it seems
Jyllands-Posten knows only too well the perils of offending Mohammed. While most media reprinted Charlie’s material on Thursday, their editor-in-chief, Jørn Mikkelsen, was happy to abstain. 
Back in 2005, they set out to discover whether there was a line to cross when they published the infamous Mohammed cartoons. They encountered a world of rage and retaliation, and Mikkelsen knows crossing that line is not safe.
Still, they’re debating whether it was the right course of action – not to show reciprocal solidarity to a magazine that drew enemy fire when it reprinted the Mohammed cartoons in 2007. 

Neutralise the radicals
Proportions are important.  It is 25 years since the PLO last hijacked an airplane. But still millions are daily frisked and asked to remove their shoes before boarding an airplane. Just to make them feel safe. Hijacking simply did not work. And nor shall terrorism, neither today nor tomorrow.
We know that verbal or pictorial expressions can provoke somebody into crossing over to violence. Extreme Islamic groups in countries like Syria, Nigeria and Algeria are giving Islam a bad name, seemingly intent on joining any bandwagon against civilization. They are beyond reason and have to be contained and neutralised somehow. But they are still very few compared to the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims.
We urge these millions – and the Muslims in Denmark particularly – to take responsibility and join the fight against the extremists. We understand if they feel offended on behalf of the prophet, but that does not justify secret or open support for the terrorists just because they sympathise with their motives. 
The 250,000 Muslims in Denmark should be the first to march against terror. They should help the authorities to contain and neutralise radicals before they become threats. Then they can march against Charlie Hebdo on another day. That is proportionality for you. (ES)

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