My reaction to the attack in Copenhagen

Waking up in Tokyo to the news that someone fired what is believed to be up to 40 shots into a meeting of innocent people – all in the hope to kill a Swedish cartoonist.
The cartoonist was attending a meeting about the limits of the freedom of expression in the heart of one of the most peaceful areas of Copenhagen. I guess the point was to exchange views and arguments about what the limits of free expression should be. The Cartoonist’s crime seems to be that he has drawn an image of the prophet. Some of the people there were probably there to argue that the Swedish cartoonist had been wrong to draw the image.
Later shots were fired at the main synagogue in Copenhagen.
The person or persons who have been shooting at a meeting about freedom of expression and a place of worship are making their arguments with a gun, firing indiscriminately at people.
To me it screams one thing above all else: this is someone who cannot accept the fact that he or she has no real arguments against yours.
That their truth must be based on the twisted circular logic that if you do not share my point of view, you are not only wrong, but also a worthless human being due to your lack of sharing my views.
This sadly desperate argument is not in anyway owned by extremists who call themselves Muslims, it is not the property of anti-abortionists blowing up clinics in America, who think of themselves as good Christians.
It is passed around freely amongst extremists of all creeds, colours and religions and used as the central justification for so much senseless violence, destruction and death.
This morning I have woken up to it happening in Copenhagen, a place that I called home for almost ten years.
Having something like this happen close to home, close to people you love, is incredibly uncomfortable. My first reaction is one of anger and indignation, mixed with some degree of helplessness of not being able to affect the situation, and of wanting to ensure that it never happens again – by whatever means necessary.
These are, however, the exact feelings that I think have fuelled the person or persons who carried out this deed of destruction.
For them it led to the conclusion that shooting indiscriminately at buildings full of innocent men, women and children – children so young they have no real understanding of why they are where they are, except that they are with their parents and that means everything is right and that they are supposed to be safe – was a fully justifiable thing to do. Something that in their closed, twisted logic was actually laudable.
While it is one of the most difficult things to do, this is the time to take a step back and take a broader look at what is happening.
If we do this, I believe that – as Caitlin Moran recently expressed in The Times much more elegantly than I can ever hope to – we will see that this pathetic act of violence in its own way shows how the arguments supporting democracy are so much stronger than those of extremists.
That the right to a continuous, free and open discussion and debate on right and wrong leads to a stronger foundation for society than a closed, static adherence to one authoritative principle handed down from ancient times ever will. That it breeds arguments that no extremist has an answer to.
That, as Bertrand Russell put it many years ago, there is an incredible strength in the argument: “I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.”; let alone kill because of them.
My heart goes out to all those I know in Copenhagen, and I hope and believe that the coming weeks will show that the Danish response to an attack such as this one will be guided by these arguments.

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