On "idiots"

Someone wrote in to express their anger that I called the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo "idiots":

"Murderous idiots????... Idiots???... This is the best you can do? Knowing that you have a much sharper pen when it comes to others who commit similar atrocities why don't you take a moment to read Christopher Hitchens on religious fanaticism and stop hiding behind your Arabist veneer?"

I have read some Christopher Hitchens, but his best writing is not, in my opinion, on religious fanaticism. Let me just say this: calling the terrorists "idiots" was not intended to make light of their terrible act. But the men who did this are deeply stupid; and I say this as someone convinced (partly from recent personal experience) that stupidity can be one of the most devastating and poisonous forces unleashed in a society. I also say this to put these guys in their place. They are not evil geniuses; they are not holy warriors; they are not terrifying avengers. They are nasty little murderers who make a mockery of the religion they purport to defend and who outdo Islamophobes' worst stereotypes. They are hateful, harmful idiots. 

"It's hard to be loved by idiots.."


Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.