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charlie-hebdo2

Extracts and links* to informed comment – Simon Jenkins,  Jacob Cohen, Akbar Ahmed, Jordan Weismann, Nabila Ramadani, Tariq Ramadan, Teju Cole, Adam Shatz, Jonathan Freedland, Mark Steele,  Jon Wilson, Michael Lerner, Brian Klug, Robert Fisk, Glen Newey, Anne Norton, Nial O’Dowd, Noam Chomsky, Malek Merabet, Charles-Phillipe d’Orleans, Arifa Akbar, Henry Porter, Tariq Modood, Mehdi Hasan,  AbdelKader Benali, Luc Besson, John Keene, Francesco Sisci, Edwy Plenel, Mahmood Memdani, Seamas Milne, Pope Francis, Ratna Lachman, Alexander Stile,  Didier Fasin, Giles Fraser,   Sohail Daulatzai, Mark Hammond, John Cruikshank, Tariq Ali, AbdalHakim Murad, Rachida Dati, Timothy Garton-Ash, Faizal Dawjee, Jonathan Porter, Norman Finkelstein, Pankaj Mishra, John Sawers, Michael Collins, Francis Ghiles, Muhammad Ajeeb, Alex Andreou, Karim Miské, Tarik Kafala, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Faouzia Zebdi-Ghorab, Shadi Hamid, Gus John,  Slavoj Žižek, Ruth Brown, John Bowen, Matthew Parris, Joyce Carol Oates & Others

*salaam.co.uk is not responsible for the content of external sites. The inclusion of a link to an external website from salaam.co.uk should not be understood to be an endorsement of that website or the site’s owners. The links are provided for further informed comment.

Simon Jenkins, 7th January 2015:  Why does it happen? Whenever a political outrage is committed, the sensible question is to ask: what does its perpetrator want? What reaction does he seek, and what does he not seek? Twelve dead cannot go unremarked. Those journalists who confront violent intolerance, even in the supposed security of a city office, need every support. When, very rarely, they die in that cause, they must be lauded and mourned…

Osama bin Laden’s attacks on the United States, culminating in New York in 2001, were exceptional. Since he could not hope for an American capitulation, the intention must have been to scare the US into a hysterical reaction. As a result, all advice at the time was for America not to universalise its response to 9/11, let alone characterise it as a “war”. This would merely fuel the flames of horror, and lead on to God knows where. As Tom Paine warned: “Sanguinary punishment corrupts humankind.”

That advice was ignored, and years of war ensued, years that realised al-Qaida’s wildest dreams. Western nations plunged into battle, at a cost of some $3tn. Thousands of lives were lost and regimes were destabilised across the region. Democratic governments lurched towards authoritarianism. Almost willingly, it seemed, governments tore up many of the central tenets of their liberties. In the more belligerent states – the US and Britain – habeas corpus, private communication, legal process and even freedom of speech were curtailed or jeopardised. The forces of state repression suddenly found themselves singing the best tunes.

Bin Laden was handed his triumph. For a decade he was able to rally supporters to his cause. He boasted at the vulnerability of this supposedly superior society. He taunted democracies that claimed immunity from the devious tactics of militant Islam. American presidents and British home secretaries alike became al-Qaida’s useful idiots.

Today’s French terrorists want a similarly hysterical response. They want another twist in the thumbscrew of the surveillance state. They want the media to be told to back off. They want new laws, new controls, new additions to the agenda of illiberalism. They know that in most western nations, including Britain, there exists a burgeoning industry of illiberal bureaucrats with empires to build. This industry may be careful of public safety, but it is careless of the comfort and standing it offers the terrorist. There will now be cries from the security services and parliament for more powers and more surveillance. click here.

Jacob Cohen, 7th January 2015:   … Charlie-Hebdo, à l’image de tous les médias en France, portent une énorme responsabilité dans ce chaos généralisé. À force de jouer avec le feu au profit d’intérêts qui ne sont pas ceux du peuple de France, on aboutit à des attentats et on risque la guerre civile. Il serait temps que les « clercs », ceux qui ont une responsabilité intellectuelle soient ramenés à la raison…. click here.

Akbar Ahmed, 8th January 2015: …The president of France and the imam of the main mosque in Paris both rightly condemned the murderers, saying they would go to hell, etc. The problem is the assumption that these actions are religiously motivated. Muslims may have been using religious rhetoric, but these attacks are a consequence of the sociological environment of their lives in Europe today. Therefore, the response needs to be to prevent effectively such incidents in the future rather than getting involved in futile theological discussions. Besides, the strategy and policy to deal with the minority community needs to be set in an all European context. …click here.

Jordan Weismann, 8th January 2015: …But it’s wrong to approach this issue as an either-or question, to blaspheme or not blaspheme. Free speech allows us to say hateful, idiotic things without being punished by the government. But embracing that right means that we need to acknowledge when work is hateful or idiotic, and can’t be defended on its own terms. We need to recognize, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias argues today, that standing up for magazines like Charlie Hebdo is a “regrettable” necessity, in part because it provides cover for anti-Muslim backlash. “Blasphemous, mocking images cause pain in marginalized communities,” he writes. “The elevation of such images to a point of high principle will increase the burdens on those minority groups.” And the more those groups are mistreated, the more angry radicals we can expect to see.

So what should we do? We have to condemn obvious racism as loudly as we defend the right to engage in it. We have to point out when an “edgy” cartoon is just a crappy Islamophobic jab. We shouldn’t pretend that every magazine cover with a picture of Mohammed is a second coming of The Satanic Verses. Making those distinctions isn’t going to placate the sorts of militants who are already apt to tote a machine gun into a magazine office. But it is a way to show good faith to the rest of a marginalized community, to show that free speech isn’t just about mocking their religion.

It’s hard to talk about these things today, when so many families, a country, and a profession are rightfully in mourning. But it’s also necessary. At the moment, Google has offered almost $300,000 to Charlie Hebdo, so it can continue publishing. The Guardian Media Group has chipped in $150,000 of its own. And France’s government has pledged more than 1 million euros. It’s a powerful gesture in favor of free expression. But I’m not sure it’s the kind of expression a government should want to pay for. click here

Mark Steel, 8th January 2015: … I suppose the one comfort we can take from this week’s events, is that some of us are lucky enough to live in a society based on Western values, because in countries like America you can’t imagine a lunatic ever going berserk with a gun in a public place.

One way in which we’re ensuring we protect those values, is by demanding all Muslims denounce the gunmen. It’s true that every Muslim leader in Britain has denounced them several times, but that’s hardly sufficient. They might denounce them at five past three, and then again at twenty past three, but what are they doing in between? For all we know they’re blowing themselves up at bus garages.

So to truly distance themselves from the shooting, every Muslim should have to draw their own satirical cartoon involving Muhammad trampolining on a pig, so we know we can trust them.

Similarly, when the Norwegian Christian Anders Breivik committed his massacre, all decent people marched straight down to the church and yelled “oy vicar, why haven’t you issued a statement condemning the shooting”? And politicians insisted Special Branch must infiltrate every C of E jumble sale to prevent similar radical movements growing throughout Surrey…

But there is one other possibility that’s been overlooked. Maybe the murderers are confused by the British government’s attitude towards crazy Islamic gunmen, which has appeared inconsistent.

Not long ago President Assad of Syria, whose record for madness and violence is exemplary, was invited by the Prime Minister to stay at Buckingham Palace. And the rulers of Saudi Arabia, who recently got through 19 executions in one month, are sold billions of pounds worth of weapons. So maybe the gunmen’s strategy was to prove how mental they were, thinking they’d then be invited for biscuits with The Queen, and then be asked to do a deal for a tank. click here.

Nabila Ramadani, 8th January 2015:  Those of us trying to make sense of the Charlie Hebdo massacre need to understand the bloody history of my home city, Paris. That four hugely popular cartoonists were considered legitimate targets by murderers said to have been living within a few miles of the Louvre and other global symbols of liberal Gallic civilisation doesn’t seem possible: donnish satirists are not meant to be gunned down in quaint Paris arrondissements any more than municipal policemen used to dealing with traffic and tourists. Sadly, the French capital has been associated with some of the worst barbarism in human history. ….

Half a century on, the violence has subsided but there is still a strong sense of resentment among alienated communities living in housing estates on the outskirts of the capital. Many are Muslims of north African origin who complain that discrimination against them extends to every field of life, from housing and employment to the right to religious expression. This is particularly so as politicians of the left and right regularly blame Islam for these social problems, which in fact have nothing to do with spiritual faith.

Anti-religious hate speech has thus become all too prevalent in modern France, as it is manipulated for political purposes. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, is a convicted racist and antisemite, and his daughter, Marine Le Pen, the party’s current leader, regularly stigmatises Muslims and other minority groups…

There is no doubt that Charlie Hebdo’s notorious cartoons satirising the prophet Muhammad saddened and angered Muslims in equal measure. When the magazine published a cover with a bearded and turbaned cartoon figure of the prophet saying “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter” in 2011, their offices were firebombed.

Other images and articles were also vindictive, including some about the other major monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism, but it was Islam that the Hebdo team always really had in its sights. Its murdered editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, regularly expressed his disdain for this religion. Such prejudice was in fact condemned by the White House in September 2012, when a spokesman for President Obama questioned the judgment of Charlie Hebdo for publishing “images that will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory”. Richard Prasquier, head of France’s Jewish council, also said he disapproved of the caricatures because they constituted a “form of irresponsible panache”.

The climate of intolerance across France may well have been something Charlie Hebdo was reflecting, rather than creating, but strict laws banning hate literature would certainly have made many of its past issues unpublishable in countries including the UK. Comparisons between Private Eye, the British satirical weekly, and Charlie Hebdo have been made recently, but actually they are wrong: the self-styled “nasty” French magazine produces a far darker form of satire.

The sacred point, however, is that none of this in any way justifies violence, let alone the horrific slaughter this week. The vast majority of French Algerians and, indeed, Muslims across the world, were shocked and appalled by the murders, with a spokesman for the French Council of the Muslim Faith speaking of a “barbaric act against humanity, democracy and freedom of the press”. click here.

Tariq Ramadan, 9th January 2015: The attack on Charlie Hebdo compels us to be clear and to be consistent. We have to condemn what happened in Paris absolutely. I said the same after 7/7 and after 9/11. And after Jordan and Bali and Mali.

It is particularly important to be clear about where we stand, for the attackers said things that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. They said they were avenging the prophet. That was wrong. In fact, it is the message of Islam, our principles and values, that have been betrayed and tainted. They refer to Islam to justify what they did. From a religious viewpoint, I feel it is my responsibility to say that this has nothing to do with the message of our religion. I would expect anyone, if something was happening in the name of their country or in the name of their religion, to take a stand. As a Muslim scholar I have to take that stand.

That said, there is also a wider political side to this equation. We condemn what happened in France. We condemn the violent extremism that is targeting westerners. But it is not only westerners. We are reacting emotionally because 12 people were killed in Paris, but there are hundreds being killed day in, day out in Syria and Iraq, and still we send more bombs. We have to look at the big picture. Lives matter, but it is important to be clear that the lives of Muslims in Muslim majority countries have as much value as our own lives in the west…The shootings have been described as an act of war. I can understand why some might characterise it that way. But they are wrong to do so, for isn’t this exactly what the violent extremists such as Da’esh, so-called Islamic State, want? They want to say the west is at war with Islam, but if we are to take the action of marginal groups and use that as evidence that there is a war between Islam and the west, aren’t we merely falling into a trap?

…One sees difficult days ahead as yesterday’s dramatic events in France showed; and there is the issue of media organisations intent on publishing the most offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons, claiming that it would strike a blow for free speech. I support free speech, but I would urge them to desist, for what they plan to do is not courageous and will do nothing to afford people dignity. It will be another example of targeting all Muslims. It would say that if our fellow Muslim citizens are not part of the equation, we will target not the extremists – but Islam itself. It would hand the extremists a victory they could scarcely have achieved for themselves. click here.

Teju Cole, 9th January 2015: …Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.’s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.

The killings in Paris were an appalling offense to human life and dignity. The enormity of these crimes will shock us all for a long time. But the suggestion that violence by self-proclaimed Jihadists is the only threat to liberty in Western societies ignores other, often more immediate and intimate, dangers.

The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world, and one important thing they share is an expectation of proper respect for Western secular religion. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. When they commit torture or war crimes, no matter how illegal or depraved, there is little expectation of a full accounting or of the prosecution of the parties responsible. click here.

Adam Shatz, 9th January 2015: …In laying exclusive blame for the Paris massacres on the ‘totalitarian’ ideology of radical Islam, liberal intellectuals like Packer explicitly disavow one of liberalism’s great strengths. Modern liberalism has always insisted that ideology can go only so far in explaining behaviour. Social causes matter. The Kouachi brothers were products of the West – and of the traumatic collision between Western power and an Islamic world that has been torn apart by both internal conflict and Western military intervention. They were, above all, beurs, French citizens from the banlieue: Parisians of North African descent. It’s unlikely they could have recited more than the few hadith they learned from the ex-janitor-turned-imam who presided over their indoctrination. They came from a broken family and started out as petty criminals, much like Mohamed Merah, who murdered a group of Jewish schoolchildren in Montauban and Toulouse in 2012. Their main preoccupations, before their conversion to Islamism, seem to have been football, chasing girls, listening to hip hop and smoking weed. Radical Islam gave them the sense of purpose that they couldn’t otherwise find in France. It allowed them to translate their sense of powerlessness into total power, their aimlessness into heroism on the stage of history. They were no longer criminals but holy warriors. To see their crimes as an expression of Islam is like treating the crimes of the Baader-Meinhof gang as an expression of historical materialism. And to say this is in no way to diminish their responsibility, or to relinquish ‘moral clarity’. click here.

Jonathan Freedland, 9th January 2015: … Note the speed with which a delegation of 20 imams visited the Charlie Hebdo offices, branding the gunmen “criminals, barbarians, satans” and, crucially, “not Muslims”.

Of course they should not have to do it. The finger-wagging demand that Muslims condemn acts of terror committed by jihadist cultists is odious: it tacitly assumes that Muslims support such horror unless they explicitly say otherwise. The very demand serves to drive a wedge between Muslims and their fellow citizens. (As it happens, Jews have some experience of this feeling: we too are sometimes told we have to condemn this or that action taken by others – and over which we have no control – if our place in polite society is to be secure.)

So no one else should demand it. But when it comes, as it did so rapidly and spontaneously this week, it speaks with an extra power.

If the challenge, then, is to frustrate the killers’ desire to fuse themselves with Islam, then that puts a burden on non-Muslims too. They have to take great care that nothing they do, especially in response to this threat, treats the Muslim majority and the jihadist cult as if they were one group. They are not. Our politicians have to observe that distinction in every decision they take. If a policy appears aimed at Muslims rather than at the handful of jihadist fanatics, then it’s the wrong policy. click here.

 Jon Wilson in labourlist.org, 9th January 2015: In the hours after the murder of 10 journalists and 2 police officers in Paris, my inbox has been popping with strident messages in defence of free speech. They come from bloggers and columnists, from left and right. This is perhaps the only issue on which Paul Goodman and Emma Burnell stand united. We must, we are told, stand in solidarity with the people who were massacred. ‘I am Charlie Hebdo’ has become a viral sensation across the world. We are told we need to decide which side we are on, to defend free speech or give in to tyranny, to choose, as Alex Massie puts it in the Spectator, ‘between civilisation and barbarism,’ or ‘modernity and a kind of fanaticism we’ve known in our own past’.

I’m very uncomfortable with this kind of language. Despite its championing of freedom and its talk of modernity, there is a deep-rooted authoritarianism behind it. First of all it assumes that ‘our’ civilization is a good thing which must be defended at all costs, that the distribution of power and wealth in our society is right, that our biggest problems come from enemies outside. Secondly, it tries to construct a set of absolute moral polarities, suggesting we possess a single ‘way of life’ which is in danger. It subjugates our differences to an artificial unity which can only be imposed by an elite or the state – it’s that which makes it right wing. The assumption that ‘we’ share a common set of values which differs from our enemies stops us from understanding the particular circumstances which shape our lives and actions. This language of absolute moral opposites is uncivil and strident, with a totalitarian edge. What if your idea of civilization isn’t mine?

Rabbi Michael Lerner, 9th January 2015:But then again, I had to wonder about the way the massacre in Paris is being depicted and framed by the Western media as a horrendous threat to Western civilization, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I wondered about the over-heated nature of this description. It didn’t take me long to understand how problematic that framing really is.

When right-wing “pro-Israel” fanatics frequently sent me death threats, physically attacked my house and painted on the gates statements about me being “a Nazi” or “a self-hating Jew,” and called in bomb threats to Tikkun, the magazine I edit, there was no attention given to this by the media, no cries of “our civilization depends on freedom of the press” or demands to hunt down those involved (the FBI and police received our complaints, but never reported back to us about what they were doing to protect us or find the assailants).

Nor was the mainstream or Jewish media particularly concerned about Western civilization being destroyed or freedom of thought and association undermined when various universities denied tenure to professors who had made statements critical of Israel, or when the Hillel association, which operates a chain of student-oriented “Hillel Houses” on college campuses, decided to ban from their premises any Jews who were part of Jewish Voices for Peace. Nor was the media much interested in a bomb that went off outside the NAACP’s Colorado Springs headquarters the same day as they were highlighting the attack in Paris. Colorado Springs is home to some of the most extreme right-wing activists. It was a balding white man who was seen setting the bomb, some reports claim, and so the media described it as an act of a troubled “lone individual,” rather than as a white right wing Christian fundamentalist terrorist. Few Americans have even heard of this incident.

And when the horrific assassinations of 12 media people and the wounding of another 12 media workers resulted in justifiable outrage around the world, did you ever wonder why there wasn’t an equal outrage at the tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed by the American intervention in Iraq or the over a million civilians killed by the U.S. in Vietnam, or why President Obama refused to bring to justice the CIA torturers of mostly Muslim prisoners, thereby de facto giving future torturers the message that they need not even be sorry for their deeds (indeed, former Vice President Cheney boldly asserted he would order that kind of torture again without thinking twice)?

So don’t be surprised if people around the world, while condemning the despicable acts of the murderers in Paris and grieving for their families and friends, remain a bit cynical about the media-circus surrounding this particular outrage while the Western media quickly forgets the equally despicable acts of systematic murder and torture that Western countries have been involved in…click here.

Brian Klug, 9th January 2015: I read this on a blog today; it is a version of a claim that has been made over and over again in the last couple of days, lionising Charlie Hebdo: “In its cartoons, Charlie Hebdo did not discriminate. The magazine lampooned all and sundry in its cartoons: racists, bigots, right-wing politicians, the uber-rich, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and more.” And what does ‘more’ include? More to the point: what does it not include? Did they, for example, lampoon journalists who, in the name of freedom of expression, mock Muslims and Jews regardless of the consequences? Did they, in other words, ever satirize themselves? Apparently Charlie Hebdo has announced it will produce a million copies of its next issue. Will this issue ridicule the scenes of mourning and solemn demonstrations on the grand boulevards of Paris, poking fun at people who raised pens skyward and lit candles in the dark? And why not? Nothing is sacred. Wouldn’t this be just the kind of outrageous act, defying convention and challenging popular ideas of decency, that puts freedom of expression to the test?

Here is a thought experiment: Suppose that while the demonstrators stood solemnly at Place de la Republique the other night, holding up their pens and wearing their “je suis charlie” badges, a man stepped out in front holding a water pistol aloft and wearing a badge that said “je suis cherif” (the first name of one of the two brothers who gunned down the Charlie Hebdo staff). Suppose he was carrying a placard with a cartoon depicting the editor of the magazine lying in a pool of blood, saying, “Well I’ll be a son of a gun!” or “You’ve really blown me away!” or some such witticism. How would the crowd have reacted? Would they have laughed? Would they have applauded this gesture as quintessentially French? Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended? And infuriated. And then what? Perhaps many of them would have denounced the offender, screaming imprecations at him. Some might have thrown their pens at him. One or two individuals — two brothers perhaps — might have raced towards him and (cheered on by the crowd) attacked him with their fists, smashing his head against the ground. All in the name of freedom of expression. He would have been lucky to get away with his life.
Masses of people have turned the victims of a horrific assassination (which the staff of the magazine truly are) into heroes of France and free speech. The point of the thought experiment is not to show that these masses of people are hypocrites. Rather, it is to suggest that they don’t know their own minds. And when people don’t know their own minds — but think they do — they are liable to be swept away by blind moral passion; which is just what we don’t need as the storm clouds gather on the European horizon. click here
Robert Fisk in the Independent, 9th January 2015:  Long before the identity of the murder suspects was revealed by the French police – even before I heard the names of Cherif and Said Kouachi – I muttered the word “Algeria” to myself. As soon as I heard the names and saw the faces, I said the word “Algeria” again. And then the French police said the two men were of “Algerian origin”.

For Algeria remains the most painful wound within the body politic of the Republic – save, perhaps, for its continuing self-examination of Nazi occupation – and provides a fearful context for every act of Arab violence against France. The six-year Algerian war for independence, in which perhaps a million and a half Arab Muslims and many thousands of French men and women died, remains an unending and unresolved agony for both peoples. Just over half a century ago, it almost started a French civil war.

…But there’s an important context that somehow got left out of the story this week, the “history corner” that many Frenchmen as well as Algerians prefer to ignore: the bloody 1954-62 struggle of an entire people for freedom against a brutal imperial regime, a prolonged war which remains the foundational quarrel of Arabs and French to this day.The desperate and permanent crisis in Algerian-French relations, like the refusal of a divorced couple to accept an agreed narrative of their sorrow, poisons the cohabitation of these two peoples in France. However Cherif and Said Kouachi excused their actions, they were born at a time when Algeria had been invisibly mutilated by 132 years of occupation. Perhaps five million of France’s six and a half million Muslims are Algerian. Most are poor, many regard themselves as second-class citizens in the land of equality.

…  And when the Algerian civil war of the 1980s commenced – after the Algerian army cancelled a second round of elections which Islamists were sure to win – the corrupt FLN “pouvoir” and the Muslim rebels embarked on a conflict every bit as gruesome as the Franco-Algerian war of the 1950s and 1960s. Torture, disappearances, village massacres all resumed. France discreetly supported a dictatorship whose military leaders salted away millions of dollars in Swiss banks.

Algerian Muslims returning from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan joined the Islamists in the mountains, killing some of the few remaining French citizens in Algeria. And many subsequently left to fight in the Islamist wars, in Iraq and later Syria.

Enter here the Kouachi brothers, especially Chérif, who was imprisoned for taking Frenchmen to fight against the Americans in Iraq. And the United States, with French support, now backs the FLN regime in its continuing battle against Islamists in Algeria’s deserts and mountain forests, arming a military which tortured and murdered thousands of men in the 1990s.

As an American diplomat said just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States “has much to learn” from the Algerian authorities. You can see why some Algerians went to fight for the Iraqi resistance. And found a new cause…click here.

Glen Newey, 9th January 2015:…Provocation targets others by affronting what they hold dear. As representations, some of the cartoons of Muslims in Charlie Hebdo are as grotesquely caricatural as those of Jews in Der Stürmer. How far satire subverts asymmetries of power, and so offsets them, depends on where it comes from and who it aims at. Since the provocateurs play on the difference between their own values and those they target, it’s unsurprising that the provoked act in line with what they value. I’ve defended elsewhere a broad content-based free speech norm, but it doesn’t follow that every exercise of free speech is valuable in itself, particularly if it further denigrates the downtrodden. click here.

Anne Norton, 10th January 2015:  I condemn the murderers who attacked Charlie Hebdo. I condemn the demand that calls us to say #jesuischarlie. Condemning murder does not require the embrace of bigotry. The demand that we embrace Charlie Hebdo belongs to Europe’s rightward turn.

#jesuischarlie might be meant as solidarity. But it calls for an identity bounded by bigotry. Charlie Hebdo is a scurrilous rag, willfully offensive, that defended the powerful by attacking the weak. The journal ‘s favored practice was baiting the Muslim minority: developing ever more pornographic and offensive blasphemies. Muslims in France, especially religious Muslims, are a minority, subject to daily slights and institutional discrimination. Charlie Hebdo manifested its moral courage in a continual parade of hook-nosed Muslims (often Mohammad), leering and lustful, held up for the mocking amusement of secular elites. I mourn the dead. I defend freedom of expression, but I want no part in that. I am not Charlie Hebdo.

They have the right to write, to publish what they choose. We should defend that right, but we are not obliged to praise or agree with Charlie Hebdo. We are not obliged to republish their shameful cartoons, or defend their bigotry. The demand that we do so is another attack on free speech. It is requiring us to speak a script dictated by others, to speak against our will.

I fear for a Europe that embraces these practices. click here.

Nial O’Dowd, 10th January 2015:  We can defend free speech without agreeing with it. But where does free speech degenerate into hate speech, and do we defend that?  Obviously the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo workers was horrific and completely insane, but in defending free speech we don’t have to agree with what was bordering on hate speech to many.  Our much maligned Irish emigrant ancestors would likely agree. They would see a line from Nast to Charlie Hebdo and would view it all as much more than a bit of fun and satire.  Alas, it is too late for so many, including that incredibly brave Muslim policeman who died, shot like a dog, defending folks who were ridiculing his religion.

And while the French say they are all Charlie Hebdo now the great fear is they will be Marine Le Pen, the leader of the semi-fascist party in the next election, making matters even worse…. click here.

Noam Chomsky, 10th January 2015: …we can readily comprehend the comment in the New York Times of civil rights lawyer Floyd Abrams, noted for his forceful defense of freedom of expression, that the Charlie Hebdo attack is “the most threatening assault on journalism in living memory.” He is quite correct about “living memory,” which carefully assigns assaults on journalism and acts of terror to their proper categories: Theirs, which are horrendous; and Ours, which are virtuous and easily dismissed from living memory.

We might recall as well that this is only one of many assaults by the Righteous on free expression. To mention only one example that is easily erased from “living memory,” the assault on Falluja by US forces in November 2004, one of the worst crimes of the invasion of Iraq, opened with occupation of Falluja General Hospital. Military occupation of a hospital is, of course, a serious war crime in itself, even apart from the manner in which it was carried out, blandly reported in a front-page story in the New York Times, accompanied with a photograph depicting the crime. The story reported that “Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs.” The crimes were reported as highly meritorious, and justified: “The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Falluja General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties.”

Evidently such a propaganda agency cannot be permitted to spew forth its vulgar obscenities.  click here. 

Malek Merabet, 11th January 2015:  [Eulogy from the brother of murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet]:  Devastated by this barbaric act, we associate ourselves with the pain of the families of the victims. I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites: One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Madness has neither color nor religion. I want to make another point: stop painting everybody with the same brush, stop burning mosques or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring back our dead, and it won’t appease our families…My brother was a Muslim. He was killed by people who pretend to be Muslims click here.

Charles-Phillipe d’Orleans, 11th January 2015:   Charlie Hebdo est un papier vulgaire, méprisant les opinions qui ne sont pas les siennes qui, sous couvert de la liberté d’expression, se permet toutes les provocations. Charlie Hebdo est un journal agressif qui exploite le filon de la haine des religions en passant soi-disant par l’humo…ur. Charlie Hebdo est à l’image de la société athée européenne de gauche, un pourvoyeur de rancune et un ennemi du respect et de la fraternité entre les peuples et les hommes, quelles que soient leurs différences, leur race, leur couleur, leur religion.  Je refuse donc de prendre part à une « alliance sacrée républicaine » pro-Charlie parce que, tout simplement, je ne comprends pas ce que je dois défendre. Je ne suis ni irrespectueux ni indécents et ne souhaites pas offenser la mémoire des crayonneurs abattus. Les mots manquent pour dire l’horreur de l’attaque qui a frappé la rédaction du journal. Je condamne cet acte de barbarie et présente aux familles et proches des défunts mes plus sincères condoléances.

Je dénonce juste la stérilité de la tentative d’union nationale et l’hypocrisie des citoyens qui n’ont jamais lu l’hebdomadaire humoristique et qui l’ont toujours critiqué. Rendre hommage aux victimes, oui. Rendre hommage à Charlie Hebdo, non. click here
Arifa Akbar, 11th January 2015:  This week, I’m told I haven’t apologised enough. Not nearly enough – being a British Muslim, and confining my expressions of disbelief, alarm and anger, to only my circle of friends, colleagues and family – when in Paris, 17 are dead, Europe is in mourning, and the freedoms enshrined in my own profession have been barbarically violated.

Rupert Murdoch, that upstanding pillar of the community, reminded me of my responsibilities in a tweet: “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognise and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” Plenty disagreed, though more than a thousand yesterday had “favourited” the comment. He joins the chorus across TV and radio stations, newspapers, and social media: “Muslims need to apologise”.

So I must publicly declare myself contrite. Until I do, I am suspect. It is not good enough for me to be flabbergasted in private. I must apologise, as an ordinary Muslim, living an ordinary life in the West.

…For Muslims to apologise is for them to admit that they – we – harboured these men, we invited them to our mosques and listened to their bile and hatred, and perhaps even their planning. How many of us were and are complicit in this? I’m not, and the majority of Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims aren’t either. After 9/11, I spoke to the brother of a Muslim victim. Who should apologise to him? The policeman shot dead in the line of duty was a Muslim. Who should apologise for Ahmed Merabet’s death? Me?

How far do ripples of responsibility extend? Should an imam in Southall apologise for the actions of these men in Paris? France has a significant Muslim minority with its own tensions – the ban on the veil and high levels of disenchantment among this largely banlieue-dwelling minority. It is all rather more complex than can be smoothed over with an apology.

I can only speak for myself when I say how sorry I am. I am sorry that three men killed 17 other human beings in the name of my religion. I am sorry they killed members of my profession, doing what they had a right to do. And I’m sorry that this violence will generate a spiral of terrifying vengeance – the firebombing of mosques has already begun. Doubtless women in headscarves will be assaulted and more will die.

Is this apology enough? click here.

Henry  Porter, 12th January 2015:  Over the past few days, authoritarian voices from the right and left have expressed much exasperation with liberals, as if the only aims of liberals were to support the terrorists and impede the security agencies. Max Hastings, writing in the Daily Mail, conflated the issues of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden’s revelations with the attacks, and suggested these had harmed the ability to track people such as the Kouachi brothers. Like Dan Hodges, writing in the Daily Telegraph last week, Hastings demanded that the agencies be given all the powers they ask for….For example, surveillance powers, upgraded in the wake of previous terror attacks, enabled the Metropolitan police to put under close surveillance six journalists who were loosely thought to be investigating government and corporate abuse. About 2,000 legitimate, mainstream journalists are said to be on the police database. That hardly inspires confidence in the innate goodness of government, or the authorities’ ability to respect freedoms essential to proper scrutiny. Hastings’ faith in the establishment must also be shaken by the failure to release the Chilcott report into the Iraq war and the prevarication that has taken place over the allegations of British involvement in torture of terror suspects. To give further wide-ranging powers to the state now is first of all inappropriate in the context of what we know about the Kouachi brothers and, second, would militate against the very freedoms that were under attack last week. click here

Tariq Modood, 12th January 2015: … So, the ‘free speech’ argument of the last week has not really been about the right to free speech, but about how to exercise the responsibility that goes with free speech. I see no reason to celebrate those who abjure this responsibility or exercise it carelessly, heedless of the consequences of their actions. The defence of Charlie Hebdo – that they did not target Islam but everybody and anybody – is not impressive if the assumption is that targeting minorities and weak groups and being willing to use and strengthen stereotypes and racist imagery is ok, as long as the satirists in question also satirise the powerful.

None of this of course justifies any form of violence let alone the murders of last week, but it at least identifies some of the relevant issues, especially those which are about the uses of freedom and of being mindful of how images can reinforce social divisions. click here

Mehdi Hasan, 13th January 2015:

Dear liberal pundit,

You and I didn’t like George W Bush. Remember his puerile declaration after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”? Yet now, in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack, you appear to have updated Dubya’s slogan: either you are with free speech… or you are against it. Either vous êtes Charlie Hebdo… or you’re a freedom-hating fanatic.

I’m writing to you to make a simple request: please stop. You think you’re defying the terrorists when, in reality, you’re playing into their bloodstained hands by dividing and demonising. Us and them. The enlightened and liberal west v the backward, barbaric Muslims. The massacre in Paris on 7 January was, you keep telling us, an attack on free speech. The conservative former French president Nicolas Sarkozy agrees, calling it “a war declared on civilisation”. So, too, does the liberal-left pin-up Jon Snow, who crassly tweeted about a “clash of civilisations” and referred to “Europe’s belief in freedom of expression”.

In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)? It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004.

Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn. Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust? No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t). …click here.

 AbdelKader Benali, 13th January 2015: 

When I was 17, I found “The Satanic Verses” tucked away in a school library. I grabbed it, started reading and was mesmerized. Here was a young man struggling with his faith in a faithless world — an immigrant son from a deeply religious home thrown into a world where everything is embraced and nothing is sacred. It confirmed what I had felt deep inside: a free and open society is a threat to religious people. Their religion will be mocked — sometimes even suppressed — and this will provoke anger.

And now it’s happening again. The rise of extremists who lure young Muslims in the West with visions of Islamic utopia is creating nausea among European Muslims. Boys and girls are leaving their families and being converted into killing machines. They are leaving not from Baghdad but from Brussels and The Hague. We insist that this can’t be our Islam and if this is Islam we don’t want it. But I know from my own experience that the lure of extremism can be very powerful when you grow up in a world where the media and everyone around you seems to mock and insult your culture.

One of the first people the terrorists in Paris killed was one of us: Mustapha Ourrad, an Algerian-born copy editor at Charlie Hebdo. Then they killed another Muslim: the police officer, Ahmed Merabet. The killers didn’t take mercy on them. In the name of Islam they killed Muslims. And every time a European Muslim sees that image of Mr. Merabet’s last moments, he sees himself lying there on the cold pavement. Helpless. And the next question will be: What will I say tomorrow at work or at school?

What happened last week is not about lack of humor, or a failure to understand caricature. Nor is it about hatred of the West. It’s about anger taking a wrong turn….click here.

Luc Besson, 13th January 2015: 

“My brother,  if you knew how badly I hurt for you today, you and your beautiful religion that has been so sullied, humiliated, and singled out. Forgotten are your strength, your energy, your humour, your heart, your fraternity. It’s unfair and together we will repair this injustice.  We are millions who love you and who are going to help you. Let’s start at the beginning. What is the society we’re offering you today?

It’s based on money, profit, segregation and racism. In some suburbs, unemployment for people under 25 is 50%. You are marginalised because of your colour or your first name. You’re questioned 10 times a day, you’re crowded into apartment blocks and no one represents you. Who could live and thrive under such conditions?

Profit comes before all else. We cut and sell the apple tree’s branches and then are shocked there’s no fruit. The real problem is there, and that’s for all of us to resolve.

I call on the powerful, the big bosses and all leaders. Help this youth that has been humiliated and which asks only to be part of society. The economy is in the service of man and not the reverse. To do good is the greatest of profits. Dear powerful, do you have children? Do you love them? What do you want to leave them? Money? Why not a world that’s more fair? That would make your children the most proud of you.

We cannot build our happiness on the misfortune of others. It is neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim. It is just selfish and it leads our society and our planet straight into a wall. This is the work we have to do beginning today to honour our dead.

Terrorism will never win.

And you, my brother, you also have a job to do. How can you change this society that’s being offered to you? By working, by studying, by taking up a pencil rather than a Kalashnikov. That’s what’s good about democracy, it offers you the noble tools to defend yourself. Take your destiny in hand, take the power. It costs 250 euros to buy a Kalashnikov but not even three euros to buy a pen – and your response can have a thousand times more impact. Take the power, and play by the rules… click here.

Simon Jenkins, 13th January 2015: … Cartoonists have made defiant responses, some of them by flagrantly offending Muslims who might otherwise have deplored the terrorists.German Right-wingers are elated. Muslims are not just offended but  alarmed.  We should surely be careful whose game we play. Anyone can summon up a march. Sympathy is cheap, clichés abundant. But terrorism is best countered by considering what it wants, and then denying it. Terrorist outrages in Western cities are not intended to bring down governments or flex the muscles of some dissident group, as in Iraq or Syria or Pakistan. They are designed to get wall-to-wall coverage. The greater the public hysteria, the more fear and uncertainty descends on victim communities, the more glory accords to the terrorists and their families. Being portrayed as warriors rather than common criminals brings sympathisers and recruits. This is precisely what we have delivered… click here.

John Keane, 14th January 2015: … Making sense of the violence is imperative for citizens who care about their world. At a minimum, this requires a measure of detachment from the language of outrage and disapprobation that has swept through France and the rest of Europe during the past week. What the world has witnessed is without doubt savage acts of criminal violence. Barbaric they are. But, contrary to the prevailing media narratives, the acts of violence are neither simply “inhuman” (as if “humanity” has a perfect track record in the field of non-violence) nor best understood as an “attack against France” or French values, as François Hollande and many politicians have chanted in recent days. Contrary to the dominant media narrative, such violent incidents are also not isolated or unconnected events. Nor is the violence to be understood, in Rupert Murdoch’s terms of clinical medicine, as a “jihadist cancer”, or even as the work of mentally “unstable” people as French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has repeatedly claimed.

The barbarism of our times is different. It is political, and it must be understood as such, beginning with the chilling fact that what we are witnessing are acts of revenge by Muslim radicals angered by the rise of a new global bigotry: the fear and dread and despise of Islam. In many parts of the European Union, where more than 20 million Muslim people now dwell, Muslim baiting has become a popular sport. The cold truth is that organised suspicion and denigration of Islam is the new anti-Semitism…A careful genealogy of the principle of free speech shows that these Muslims are on to something. Think of John Milton’s insistence that “the Turk upholds his Alcoran, by the prohibition of printing,” and therefore in his view has no taste for liberty of the press. Then consider the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which discovered to its cost that liberty of the press is not just liberty of the press. There is no such thing as free speech without social consequences and political effects. And cartoons are not just cartoons; parading as ‘free speech” they can easily function as weapons of prejudice and denigration of the powerless….  click here.

Francesco Sisci, 14th January 2015: …one lesson to draw upon could be the fight against Red terrorism in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. Then a group of communist extremists tried to push the Italian state into a fierce crackdown against the wave of terror that they had unleashed on Italy. The terrorists hoped their actions would create sympathizers among the large communist population in Italy, which gave about 30% of the total votes to the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The astute reaction of the then-ruling Christian Democrats (DC) was to engage the PCI closely and bring it near to the mainstream power system. The DC also floated the real threat of anti-communist, fascist terrorism, and the risk for Italy and the PCI of falling into a civil war between opposite extremisms.

The PCI, caught in a vise between the temptations of sharing power and the threat of being crushed in all-out crackdown, in turn aggressively helped to isolate the terrorists. This internal strategy was de facto coupled with an external effort by the Catholic Church, “headquartered” in Rome and engaged in supporting the values of freedom in its fight against atheism in Eastern Europe – especially in Poland, with a large Catholic population. This effort in Eastern Europe and the PCI’s decision helped cause the Soviet Empire’s resolve to flag in its efforts to support Italian communist terrorists, something that weakened them.  This large-scale political exertion created the conditions to drain the water where the terrorist fish were swimming, thus allowed intelligence officers to catch the dangerous fish with minimal or no harm to society and to the largely peaceful Italian communist population.  The same effort on a much larger scale must be mounted to turn the tide of extremist Muslim terrorists in Europe and in the world, while knowing that the present phenomenon is in many respects quite different from the old Italian experience.

On a broad scale then, certainly, a massive effort has to be taken by the West as a whole and the European states specifically to integrate and assimilate the growing Muslim minorities. But this is not simple Resentment among Muslim minorities has many causes, one of which is economic. The European economic downturn is killing millions of jobs, leaving the unemployed to the embrace of militant Muslims – or their opposite, near reflection, the anti-Muslim, racist parties springing up all over Europe, from the British UKIP to the French Marine Le Pen to the Italian Lega Nord, to name a few.  click here.

Edwy Plenel, 14th January 2015:  Les terroristes font toujours la politique du pire. Ceux qui ont fait les attentats du 11 septembre 2001 aux Etats-Unis ont fait la politique des néo-conservateurs, du Patriot Act, de Guantanamo, de la torture, de l’invasion de l’Irak, de la guerre contre le terrorisme… de la politique de la peur dont l’onde de choc continue à déséquilibrer le monde. Les terroristes sont des apprentis sorciers en croyant remporter une victoire en fait ils arment ceux qu’ils désignent comme le pire ennemi. Ce sont les alliés des politiques que nous combattons. Ce que je crains c’est que l’on se serve de ces crimes pour nous engager dans une guerre sans fin, pour désigner en bloc une partie de notre peuple. Les musulmans sont les premières victimes du terrorisme islamiste. Ce n’est pas l’Islam qui produit ces terroristes. Ces derniers se prétendent de l’Islam mais n’ont rien à voir avec l’Islam. En revanche, ils sont le produit de toutes les fractures, les déchirures de notre société. Mon souhait serait que l’on arrête d’agiter des épouvantails car sinon on continuera à produire des monstres. Je souhaite que l’on se relève, que l’on ait ce sursaut, que l’on sorte de ces vaines polémiques qui nous rabaissent. click here.

Mahmood Memdani, 15th January 2015: …I support the right of free speech as part of a right of dissent. But that does not mean that I support every particular exercise of free speech or dissent. It is well known that the history of free speech is contradictory. We recognise it by distinguishing ‘hate speech’ from other forms of free speech. Some states ban ‘hate speech’ legally, other states refrain from a legal ban and leave it to society to discourage it politically and morally.

When asked to comment on the Danish Cartoons on Prophet Mohamed, the German novelist Günter Grass said they reminded him of anti- Semitic cartoons in a German magazine, Der Stürmer. The New York Times piece that carried the interview with Gunter Grass added that the publisher of Der Stürmer was tried at Nuremberg and executed. Among those tried in Arusha following the Rwanda genocide was a radio journalist. Following mass violence in the Rift Valley in Kenya, the ICC issued a list of those charged with crimes against humanity; one of these was a radio journalist. In all three cases, the journalists were accused of spreading hate speech.

My own preference is for the political and the intellectual over the legal. I am against all forms of censorship. While I think you have a right to say what you think, I will not support anything you say or write. I also reserve the right to disagree with you, vehemently if necessary. It is one thing to support the right of Charlie Hebdo journalists to print the cartoons they did, and quite another to reprint them as an expression of support….

Western societies have worked out internal compromises over time in an endeavour to build durable political societies. The scope and nature of these compromises are politically defined. Their thrust is to call a ceasefire in struggles of great historical significance in the name of civility. In many Western countries, there are laws against blasphemy. But they are restricted to official Christian denominations. For example, Britain has laws criminalising blasphemy, as do several other European countries, but they do not apply to Islam.

Before the Second World War, Jews were the customary target of satirists of a particular type. Voltaire, popularly considered the founding father and grand defender of the freedom to satire, was an ardent anti-Semite, and a number of his satires targeted Jews and Judaism. After the Holocaust, Jews were brought into the Western political fold. It became conventional to speak of a Judeo-Christian heritage in the West, when it had been customary to speak of a longstanding conflict between Judaism and Christianity before. So, today the law in many European countries, including France, criminalises Holocaust denial. But no law criminalises the denial of colonial genocide, including widespread colonial massacres in Algeria, the country of origin of the largest number of French Muslims.

The political and social compact in Europe has been evolving historically. The state stepped in to moderate the conflict between ardent Christians and secular Christians. Jews were included in this compact after the Holocaust. Muslims have never been part of this compact. The Muslim minority in Europe is the largest in France, around 10 per cent. In the Mediterranean city of Marseille, it is roughly 30 per cent. It represents the weakest and the most disenfranchised section of French society. There are more Muslims in the French police and security services than there are in al-Qaeda or other terrorist cells. But you would not know it. At the same time, the representation of Muslims in the French elite, whether political, economic or cultural, is nominal, the exception being the French football team, once led by the legendary Zinnedine Zidane.

Of course, it is possible to include Muslims in the social and political compact in France. But that will take a major political, intellectual and cultural struggle. Centers of power – and people – in France will have to accept that it is possible to be French and Muslim, that it is OK for a pious Muslim woman to wear a ‘hijab’, as it is for a Catholic nun – so long as this act of piety does not banish either from participation in the public sphere. In other words, we are talking of a political struggle for meaningful citizenship…

Durkheim defined religion as a mode of thought and practice that defines objects and actions as either sacred or profane. In this sense, the secular world can be equally religious: the state takes the place of an official religion, the flag or the national anthem becomes sacred objects, and so on.

Second, the notion that modernity will civilize the world by doing away with barbarism and superstition (‘pre-modernity) has turned out to be a superstition itself. The tendency of modernity has been to harness pre-modern practices and institutions to modern political projects, thereby politicizing (and thus ‘modernizing’) them. Both religion and tradition (in a secular sense) have become politicized. Just think of how the CIA militarised madressas in Pakistan to wage the Afghan jihad during the Soviet occupation.

We are going through a resurgence of politicized religion and politicized tradition. Think of the parties in Europe that now organize in defense of ‘Europe’ and against immigrants (really Muslims). Think of born-again Christianity and its remarkable political influence in the U.S. Think of political Zionism, both in Israel and the U.S. Think of the BJP and the myriad Sangh Sabha organisations in India who want a Hindu state as the surest guarantee for the defense of Hindu tradition. And think of radical Islamist groups that want an ‘Islamic state’ as a guarantee of a return to Islam.

My point is that we are seeing a resurgence of movements around the world that speak the language of nativism, tradition and religion. Not all of them are reactionary. We should be careful not judge the contents largely by the packaging. In my view, the debate inside tradition and religion is as important the debate between secular and religious traditions…

The French like to think of themselves as the custodians of the tradition of liberty, equality and fraternity. That is true but it is not the whole truth. The French also need to think of the dark side of their tradition: the colonial tradition, both in Indo-China and Africa. The French need to recognise that the Algerians, the North Africans and the West Africans from the former colonies are in France as immigrants, because the French were in their countries in the first place. These immigrants have run away from the consequences of colonialism. If the solution – France – has turned sour, where do these immigrants run to now? To an imaginary Islamic state? If a second or third generation North African is still considered an immigrant in France, should that not provide us a clue as to the nature of the problem? Where lies the problem, the promise of the Islamist state, or the reality of immigrant lives in contemporary France, or both? click here.

Seamas Milne, 15th January 2015: … In a country where women are bundled into police vans because of the way they dress, freedom of speech can also look like a one-way street. Charlie Hebdo claims to be an “equal opportunities offender”, abusing all religions alike. The reality, as one of its former journalists put it, has been an “Islamophobic neurosis” that focused its racialised baiting on the most marginalised section of the population. This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.

For all the talk of freedom of expression being a non-negotiable right, Holocaust denial is outlawed in France, and performances by the antisemitic black comedian Dieudonné have been banned. But just as there is a blindness in sections of progressive France about how the secular ideology used to break the grip of the powerful is now used to discipline the powerless, the right to single out one religion for abuse has been raised to the status of a core liberal value.

The absurdity was there for all to see at the “Je suis Charlie” demonstration in Paris on Sunday. A march supposedly to defend freedom of expression was led by serried ranks of warmongers and autocrats: from Nato war leaders and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s foreign minister, who between them have jailed, killed and flogged any number of journalists while staging massacres and interventions that have left hundreds of thousands dead, bombing TV stations from Serbia to Afghanistan as they go.

The scene was beyond satire. But it also highlighted the central role of the war on terror in the Paris atrocities, and how the serried ranks are likely to use them for their own ends. Of course, the cocktail of causes and motivations for the attacks are complex: from an inheritance of savage colonial brutality in Algeria via poverty, racism, criminality and takfiri jihadist ideology.

But without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week’s attacks clearly wouldn’t have taken place. That war on terror has lasted 13 years – even if attempts to control the region long predate it – unleashing brutality and destruction on a vast scale….click here.

Pope Francis, 15th January 2015:  One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits. click here.

Ratna Lachman, 15th January 2015:  The decision of the Charlie Hebdo team to print three million copies of its satirical magazine, with the depiction of the Prophet on its front cover – albeit declaring mercy and forgiveness – was undoubtedly an act of defiance against the terrorists who murdered twelve of its journalists. The depiction of a beneficent Prophet stands in stark contrast to the demeaning caricatures that had previously earned the magazine its notoriety. But why depict a beneficent Prophet articulating a message of forgiveness – Je SuisPardonné– a portrayal that could equally be interpreted as an indictment of journalistic hubris as much as a condemnation of those who killed in his name? Could it be, I asked my Muslim friends, that the magazine was attempting to bridge divides and heal the pain wrought by the unleashing of terrorist violence?

The response from the majority was a resounding no and they believed that the magazine’s decision to print a picture of their Prophet was an act of deliberate provocation aimed at the Muslim community. Others were angry that the magazine had been elevated into a totemic symbol of Western freedom. Why, they asked was there no acknowledgement of the sacrifice of Muslim victims of the Arab spring who were fighting for the same freedoms as the two million French citizens on the unity march?  That essentially is the problem with the entire Charlie Hebdo affair: the values that are shared by people the world over have been claimed by the West and interpreted in culturally specific ways that deny the non-Western world their essential humanity.

132 children were gunned down in Peshawar by Pakistani terrorists and more than 2000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram Islamists within days of the Paris killings. Yet no world leaders came to mourn their passing, nor was there a unity march to commemorate the dead. If the freedom of expression and the sanctity of life are inalienable, why was the same dignity not accorded to the murder of innocents on foreign shores? The Paris Unity March did not even make a passing reference to their deaths or acknowledge that terrorists have taken more Muslim than Western lives.

So I would like to declare that ‘Non je ne suis pas Charlie’– ‘No, I am not Charlie’ because the hashtag asserts White and Western privilege; it arrogates the values of freedom and liberty to some mythical notion of Western moral superiority; and in the end it is reductive, polarizing and hypocritical. click here.

Alexander Stile, 15th January 2015:  The broader debate about free expression—and about the discrepancy in the treatment accorded Charlie Hebdo and Dieudonné—also needs to consider the over-all context of media in France. The airwaves and traditional media are dominated by non-Muslim voices. Entire radio and TV programs debate daily the merits and demerits of Islam in France, without much effort to include the views of those in the Muslim community. The commentators on these shows may stop short of hate speech, but many routinely engage in broad generalizations and negative stereotyping. In this context, the vigilant surveillance of Dieudonné’s nasty provocations appears extremely one-sided and disproportionate, and gives him, sadly, far more importance than he deserves.

With France still reeling from last week’s deadly attacks, it may take time for a moderate response to prevail. But if the country wants to turn the attacks into a turning point for renewed national unity, it needs to show that its Republican values of freedom are inclusive and protect all its citizens—not only some of them. Last week’s tragedy could drive a wedge between violent extremists and France’s Muslims, the vast majority of whom are peaceful, or it could deepen the divide between France’s minorities and the rest of the country. click here.

Didier Fasin, 15th January 2015:  Après le temps de la sidération, le temps de la communion et le temps du recueillement autour des victimes des assassinats des 7, 8 et 9 janvier, devra venir le temps de la réflexion sur ces événements tragiques. Or l’émotion légitime et l’apparent consensus qui en a résulté tendent à délimiter l’espace du pensable et a fortiori du dicible. Un périmètre de sécurité idéologique impose ce qu’il est acceptable d’interroger et ce qui ne saurait l’être.  Condamner est nécessaire, analyser devient suspect. « Il y en a assez de toujours essayer de comprendre. À force de trop vouloir expliquer, nous avons fait preuve de complaisance depuis trop longtemps », me disait une personnalité de gauche connue pour ses engagements citoyens….Vivant dans des quartiers fortement ségrégués dans lesquels les taux de chômage et de précarité sont particulièrement élevés, ils prennent très tôt l’habitude de la stigmatisation et des discriminations. En guise d’éducation civique, leurs parents leur enseignent qu’ils doivent subir sans broncher les provocations des policiers lorsqu’ils sont soumis à des contrôles d’identité en raison de leur apparence. Quand ils recherchent unemploi, ils observent que, quelque diplômés qu’ils soient, leur couleur et leur patronyme érigent des obstacles difficilement franchissables, et quand ils sont en quête d’un logement, ils constatent que les mêmes causes produisent les mêmes effets….

« Nous sommes un peuple », titre avec enthousiasme un quotidien au lendemain de la manifestation du 11 janvier. Et tous ceux qui savent qu’ils n’en sont pas, de ce peuple, qu’ils n’y sont pas les bienvenus, tolérés tout au plus, continuent de se taire. Ils voient se mettre en place une protection policière aux abords des synagogues mais non des mosquées où profanations et agressions se multiplient. Ils regardent le président de la République aller prier aux côtés du chef de cet Etat israélien auquel il avait naguère déclaré son « amour » et se demandent quand il en fera de même dans un de leurs lieux de culte. Ils entendent le Premier ministre affirmer, dans un bel élan de solidarité : « Sans les Juifs de France, la France n’est plus la France ». Et, sans guère d’illusion, ils rêvent du jour où un chef de gouvernement français oserait prononcer ces mots : « Sans les musulmans de France, la France n’est plus la France». click here.

Giles Fraser, 16th January 2015: …At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.

It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.

Of course, there are those who think the Catholic church had it coming. Yes, it had cornered a huge proportion of France’s wealth. Yes, it had a dangerously symbiotic relationship with the monarchy and reactionary aristocrats in powdered wigs. But these days, the Catholic church is no longer any political challenge to the French state. And the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself. But as the Catholic church is no longer planning to sponsor a coup against the state, Republican identity requires something new to define itself against – something just like radical Islam. As Voltaire put it: “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.” Thus France picked a fight with Islam by banning the headscarf from schools in 2004 and the niqab from all public life back in 2010 – bans which closely echo the hostility of earlier generations to the veiling of nuns.

But there is a huge difference between targeting grand bishops in Rome and a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community that has received a great many knocks at the hands of the French state and its colonial past. Rabelaisian derision aimed at the House of Saud or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is one thing. But aimed at the disaffected banlieues it is bullying and goading. You have to be suspicious that French secularism is not the neutral thing it purports to be when racists such as Le Pen start defending it so enthusiastically. click here.

Jonathan Freedland, 16th January 2015:there is no easy fix – no single security mechanism, change in foreign policy or censor’s gag that will magic this problem away.  Instead what will be required is an understanding: an accommodation in western societies between their non-Muslim majorities and their Muslim minorities, one that will pointedly exclude and isolate the cultists of violent jihadism. For non-Muslims that means listening to what we are being told repeatedly: that it is not just racist or hostile depictions of the prophet that insult ordinary, mosque-going Muslims but any depiction at all. That may seem hard to grasp, even unreasonable, to non-Muslims but that’s the fact of the matter. And it won’t do to start citing Wikipedia-level knowledge of 12th-century Persian art, with its apparent tolerance of such depictions, in order to tell Muslims about their own religion. We just have to accept that most Muslims – not just extremists – experience such representations as an insult.

Meanwhile, Muslims might have to brace themselves for the possibility that sometimes just such an insult will come their way. They don’t have to like it. They might struggle to laugh it off. But perhaps it can be seen as the sometimes painful price of living in a free society, one that makes freedom of religion – and the freedom to live as a Muslim – possible.

Put simply, we are unlikely to agree any time soon about what is acceptable speech and what isn’t. But how we cope with what hurts us, that is a discussion we need to have – inside the Muslim community, but not only there. click here.

Sohail Daulatzai, 16th January 2015: …The controversies around “free speech” and Muslims that were provoked by the film trailer The Innocence of Muslims, the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the left leaning Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France, and more recently the racist pro-Zionist subway ads in New York City have quite predictably provoked a ground swell of anger, frustration, and confusion when it comes to dissent by those who happen to be Muslims…Because “free speech” is held as the cornerstone of Western liberal democracy, interpreting these protests through this lens frames Muslims as being against free expression, and even freedom itself. More subtly and significantly, it suggests that Muslims are medieval and rooted in tradition, outside the fold of democracy and modernity. This has been a well-worn, tried and true way of talking about Muslims – part of a racist colonial past inherited by the imperial present in which “they” are savage, primitive, and irrational, while “we” are civilized, modern, and rational…

In framing it as an issue of “free speech,” the media have presented these protestors as “fanatics,” conveniently making this an issue solely about religion and not also about politics, power, and a referendum on U.S. and Western intervention in these countries.

As a result, this undermines the very real issues that these protests are rooted in, and it refuses to view these protesters and their supporters as complex actors, motivated by an array of issues and concerns. WhileInnocence of Muslims, the French cartoons, and the pro-Zionist signs in the subway may be part of the protests and discontent, these are only the tip of the iceberg, and symbols for a much deeper discontent that begs a more existential and ethical question: how much suffering are people expected to endure? Let’s not even go back through centuries of European colonialism or even 20th century U.S. imperialism and subversion of democracy through the backing of dictators and overthrowing of elected leaders. How about just the last eleven years of U.S-led domination where torture, indefinite detention, drone wars in several countries, targeted assassinations, unwavering support of Israel, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, threats and sanctions on Iran, destabilization and violations of national sovereignty, Guantanamo, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, and the displacement of millions more has become normalized and acceptable? And what of the support for a neoliberal economic policy that has devastated the region for the benefit of the United States, Europe and their lackeys? Can’t this be considered a central factor of the political calculus of these protests and widespread discontent?

Second, in framing protests by those who happen to be Muslims as religiously determined, then these protests are assumed to have nothing in common with the recent protests in Spain, Greece, Portugal, the Occupy Movement, or throughout the Global South, all of which marks the protests in Egypt, Libya, Pakistan and the region as distinct and even in opposition to the “secular” global movements taking place around the world over economic inequality, corruption, and hyper-militarization. Instead, Muslims are framed as existing outside the framework and language of what is considered legitimate democratic protest and even broader left politics…the world is told that this is about words, cartoons and movies. But are Muslims only mad at some B-movie about the Prophet Muhammad, or might they also be angry and insulted at the thousands of films and television programming put out by Hollywood and the media industries that continue to dehumanize them. A canon of cultural codes that sit at the heart of the West and lubricates a deep anti-Muslim racism that generates public support and political capital for domestic and foreign policy. click here.

Mark Hammond, 16th Januar 2015: …Freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by our Human Rights Act, as well as by the longstanding tradition of free speech under British common law.  Satire is another cherished British tradition. From Swift to Spitting Image, we’ve upheld the right to poke fun at powerful individuals and institutions and thereby hold them to account. Sometimes what is said, drawn or written may shock or offend but freedom of expression is rightly recognised as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society precisely because it enables political, artistic, scientific and commercial development.  This includes the democratic accountability of Government and public bodies. However, freedom of expression isn’t an absolute right and there are protections in place to ensure it’s not abused. It can rightly be restricted in certain circumstances – for instance where it incites violence against others or promotes hatred based on the colour of someone’s skin or their sexual orientation or their religion.

What goes beyond causing offence and comprises the promotion of hatred is sometimes a fine line and the source of intense debate.  And the changing way this debate is taking place (through social media at breakneck speed and with mass participation) is making life more difficult… click here.

John Cruikshank, 16th January 2015:  Some journalists, including some of our own, argue the Star has a journalistic obligation to reprint the French magazine’s latest depiction of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. This would show that terrorists can’t cow us and that we are willing to share the peril our colleagues at Charlie Hebdo courted.

But committing blasphemy for reasons of principle seems an oddly childish act in a society as secular and as safe as our own. And this publication has no desire to try to shape its readers into good little French leftists.

More than a million Canadians say they are of the Muslim faith; more than 600,000 are Ontarians. Many recent immigrants have issues with underemployment and concerns about the future prospects of their children.

They are doubly vulnerable in a period of protracted economic sluggishness because they are both a small and a very visible minority. And they feel that events far away have put them under suspicion.

We could run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. There is a strong news rationale for doing so. But there are important reasons of principle not to do it. Just as we would not publish racist or pornographic images, we will exercise our judgment not to print the cartoons.

We will not print them because we have too much respect for fellow Canadians of Muslim background. We will not send a message that their way of being Canadian is less acceptable or less valuable than that of any other citizen. We will not do it because it is not the Canadian thing to do.

And we won’t do it because we have too much respect for ourselves. The Toronto Star has campaigned against arbitrary and cruel acts of power for more than a century.

We stand by our legal right to free speech. But we won’t exploit it to commit a moral wrong. click here.

Tariq Ali, 17th January 2015:  … The West ref­uses to address the causes. Any attempt to explain why is usually denounced and so it bec­omes civilisational, or good versus evil, or free speech versus barbarism. The fact is that the West has reoccupied the Arab world with disasters in Syria, Iraq and Libya where things are much worse than under the previous aut­horitarian regimes. This is the prime cause of the radicalisation of young Muslims. The Left is in a bad way or seen as part of the problem, so they go to the mosque, search for hardline solutions and are eager to be used by jehadis.… these guys were a pure product of French society. Unemployed, long-haired, into drugs, alienated till they saw footage of US torture and killings in Iraq….France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that. click here

AbdalHakim Murad, 17th January 2015: Muslims believe in every jot and tittle of the Second Commandment. We are to make no graven images of any living thing, irrespective of whether such images might or might not lure the unwary into idolatry. Orthodox Judaism and many Protestant churches have been similarly direct in following this biblical injunction.

And yet, for such a major item of the Ten Commandments, and for all of Islamic art’s historic capacity to thrive without making pictures, image-making does not carry a statutory penalty in Islamic law. It is for a Muslim judge to determine the exact nature of the offence, and to decide what ought to be done.

Unlike some other commandments, notably those against murder, adultery and theft, the Second is treated as a somewhat marginal issue in the classical manuals of Islamic ethics and law. Making pictures of people is forbidden, certainly, but it is hardly as wicked as missing a prayer, or neglecting the welfare of parents.

Still, this little-known byway of Muslim morality has become the lightning rod for a major European crisis. The disgraceful Paris murders seem to extremists on all sides to prove the inherent inability of Muslims to respect the ambient values of non-Muslim cultures.  The patient mainstream, of course, sees through this easily enough: the murders were the acts of criminals with troubled pasts and little religious knowledge, and have been condemned by a rare show of unity among Muslim leaders in France and worldwide.

So it would be easy to dismiss this as yet another tragic case of fringe elements trampling on the teachings of the mosques. Globally, Muslims admit that such lawlessness is an increasing worry. No significant Muslim scholar supports the radicals in Iraq and Syria, but some young people simply pay no heed. In an age of individualism, angry minds tend to ignore established religious leaders.

But there is more at stake here. Charlie Hebdo, like the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten several years ago, did not simply publish images of the Prophet. That, on its own, would probably have occasioned little comment. The difficulty lay in the evident intention to mock, deride and wound. To portray the Prophet naked, or with a bomb in his turban, was not the simple manufacturing of a graven image. It was received, and rightly so, as a deliberate insult to an already maligned and vulnerable community…

It is because of such risks, as well as out of a sense of due civility, that the British legislators who in 2008 abolished the common law offence of blasphemy, have replaced it with a range of legal restraints on forms of hate speech or offensive images. In 2010, to take one example, an atheist activist was convicted for distributing anti-Christian images in the prayer room at Liverpool Airport. The deeply distressed airport chaplain took him to court, and won easily.The English legal tradition recognises not only the right to free speech, but the right to protection from agonising insult, slander and abuse. In the case of vulnerable minorities that legal concern seems particularly appropriate. It is also in line with the tolerant and courteous national character.

It is for the many Muslims who now populate the Inns of Court to discover whether these legal precepts can in practice be used to protect non-Christians from abuse. A series of complex cases would trigger an overdue national and perhaps Europe-wide discussion on the right to protection from hate speech. Not all the lawsuits would succeed, but the community would have shown that it is determined to enjoy the protection of our country’s laws. click here.

Rachida Dati, 17th January 2015: our history and our republican tradition have always warned us against dividing the French into categories, or “communities”. I am not saying that we are right and that other countries – such as the UK – with different traditions are wrong. I am saying this is what has always worked in France, and that a lot of the integration problems we have known in the past 30 years are due to our lack of perseverance in promoting one republican model for all.

In the past few days, there has been a particular focus on Muslims, some commentators going so far as to ask French Muslims – or the “Muslim community” – to take a clear stance against last week’s attacks or even to disassociate themselves from these attacks. What is being implied – consciously or unconsciously – in such an injunction is unacceptable.

If French Muslims want to voice their disgust over the attacks on Paris and on our freedoms, they should – and a lot of them have – be doing so as French citizens. They should not be doing so out of a sense of guilt, especially as none of the great religions of this world preach the killing of innocent people. The sanctity of life is at the heart of these religions…This is an issue we must address. Laïcité should be reaffirmed and possibly also redefined in how it can continue to be a value that brings us together as a nation in the 21st century. Not interfering in each other’s business does not mean that a strong dialogue should not exist between the state and religions. It does not mean, either, that practice of religions should be hidden, or that expressions of faith that do not contravene our republican values and laws should be silenced. click here.

Timothy Garton-Ash, 18th January 2015: … When he came back from the Paris unity demonstration, David Cameron singled out a placard he had seen. It read Je suis Charlie, Je suis flic, Je suis Juif (I am Charlie, I am a copper, I am a Jew). There is one line missing from that list: Je suis Ahmed. For one of the policemen murdered by the Kouachi brothers was a Muslim Frenchman called Ahmed. #Je suis Ahmed emerged as a hashtag on Twitter to complement, not to rival, #Je suis Charlie, and I immediately started using it as well.

While never compromising on the essentials of an open society, including free speech, we non-Muslim Europeans must keep sending these small signals to our Muslim fellow Europeans, both online and in our everyday personal interactions. The best signal of all is the one that indicates no explicit signal is necessary. This is what happens most of the time in a city like London: you just take it as given that Muslim British people are as much Brits as anyone else – that in truth there is no “they”, just a larger, gloriously mixed and muddled “us”. That is how we will win the plebiscite every day. And that is how we will see off a vampire called Pegida. click here.

Faizal Dawjee, 18th January 2015:   The execution of Charlie Hebdo’s journalists is a brutal crime that has been condemned by righteous people. Attacks on the media, irrespective of where they occur and who the victims are, must elicit a similar response as that of Je suis Charlie.

The tragic irony of the peace march in Paris is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a poster boy for freedom of speech.

During last year’s attack on Gaza, amid the civilian carnage, another casualty of war received surprisingly little international attention. In what has become part of a systematic targeting of journalists in occupied Palestine, the Israeli Defence Force killed 17 journalists.

There were no peace marches for those dead journalists or collective cries of anguish that freedom of speech was under attack. Neither did we hear statements of condemnation from Western governments, human rights organisations or proponents of free speech.

When Tareq Ayyoub, the Al Jazeera journalist, and his colleagues were deliberately targeted by a US missile that struck the station’s Baghdad bureau in 2003, some of us stood in silent vigil outside the US consulate in Killarney.

It was a little gesture in tribute to a friend, colleague and member of the media family. Why weren’t more voices raised in protest? Did the media buy into the US government’s spin that it was a mistake? Or did the media just not care?

Je suis Tareq, anyone?

According to the latest report of the International Federation of Journalists, 12 journalists were killed in Syria, eight in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan. In these theatres of war, where the US and its allies operate, the lives of these journalists count for less than the Paris 17.

The Islamic State terror group, funded by the US-backed Saudi regime and its allies, has beheaded non-Western journalists. But barely a protest or voice of condemnation has been heard.

Journalists were also killed in Libya, Somalia, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Je suis Désire Sayengan, Je suis Facély Camara? Anyone? Egypt still detains three Al Jazeera reporters on ludicrous charges. Je suis Al Jazeera, anyone?

Our selective horror and indignation feeds into the notion that some lives are more important than others. It also nourishes the view that the struggle for freedom of speech is a Western construct that bearded religious fanatics are compelled to destroy.

We need to oppose the arrogance of exceptionalism and ensure that all in the media family are treated with respect – in life and in death.

Journalists far away from the centres of power, like London, Washington and Paris, are engaged in daily struggles of life, death and torture to bring stories to our newspapers, radios and television screens. They put names and faces to our distant humanity.

The least we can do is remember their names and faces when they fall in the line of duty. click here. 

Jonathan Porter, 19th January 2015:  The simplest narrative to adopt when discussing the criminal and abhorrent attacks in Paris is that a group of extremist Muslims driven by hatred of free speech and democracy decided to murder unarmed civilians as part of their greater global Jihad which aims to extinguish the beacons of freedom and civilisation; and that the evil demonstrated by these murderers is routed within Islam.

Maybe it’s the simplicity of this narrative that has lead news channels, media outlets and politicians across the world to adopt and propagate it as they try and convince us that we are currently witnessing a clash of civilisations.

There are two main problems with this narrative. The first is that it fails to rely on facts or hard evidence. Where is the evidence that the killers despise freedom? One could argue that they believe in unconditional freedom, to the extent that they believe they were free to murder whomever and whenever they like. Where is the proof that Islam is against democracy? When a study of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad’s life are filled with texts and examples, which point to the contrary. For example, Islam guaranteed women the right to vote over 1400 years ago, the four leaders to succeed Muhammad were all chosen democratically, and the Quran clearly states in Chapter 3 verse 159 and again in chapter 43 verse 48 that decisions should be made through counsel and consensus – “…those who conduct their affairs by counsel.”

The second major problem with the simplistic yet popularly adopted narrative is that it fails to acknowledge the faults and shortcomings of anyone but the criminals. There is no examination of the inciting nature of Western media, little if nothing is said about the seeds of hatred planted by Western imperialism, colonialism and unjust wars on Muslim majority countries that are now being harvested in the form of such attacks. And more importantly no one is critiquing Western “Democracies” policies, which have ensured that whenever democracy was about to be achieved in a Muslim country, it was killed prematurely – Algeria and Egypt to mention two… click here.

Norman Finkelstein, 19th January 2015: …Let’s say, … amidst all of this death and destruction, two young Jews barged into the headquarters of the editorial offices of Der Stürmer [anti-Semitic weekly newspaper in Nazi Germany run by Julius Streicher], and they killed the staff for having humiliated them, degraded them, demeaned them, insulted them. How would I react to that?…

But when somebody is down and out, desperate, destitute, when you mock them, when you mock a homeless person, that is not satire. That is, I give you the word, sadism. There’s a very big difference between satire and sadism. Charlie Hebdo is sadism. It’s not satire…. two despairing and desperate young men act out their despair and desperation against this political pornography no different than Der Stürmer, who in the midst of all of this death and destruction decide its somehow noble to degrade, demean, humiliate and insult the people. I’m sorry, maybe it is very politically incorrect. I have no sympathy for [the staff of Charlie Hebdo]. Should they have been killed? Of course not. But of course, Streicher shouldn’t have been hung. I don’t hear that from many people….

You are not allowed to utter fighting words, because they are equivalent of a smack to the face and it is asking for trouble.  So, are the Charlie Hebdo caricatures the equivalent of fighting words? They call it satire. That is not satire. It is just epithets, there is nothing funny about it. If you find it funny, depicting Jews in big lips and (a) hook nose is also funny… When Europeans came to North America, the thing they said about the native Americans was that they were so barbaric, because they walked around naked. The European women were wearing three layers of clothes. Then they came to North America, and decided that the native Americans were backward because they all walked around naked. And now, we walk around naked, and we say that the Muslims are backward because they wear so much clothes,” he said. “Can you imagine anything more barbaric? Banning women wearing headscarves?… click here

Pankaj Mishra, 20th January 2015:  The perpetrators of the unconscionable massacre of Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, and the gratuitous killing of French Jews at a supermarket, were the sort of young men who might have been little more than petty criminals in another era – disaffected drifters who are now susceptible to the pied-pipers of jihad. They preen in the costume of the pious for their propaganda videos, and betray easily their very modern brand of criminality. The Paris murderers claimed to be redeeming the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, but they made the most venerated figure in Islam seem like a small-time mafia boss.

Yet many commentators on the attacks have revived the very broad discourse of the clash of civilisations, which was fatefully deployed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to justify the war on terror, and resulted in the latter’s catastrophic imprecisions. Once again the secular and democratic west, identified with the legacy of the Enlightenment – reason, individual autonomy, freedom of speech – has been called upon to subdue its perennially backward “other”:  Islam.

Describing the murderers as “soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend,” the New Yorker’s George Packer called for “higher levels of counter-violence”.  Salman Rushdie claimed that religion, “a medieval form of unreason”, deserves our “fearless disrespect”. However, many other writers have rejected a binary of us-versus-them that elevates a vicious crime into a cosmic war between secular Enlightenment and religious barbarism. There is a specific context to the rise of jihadism in Europe, which involves Muslims from Europe’s former colonies making an arduous transition to secular modernity, and often colliding with its entrenched intellectual as well as political hierarchies: the opposition, for instance, between secularism and religion which was actually invented in Enlightenment Europe. Writers such as Hari Kunzru, Laila Lalami, and Teju Cole – who have ancestral links to Europe’s former colonies – have argued that the simplistic commentary on the attacks is another reminder that we must urgently re-examine these evidently self-sufficient notions from Europe’s past.

In many ways, it is this intellectual standoff rather than the terrorist attack that reveals a profound clash – not between civilisations, or the left and the right, but a clash of old and new visions of the world in the space we call the west, which is increasingly diverse, unequal and volatile. It is not just secular, second-generation immigrant novelists who express unease over the unprecedented, quasi-ideological nature of the consensus glorifying Charlie Hebdo’s mockery of Islam and Muslims. Some Muslim schoolchildren in France refused to observe the minute-long silence for the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo mandated by French authorities…

You don’t have to be a Catholic, or a Marxist, to acknowledge that Europe is beset by serious problems: soaring unemployment, the unresolved crisis of the euro, rising anti-immigrant sentiment, and the stunning loss of a sense of possibility for young Europeans everywhere – events made intolerable for many by the invisible bondholders, exorbitantly bonused bankers, and the taint of venality that spreads across Europe’s oligarchic political class. “Right in front of our eyes,” the Polish thinker Adam Michnik laments in his new book The Trouble with History, “we can see the marching parade of corrupt hypocrites, thick-necked racketeers, and venal deputies.” “Today, in our world,” Michnik argues, “there exists no great idea of freedom, equality, and fraternity.”  click here.

John Sawers, 20th January 2015:  I rather agree with the pope that, of course, the attacks in Paris are completely unacceptable and cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever, but I think other people’s religion is also an important part of this. If you show disrespect for others’ core values, then you are going to provoke an angry response. click here.

Michael Collins, 21st January 2015: ... the contradictions between France’s liberal republicanism and its imperialism have almost always been on display. The betrayal of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the revolution in Haiti, with Napoleon Bonaparte reinstating slavery in the empire in 1802, is an early example. The Sétif and Guelma massacres of 1945, in which many thousands of Algerians were killed (Algerian estimates claim as many as 45,000), are a more recent and extraordinary one.  During the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), the French used methods of repression and torture that continue to haunt contemporary France and Algeria.

Think also of the Paris Massacre of October 1961, in which up to 200 pro-Algerian demonstrators, engaged in peaceful if prohibited protest, were killed by French police in central Paris, many of them drowned in the Seine having been thrown from the St Michel bridge… This notable crime against “free speech” was not even acknowledged by the state until 1998…

There is no possible justification for killing someone who draws cartoons. This is barbarism pure and simple, and that needs to be reiterated lest there is any confusion. This does not mean, however, that Charlie Hebdo has to be held up as a beacon of liberty, a paragon of “free speech” for the world. We should remember that across the globe thousands of people are killed and suffer torture and imprisonment merely for writing and thinking.

An alternative view is that Charlie Hebdo is more parochial than it has been lauded as. According to this interpretation, the magazine stands for an unusually aggressive, some might say occasionally rather puerile strain of anti-clericalism which is particular to France’s history, the outlook of which is shared by certain social enclaves in Western Europe and, less so, North America…the desire to perform a kind of civilising role, to be an educator and leader in world affairs – evident in the rhetoric of French politics since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and so reminiscent of that time when a handful of small countries in Western Europe ruled almost everyone else – is a seductive and highly dangerous fantasy, with great political resonance….click here.

Francis Ghiles, 22nd January 2015: As horrendous as they were, the Paris murders were not a bolt from the blue, nor were they a French 9/11. They may have provoked a show of unity unprecedented since the victory parades of 1945, but they have also unleashed a collective trauma about the state of French identity and specifically the impact of 5 million Muslims on Republican values…

It is little understood, however, that the Republic’s cherished values of secularism and freedom of speech historically have a darker side. The civil liberties now idealised emerged during a period of colonial rule. As the historian Arthur Asseraf reminds us, France’s iconic freedom of the press law, passed in 1881 and still enforced today, was designed in part to exclude France’s Muslim subjects. The law protected the rights of all French citizens, explicitly all those in Algeria and the colonies, but excluded the subjects who were the majority of the population. In colonial Algeria, “citizens” were all those who were not Muslims, and the terms musulman or indigène usually overlapped. Muslim was a racialised legal category stripped of any religious significance.

Maybe the banlieues of today could be best understood as the Algeria of the 19th century: the legacy of French apartheid must be borne in mind when considering the problems of minorities. In the starkest indictment ever of French society by a senior government official, Valls said on Wednesday that “a geographic, social, ethnic apartheid has developed in our country”. The furious reaction to his remark hardly augurs well for a reasoned debate. Yet, in the banlieues of Paris, more than 50% of young people, often Muslim, are unemployed. They are hitting the glass wall between them and the workplace; prisoners with a north African father outnumber prisoners with a French father by nine to one for the 18-29 age group, and six to one in the 20-39 age group. This points to a massive failure of French society to integrate minority groups….click here.

Muhammad Ajeeb, 22nd January 2015: ...These heinous acts of violence have been condemned by Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike world over. The mainstream Muslim organisation in Europe have also unreservedly and unequivocally expressed abhorrence at the atrocities. But still the ripples of the spiteful attacks in Paris are strongly being felt across Europe. The far right political parties in most western European countries are busy in seizing this opportunity to heighten anti-Muslim sentiment and to strengthen Islamophobia domestically. Already in France a number of mosques have been vandalised and a young Moroccan has been murdered. Since 9/11 the anti-Muslim surge in Europe has been slowly growing and Muslim communities are being viewed with increasing suspicions and fears in the continent. France, Germany and Britain which have substantial minorities of Muslims, the major political parties are being pressurized by discounted and disconcerted segments of their indigenous populations with the apparent desire of some disaffected young Muslims not willing to conform to western liberal values of tolerance and free speech to tighten their national laws against further immigration of Muslims.

At this momentous juncture the Muslim leadership in Europe must ponder seriously, without wasting any time, to advise their communities on making necessary adjustments in their way of life to integrate with local populations and not to seek to build their exclusive small worlds. The religious leadership too has to acknowledge this wakeup call and equip themselves with necessary knowledge about the culture and values of western societies in order deal with the fast growing pressures on Muslim communities with intellect, diplomacy, reason and logic rather than emotional diatribe. Otherwise anti-Islam sentiment will exacerbate the suspicions and fears that the violence in the name of religion is embedded in Islam and potential backlash will support the spread of far right organisations’ agenda; hence making the life of Muslims more difficult than other minorities in Europe. For Charlie Hebdo weekly to caricaturise the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on its front page and deliberately to print a huge number of copies must also be equally condemned and rejected. The portrayal of the Prophet in this way is akin to hurting the religious sensibilities of about 1.7 billion followers of Islam. And all this is claimed to have been done in the name of free speech. However, there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression and speech in existence in any society. There are always limits to these freedoms… click here.

Alex Andreou, 23rd January 2015: In the wake of recent attacks in France, a rule of thumb appears to be emerging: of course we should be free to mock Islam, but we should do it with respect. This might seem irreconcilable, but in practice is perfectly achievable. click here.

Karim Miské, 24th January 2015:  In the 1990’s I loved Charlie Hebdo. I loved it’s mockery of everything and everyone. It was often very funny. Some time about the turn of the century, it started to attack radical islam in a way which disturbed me – not because I supported radical Islam but because I knew that it would be seen by many muslims as an attack on Islam itself.  I think that the Charlie Hebdo people – although people of the Left – failed to realise the importance of France’s colonial past. They failed to realise that attacks on radical Islam in the name of ‘French secular values’ – even by people of the Left – would remind many muslims of the time when French values were imposed on them at the end of a gun barrel. click here.

Tarik Kafala, 25th January 2015:  We [BBC Arabic]  try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist or an act as being terrorist. What we try to do is to say that ‘two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine’. That’s enough, we know what that means and what it is. Terrorism is such a loaded word. The UN has been struggling for more than a decade to define the word and they can’t. It is very difficult to. We know what political violence is, we know what murder, bombings and shootings are and we describe them. That’s much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist which people will see as value-laden. We avoid the word terrorists… It’s a terrorist attack, anti-terrorist police are deployed on the streets of Paris. Clearly all the officials and commentators are using the word so obviously we broadcast that. click here.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, 27th January 2015:  …Echoing Pope Francis, the murders are atrocities and deserve unequivocally to be condemned,” he says, as are the anti-Semitic attacks at the Jewish bakery on the eve of Shabbat.

That said, the “rallying cry” of freedom of speech does not necessarily carry enough subtlety and can risk deepening divisions.  I think whatever the law says we should not glory in insulting one another. Maybe the law permits insults, but I think there are moral standards by which humanity prospers which go beyond the law and we should repudiate the right to gratuitously insult. I don’t think it is a positive contribution, in fact, like many things, what it does is deliberately turns a blind eye to the human dignity of the people you’re insulting; and there’s a lot of circumstances, not least in the Middle East, where you can see people effectively denied the dignity that is innately theirs in the course of something else. click here.

Faouzia Zebdi-Ghorab, 28th January 2015:  Apres le débat sur l’identité nationale initié par une droite décomplexée, débat infâme pour les uns, inapproprié pour les autres, voici venu l’odieux débat sur la citoyenneté de certains français qui serait à redéfinir au prétexte qu’ils font profession de foi musulmane, dans le cadre de leur liberté de conscience et qu’ils auraient ainsi besoin d’apprendre à articuler entre identité musulmane et identité citoyenne, rejoignant ainsi le camp de ceux qui ont décidé de placer ce débat non pas sur le terrain des luttes pour la justice, la dignité et l’affirmation de sa citoyenneté mais sur celui des croyances de certains français, uniquement, distingués par un fait de conscience, leur islamité, par un jeu pervers d’intrusion et d’inquisition de l’autorité publique dans les esprits.  Mais, hélas, là rien de nouveau sous le soleil…Français, nous le sommes totalement. Et nous n’avons aucune leçon “d’être français” à recevoir de quiconque. Nous somme français. Rien d’autre. Mon islamité, ma foi, est un droit et une liberté de conscience fondamentale et ne concerne pas la République qui n’a pas à s’immiscer dans ma conscience religieuse. Croire ou ne pas croire, musulman ou pas, ça n’est pas son problème. C’est le propre d’une laïcité pacifiée….

Tous les jeunes que je côtoie chaque jour que Dieu fait ne sont pas tiraillés par une désarticulation ou perdus entre leur islamité et leur citoyenneté mais sont bouleversés par le traitement social économique, médiatique qui leur est fait. Ils posent avant tout l’échec des politiques sociales et urbaines. Ils posent l’échec de la lutte contre toutes les formes de discrimination et de racisme. Ce n’est pas moi qui suit schizophrène mais une certaine caste politique qui, avec la complicité d’une certaine presse, mène une véritable cabale contre l’islam et contre les citoyens français d’une confession qui est la deuxième confession de la France républicaine par son nombre. Pointés d’un doigt accusateur ils sont jetés en pâture aux vautours d’une islamophobie instrumentalisée, alimentée et contrôlée par le système politico médiatique afin qu’elle ne dérape pas. L’islamophobie en France n’est pas conjoncturelle mais structurelle…click here.

Shadi Hamid, 28th January 2015: The impressive and inspiring show of solidarity at France’s unity march on January 11—which brought together millions of people and more than 40 world leaders—was not necessarily a sign of good things to come. “We are all one” was indeed a powerful message, but what did it really mean, underneath the noble sentiment and the liberal faith that all people are essentially good and want the same things, regardless of religion or culture? Even if the scope is limited to Western liberals, the aftermath of the assaults in Paris on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket has revealed a striking lack of consensus on a whole host of issues, including the limits of free speech, the treatment of religions versus racial groups, and the centrality of secularism to the liberal idea. Turns out, we are not all one…. But beyond the killings themselves, there is, in fact, a cultural divide—one that shines light on some of the most problematic aspects of how we in the West talk about Islam, values, and violence.

For instance, French Muslims are more likely than non-Muslims to view blasphemy as unacceptable. They are more likely to think that attacks on the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran should be criminalized as hate speech and incitement, much like denial of the Holocaust is. It is problematic, then, to view condemning the Paris killings and affirming the right to blaspheme as two sides of the same coin. For many Muslims, they aren’t. To treat them as a package deal is not only odd—after all, opposing murder and opposing blasphemy are quite different things—but also dangerous….

To the extent that there is such a “war” to be fought, it is one that we in the West can’t hope to win. (Perhaps polemics are needed, except that real people “don’t live polemically.”) The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has, in fact, declared war on “radical Islamism,” a difficult war to fight without a working definition of either “radical” or “Islamism” (how would the prime minister classify nonviolent or even “quietist” Salafis?)…

Imposed liberalism, in fact, is something of a contradiction in terms. Liberalism privileges individual autonomy and personal freedom; to negate that autonomy because it is directed toward religious ends is, to put it mildly, problematic. A liberal society can survive with a minority that opposes blasphemy. More than that, a liberal society cannot truly be liberal without allowing citizens to express their own personal illiberalism, as long as they do so through legal, democratic channels. click here.

Gus John, 31st January 2015:  The metres upon metres of newsprint that followed the Paris attacks have been a masterclass in the contortions of a post-colonial Europe seeking to come to terms with its redefined self.

Most commentators agree that the murder of those 12 people, including one Muslim policeman, cannot be justified, however much some Muslims and non-Muslims found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons and lampooning of Islam/the Prophet/ Islamist extremists/Muslim terrorists gratuitously offensive and recklessly provocative.

Those, like me, who declared ‘Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie’ because we considered Charlie Hebdo’s take on ‘free speech’ and ‘the right to freedom of expression’ without boundaries abhorrent were judged by some commentators to represent the extended arm of the ‘war on freedom’.

To see this tragedy in terms of barbaric murders of journalists who, in the best and ancient tradition of French satire were simply lampooning religious fundamentalism and the Islamist terrorism that is seen as its companion is to fail to understand French society today as part of a reconstructed Europe. The argument that Charlie Hebdo draws all faiths and secular hierarchies into its net and that therefore Muslims should not be assumed to be exempt, or to have any right not to be offended simply doesn’t wash. What is more, the very reactions to the killings signify how ill at ease Europe is with itself and why it needs to change the lens through which it views such events.

At the heart of the debate is the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy.  We the indigenes who rightfully belong versus them the aliens whom we have allowed to make our advanced civilisations their home, but who refuse to embrace and express our superior western values and who use the same freedoms we enable them to enjoy to wage jihad upon us….

Let me hasten to add that I abhor terrorism and consider it not just wantonly destructive, but ultimately futile. I abhor state terrorism even more, for not only does its effects impact on entire generations, destabilising countries, perpetuating poverty, ruining lives and life chances and invariably installing tyrants and plunderers who oppress their people while amassing obscene amounts of wealth.

In France, it is futile to ask questions such as: what percentage of people such as the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly are unemployed; what are their schooling outcomes and those of young people whose elders are from the Maghreb, as compared to their white French counterparts; how long does it take school leavers from such groups to find a job; what percentage of them go on to university in any one year?

Futile, because the French do not collect this monitoring data. ‘We are all French’…, until you start identifying with those acting against our interests, even if they subscribe to the same interpretation of Islam (or anything else) as you do. Yet, the reality is that whether they are measured and counted or not, all those indicators of equality of opportunity and of access, if not of outcomes, translate into the marginalisation of such groups in French society, no less than in Britain.

What is more, there is an interaction between the way they are perceived by the society and the treatment they receive from institutions of the state, especially the police. Sarkozy unashamedly called them ‘scum’. In Britain, Blair suggested that the “severe disorder” that arose from serious youth violence was not a symptom of a wider social problem but caused by individuals who needed to be “taken out of circulation“.

When race and faith get conflated and there is a structural intolerance of and antipathy towards the open expression of one’s faith, the experience of marginalisation and of being under threat from hostile forces becomes accentuated…click here.

Tariq Ali, 2nd February 2015: …Slowly, a more critical France is beginning to speak up. An opinion poll two days after the big march revealed a divided country: 57 per cent were ‘Je suis Charlie’s, but 42 per cent were opposed to hurting the feelings of minorities. Some of the latter might have been thinking of the blanket publicity for Michel Houellebecq and his new novel,Soumission, on TV and in print in the week preceding the attack on the magazine. Those with longer memories might have recalled Houellebecq’s statement in 2001, which laid the basis for the title of his latest offering: ‘Reading the Quran is a disgusting experience. Ever since Islam’s birth it has been distinguished by its desire to make the world submit to itself. Submission is its very nature.’ Replace the Quran with the Old Testament and Islam with Judaism and you would be locked up in France today, as some have been, including a 16-year-old schoolboy who parodied Charlie Hebdo. A satirical magazine, it appears, cannot be satirised….

We now know that the assault on Charlie Hebdo was the outcome of intra-Wahhabi rivalry. The attack has been claimed by Ayman al-Zawahiri as an al-Qaida initiative, organised by its section in the Yemen. There is no reason to doubt his assertion. His organisation has been outflanked and partially displaced by the Islamic State and a global act of terror was needed to restore its place as the leading terror group. As in other suicide-terrorism outings by al-Qaida, the act itself was well planned and predictably successful, and those who carried it out were duly sacrificed. Al-Qaida’s supporters will now boast that while their rivals kill other Muslims and accept Western largesse, they alone target the West and inflict damage. The fact that all these acts are inimical to the interests of European or American Muslims and benefit only the West seems to escape their attention.

David Cameron and other Western leaders insist, as they do after every outrage, that the problem is radicalised Islam and therefore the responsibility lies within the religion. (Why was Catholicism never blamed for the IRA offensives?) The real problem is not a secret: Western intelligence services regularly tell their leaders that the radicalisation of a tiny sliver of young Muslims (more work for the security services in Britain and France than for al-Qaida or ISIS) is a result of US foreign policy over the last decade and a half. Some of these Muslims have been happy to acquire new skills and priorities while fighting in Bosnia and, more recently, Syria. click here.

Slavoj Žižek, 5th February 2015:  As well as the banners saying ‘Je suis Charlie!’ there were others that said ‘Je suis flic!’ The national unity celebrated and enacted in large public gatherings was not just the unity of the people, reaching across ethnic groups, classes and religions, but also the unification of the people with the forces of order and control – not only the police but also the CRS (one of the slogans of May 1968 was ‘CRS-SS’), the secret service and the entire state security apparatus. There is no place for Snowden or Manning in this new universe. ‘Resentment against the police is no longer what it was, except among poor youth of Arab or African origins,’ Jacques-Alain Miller wrote last month. ‘A thing undoubtedly never seen in the history of France.’ In short, the terrorist attacks achieved the impossible: to reconcile the generation of ’68 with its arch enemy in something like a French popular version of the Patriot Act, with people offering themselves up to surveillance.

The ecstatic moments of the Paris demonstrations were a triumph of ideology: they united the people against an enemy whose fascinating presence momentarily obliterates all antagonisms. The public was offered a depressing choice: you are either a flic or a terrorist. click here.

Ruth Brown, 12th February 2015: I have bought the Guardian almost everyday for 50 years, but would leave you over your Charlie Hebdo badge offer (7 February) if I  had anywhere else to go. The free speech I value is the freedom enjoyed by my Muslim neighbour and my atheist self to express our own beliefs, and our considered responses to each other’s beliefs, without being murdered, arrested or spat on. Publication of mocking or obscene images of others’ sacred objects appears to me to be a form of graphic spitting, less about free speech – there are other ways to advance a legitimate argument – than about exhibiting contempt, advertising one’s cleverness, and selling magazines.  To be murdered for such behaviour is tragic and undeserved, but doens not make one a martyr in a sacred cause. Je ne suis pas Charlie. click here.

John Bowen, 3rd March 2015: …What some current commentators denounce as Islamic communalism (communautarisme)—Muslims living and interacting only among themselves—is a result not of refusal to assimilate so much as the patterns of immigrant settlement. Muslim arrivals made their homes where the factories were—in peripheral areas of large cities. But just as the workers’ families were joining them in large numbers, factories shut their doors in the face of recession and longer-term deindustrialization. And there, in the banlieues, the workers’ children grew up, were tracked in school toward lower-class occupations, and found it increasingly difficult to secure jobs. They experienced daily racism in their encounters with police and during their few sorties out of the projects. Today these young men and women don’t know if they are accepted in the national community. They certainly don’t feel they are Charlie, and they overwhelmingly boycotted the events celebrating national unity under that banner. Between geographical separation, massive unemployment, job discrimination, and poor police treatment, the experience of French Muslims is awfully similar to that of African Americans in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere in the United States, and it has little to do with religion. When these poor zones erupted in 2005 and again in 2007, those issues, not Islam, were at stake…”

Matthew Parris, 21st March 2015:It follows that I know that Muslims, like Christians, come in all shapes and sizes and with a very wide range of opinions of matters religious and secular, and that millions of British Muslims are worried about extremism, some of them worried sick.

I’m afraid there’s a disinclination to hear this. ‘Moderate’ Muslims are attacked as ‘failing to speak up’ — and to my dismay I read my friend and fellow campaigner for free speech, David Aaronovitch, writing that ‘Muslims have a problem: they don’t believe in free speech.’ Actually very few people believe in free speech, but I do — yet I admit I had and have my doubts about some of the ‘Je suis Charlie Hebdo’ stuff. There are passengers joining this bandwagon whose love of free expression strikes me as having rather a lot to do with dislike of Muslims, and whom I struggle to imagine (for instance) joining a march in defence of the rights of Muslims to publish cartoons of Jesus as a terrorist or Mary as a whore.

Of course I defend people’s right to mock religion. Of course I was appalled at the Paris murders. I’ve myself written that mockery — even insult — is an important weapon against oppressive piety. But I could not agree with another good friend, Daniel Finkelstein, in arguing last month that not only must we defend people’s right to publish mocking images of the Prophet Mohammed, we must assert their wisdom in doing so. I don’t believe that in the present atmosphere it’s wise to publish images calculated to wound and offend not only fundamentalist Muslims, but middle-of-the-road Muslims too. There are questions of timing and judgment here. When sensitivities are inflamed it is possible to go too far. click here.

Joyce Carol Oates and others, 29th April 2015: … More than two dozen writers including Junot Díaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Lorrie Moore have joined a protest against a freedom of expression award for Charlie Hebdo, signing a letter taking issue with what they see as a “reward” for the magazine’s controversial cartoons.  In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”. click here.

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