Prophet and Loss,
As the more astute among you have noted from my opening I am of a minority religion in my own country, for I am Asatru, or Heathen. While centuries ago this was the faith of the bulk of the people in Northern Europe, those days are long past and we are solidly in the minority wherever we dwell. As such I have grown used to seeing my beliefs and my religion mocked by those around me, used by the media either for a cheap laugh or as a stock villain. Welcome to the planet, we are all minorities here; some of us just get more reminders.
We live in mixed communities, in whatever nation we live in, the people around us come from many other faiths, many other linguistic groups, many other ideological understandings, and yet, they are a part of our local community, our nation, even as the bulk of our co-religionists may not be; scattered to the corners of the globe as we are.
The entire world is reacting now to events in Paris, where terrorists have murdered people for making cartoons they felt were offensive to their faith. There are those in every community who react with outrage, with horror, with actual rage when those outside the community do not treat who and what they revere as sacred, holy, and above mockery. Here is the thing, freedom requires that each person is free to disagree with you, even about such things as you hold sacred and above examination FOR YOU.
All of us have things that are deeply important to us, things that are anchors in our personal existence, our ethical framework, our world view. Many of these things will seem somewhere between quaint and foolish or even offensive to others in the community. We are only free so long as we defend the rights of those we disagree with as fiercely as we defend our own.
Muslim extremists wage war against those who dare to disagree with them. These extremists are one enemy of our society. One enemy. Not the only, only the most obvious.
There is another enemy, one that is sounding loud and clear, that is mixing its voices in with those who mourn the loss, who rally in friendship and support to our allies and friends. Their motives are less clean, their agenda a greater threat to freedom than the Muslim extremists; those who would turn this outrage into a war upon Islam.
I am Asatru. Islam does not think particularly well of us, but many of us have a fonder memory of them. Like the Christians, Islamics tend to view Pagans with contempt mixed heavily with fear. Indeed, in areas where they have secular power, their Crusades against tribal pagans and those who follow the Zorastrian and other ancestral faiths remains ongoing. Modern Heathens, and pagans in general remember a different Islam, an Islam before the Crusades, the Mongol and the Turk, a time when Islam was the shining light of reason, of moderation, science, literature and art. Islam preserved for us the writings of the great pagan philosophers and scientists, from Rome, Greece, Egypt, it was through the libraries our Christian ancestors seized in the Crusades and liberation of Spain that the enlightenment that was the birthright of the west was returned to us by the Islamic scholars and their love of learning.
We lost the Crusades, broke the church, which broke the monarchies. We got the Renaissance, science, learning, and the chance for human beings to achieve more with their lives than simply striving to stay one step ahead of starvation by whatever means necessary. They won the Crusades, and the concentration of sacral and secular power was no more enlightened for them than it was for us. Tyranny is still the norm, as is the proximity of starvation.
As Heathens, we are always a minority faith, and get used to others being threatened by us, not understanding us, and mocking us. We are members of our local community, as well as our faith community, and accept that rather more unites us with our neighbors than divides us from them on matters of faith. We agree to disagree. This is called respecting each other’s freedoms. We don’t have to agree, we can think you are odd, crazy, or dim; but we respect your right to be so.
Muslim Extremists draw inspiration from states where they have the right to enforce their beliefs, to not tolerate those who disagree with them. This makes them enemies of our state. Those who would use incidents of Muslim Extremists violence to drive a wedge between Mulsims, or racial groups perceived as Muslim (the ignorant rarely have looked at maps of the world long enough to note how many non-Arab and non Middle Easter peoples follow Islam), and the rest of society are also enemies of our state.
I am a member of a minority faith. When I hear the demagogues pounding their chests, waving the bloody shirts and calling for the people to unite AGAINST the Muslims, I hear the call to battle. When they come for the first minority, they will find me waiting. When they come for the first minority, that is when they come for our Freedom.
The words of the Prophet have many good and worthy things to say, and many I disagree with deeply. The same is true of the Bible, of Guru Granth Sahib, or the Tipitaka. The same is true of the writings of Locke, Socrates, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Lamark. I accept that there are people who will regaurd any discussion of these works as being offensive, as being personal attacks, and anyone who voices mockery of them will draw anger. My own Edda are likewise not universally esteemed, and as Heathens or Pagans, we are frequently held up to ridicule by those who are of more numerous communities. We don’t go murdering people over it, and we are honest enough to admit we find many of their beliefs somewhere between ridiculous and offensive as well. We respect their right to hold those beliefs and defend their right to be what we perceive as wrong, as it is the cornerstone of our right to be what we consider right.
To be free, you must defend the right of peoples to disagree with you. To be free, you must always be on guard from those who will demand you give up your freedom for security from the threat of the dreaded “other”.
The dreaded “other” will always be there, even if the definition is always changing. Communist, fascist, Muslim, atheist, separatist; there will always be someone whose views are opposed enough to your own that your radical elements on both sides will strike out against those they cannot accept. If you choose to sell your freedom for protection from words you are afraid to hear, or because you are so terrified that blood may be spilled that you would trade your freedom for the security of defended chains, then you have become the enemy of the state.
Freedom is risky. Freedom is costly. Freedom is noisy. Freedom is fractious. Freedom is worth it. Freedom is detectable by the sound of the village idiot; for when the voice most agree is worthless is silenced, that is the sound of freedom’s fall. Many expressions of free speech are offensive. That is a cost of freedom. Many times we will suffer casualties, because our society is open enough that people are trusted to move about unhindered, we do not live under the guns of our watchers every heartbeat. We have suffered casualties before to defend our freedom, we have shed the blood of whole generations and not bent the knee. You cannot kill freedom with a gun, you can only kill it by giving in to fear, to division, to hatred.
I am Asatru. I will pay for my freedom as I paid for yours, as long as I live. If you don’t agree with me, then it proves we are still free.