Opinion

The Charlie Hebdo shootings and Islamophobia

Dissecting France’s response to the tragedy

Since the attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, people of all ages and beliefs have stood together to condemn the terrorists’ actions in what has proved to be an unprecedented global response. The hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie” quickly erupted on Twitter, trending at a peak of 6,500 tweets per minute the day following the massacre. On the Sunday after, presidents, prime ministers, and an estimated one million individuals participated in a solidarity rally that spanned the streets of Paris, all in support of Charlie Hebdo.

But is Charlie Hebdo deserving of the overwhelming support it has received from the global community over the past couple of weeks? The search for moral clarity in the wake of the tragedy isn’t as easy as some have made it out to be.

For sure, the global community is right to condemn the terrorists who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo shooting. No argument can justify the killing of 12 individuals, no matter how offended a group may be. But what do we mean when we chant “Je Suis Charlie” in unison? With whom are we standing in solidarity?

A quick survey of Charlie’s portfolio raises doubts about its image as a righteous crusader for the freedom of speech. From crude, stereotyped depictions of Arabs and Africans to several drawings of the Prophet Muhammad in naked, insulting poses, Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire is rife with racially charged and extremely insensitive undertones. A line must be drawn between satire that seeks to reveal hypocrisy and inform, and the kind of crass mockery that serves to provoke and insult.

And let’s not forget the broader context. The periodical exists in a France that has seen growing tensions between the majority of its population and already marginalized Muslim minorities. Following a similar turban ban passed in 2004, an act passed by the French Senate in 2010 prohibited the use of face-covering head gear like the burqa. To date the law has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights despite continuing to infringe on some of French Muslim citizens’ right to freely exercise their religion.

Yet the 2010 ban on burqas is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to growing Islamophobia in France. Countless French mosques have been subject to vandalism and graffiti. And in 2008, 148 Muslim graves in France’s biggest WWI cemetery in Arras were desecrated with hateful slogans. Charlie Hebdo has often reflected and amplified this underlying racial prejudice already present in the backdrop of French society.

Tensions have only worsened since the shootings. On the day following the incident, three training grenades were thrown at Mosquee de Sablone and an explosion battered down a kebab shop in the small town of Villefranche-sur-Saône. Compare this to the response in Australia after similar shootings took place in Sydney in mid-December. An example for the rest of the world, thousands of Australians took to Twitter where the hashtag “#illridewithyou” shortly started to trend in a unique show of solidarity with the Muslim community.

So the question emerges: to be Charlie Hebdo or not to be Charlie Hebdo? The actions of the terrorists that took several lives that day should surely be condemned, but we must not lose ourselves to the very kind of blind hatred and bigotry that we condemn these acts for. In Sydney and Paris, the global community has seen two different aftermaths of horrible acts of violence. And, it’s entirely a choice in perspective that made the difference between these two reactions. We must recognize the nuances that surround these tragedies and continue to eschew the “you’re either with us or against us” stance that had defined U.S. foreign policy for so long.

Our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo’s right to free speech must not extend to solidarity with the callousness and intolerance that has defined so many of their cartoons. Our censure for the terrorists’ actions must not extend to censure of the innocent adherents of a religion of peace. This is the standard of tolerance and understanding that we and the rest of the global community must uphold ourselves and each other to.

As President Obama remarked to the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.”

It is our moral imperative to follow the path carved out by those in Sydney and understand that things aren’t either white or black, that the actions of a few extremists can’t define an entire group. It’s just not as simple as Je Suis Charlie or Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.

Archis R. Bhandarkar is a member of the Class of 2018.

20 Comments
1
Anonymous over 3 years ago

Data:

"one-third [of French Muslims] felt that [violence against civilians perceived as anti-Islamic] was sometimes or rarely justified. Significant numbers--including an outright majority in Britain--refused to acknowledge that Arabs had carried out the 9/11 terror attacks. A plurality of French Muslims (46 percent) and a crushing majority of British Muslims (81 percent) considered themselves Muslims first, identifying with their respective European nations only to a secondary extent.

"The French government does not publish statistics on the religion or ethnicity of its prison population, but sociologists estimate that at least 50 percent of French prisoners come from the roughly 7 percent Muslim minority."

"A survey of French Muslims in 2014 found a community seething with anti-Semitism. Sixty-seven percent said yes' when asked whether Jews had too much power over Frances economy. Sixty-one percent believed Jews had too much power in Frances media.

42 percent of Turkish people believe Muslims are the 'real victims' of Charlie Hebdo attack"

These are from mainstream sources.

A tolerant, democratic society simply cannot tolerate intolerance. Otherwise it will not remain tolerant for long. At this point, any Westerner blaming the actions of Muslims on whiteys is a traitor and should be treated as such. A critical reader realizes anti-"Islamophobia" is anti-West.

The defense of Charlie Hebdo should be unconditional. They were practicing their right to free speech, and under Western values this is not intolerance.

Blaming the Wests problems on whiteys won't make them go away. If France wanted to save itself from Islam, it would restrict the stream of immigrants until the Muslims within their borders assimilate. This has sufficient popular support, but France will not because of entrenched bureaucracy and charlatans like Archis. RIP France.

2
RAM over 3 years ago

The actual phobia associated with Islam is the far-too-common phobia of Muslim radicals toward all peoples of the world who oppose absolute Muslim domination. This phobia is expressed as savagery.

3
Burqas don't belong here over 3 years ago

"...an act passed by the French Senate in 2010 prohibited the use of face-covering head gear like the burqa. To date the law has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights despite continuing to infringe on some of French Muslim citizens right to freely exercise their religion."

How about the French peoples' right to insist all immigrants, Muslim or not, respect the French culture and their customs? After all, France doesn't need Muslim immigrants...it's the immigrants who need France. Wearing a burqa is anathema to Western culture. And insisting on your rights to wear the burqa evidence your inability to adapt to Western culture. So, if you disagree disagree with France's burqa ban, either stay home in your awesome Islamic country or immigrate to Iraq, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia where the burqa is high fashion.

4
Freedom over 3 years ago

2,3. Yep. Muslims come in to France, leech off liberal services, and establish high crime areas where burning cars is a "way of life." (Just search for "no-go zone images" to see the sort of disorder in these ghettos.) It's very simple.

Bureaucrats live in a bubble where they aren't immediately exposed to this. It's in their short-term interest to avoid insulting Islam (so they don't get gunned down by a rogue Muslim) and, besides, they have a ton of political capital invested in immigration. The more immigration, the more social problems and the more friends they can hire. And if you pander to the public and back down from immigration, then you were "wrong" and you lose your job.

Charlie Hedbo wasn't really a surprise to people familiar with intolerant Islam. Main reason it became such a big story and riled up the public so much is because this time journalists were attacked, and journalists have privilege in the mass media world which drives public opinion.

It is telling that the liberal response to Muslims brutally murdering people is to blame "insensitivity." This is the vapid nonsense effete intellectuals specialize in. If a Muslim can't live with blasphemy, he or she is free to go to a nonfree country. It's not the fault of the person who committed blasphemy.

Would you blame a women for getting raped because she dressed pretty? Would you say "she should've been a bit nicer to masculine sensitivities"? Would you Archis? Because that's what you're doing to Charlie Hedbo.

5
Anonymous over 3 years ago

It's hard to say whether your choice of words here is deliberate or not, but simply by printing whatever it liked, Hebdo was indeed acting as a "righteous crusader" for free speech.

Political Islam and its followers have an incredibly long history of imposing their sense of righteousness on others through violence. I am sorry, but if these cartoons offend you and provoke you, don't read them. (Incidentally, there are plenty of cartoons elsewhere with content just as, or more, objectionable than some ridiculous caricatures of Muhammad; do you condemn them, too? Do you condemn the incredibly antisemitic portrayals of Jews, with explicit provocation to violence, published every day in the Arab world?)

Just as people have the freedom to publish their views (whether in your view "intolerant" or not, and so long as they do not directly incite violence), you have have the freedom to ignore them. That's the beauty of living in a Western society, and a principle Islamists don't seem to understand.

It is not your prerogative to decide whether or not we "extend to solidarity with the callousness and intolerance that has defined so many of their cartoons"; we must have the freedom to state our views without fear of reprisal.

Lastly, I'll call attention to the most laughable statement in your piece: "The actions of the terrorists that took several lives that day should surely be condemned, but we must not lose ourselves to the very kind of blind hatred and bigotry that we condemn these acts for." Murdering someone for publishing an offensive or bigoted cartoon, and espousing those bigoted views are not equal acts, and it's mind-blowing that you could even claim that.

As dumb as I find your piece, I respect your freedom to publish it. However, I do respectfully suggest to any and all Islamists that find themselves in America or Europe that, if you really don't want to see cartoons you'll find offensive, there are a number of lovely places in the Islamic world where you're unlikely to see them.

PS. As much as I'd love to post with my actual name here, the possibility of reprisal is not something I've missed. Funny, isn't it?

6
Freedom over 3 years ago

Archis' piece is littered with fallacies, sophistries and cherrypicked anecdotes, which has become the norm in the coverage of politically correct topics. Archis says the cartoons are "callous and intolerant." That is abhorrently hypocritical. Intolerant means unwilling to grant free expression to others. Charlie Hedbo was certainly not being intolerant. Only Archis and radical Muslims are.

A society is primarily defined by its values. Freedom is a primary value in a civilized society: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, limited government, etc. To preserve freedom you have to fight against the people who want to reduce it.

Basically, leftists are committed to destroying values one by one and replacing them with whatever feels good at the time. They've destroyed a good number of Western values already, such as marriage, gender roles, apprenticeship, patriarchy, racial homogeneity, parenting, and so on, and now they watch fertility rates plummet, young males committing suicide, middle-aged women getting artificial eggs, obesity rising because nobody cares anymore and wages stagnant since 1973. A lot of conservatives will hate this, but Houellebecq argues that Islam is an improvement to the current state of the West, and he may be right.

4-- Careful with your excessive tolerance. To preserve a society with free speech, you cannot respect people advocating against free speech, which Archis seems to be doing. For instance look at this slippery leftist language towards the end of the piece:

- "censure of the innocent adherents"

The implicit fallacy is that Charlie Hedbo is censuring adherents. This is disgustingly stupid.

- "This is the standard"

No standard was given, just waffly language. This sounds like an empty State of the Union address, with Obama saying "hope" "change" and "middle class" while his policies diminish all three.

7
Freedom over 3 years ago

That should be "5--" not "4--"

8
Anonymous over 3 years ago

#1

There is not even one single datum you give that is accurate.

It's so far from the actual huge number of polls, made my different statistics companies, for different organisations, government or not, for free or not, and none gives the numbers you give.

So please, as an actual French, born and raised, thank you for not posting completely biased-to say the least- numbers and percentages.

Addentum: Arab is not a nationality.

9
Anonymous over 3 years ago

8-- Thank you for revealing your disgusting stupidity. The majority of those statistics originate from The Atlantic, a high-quality, moderate publication. Here is a link:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/will-this-time-be-different/384322/

-1

10
Anonymous over 3 years ago

8-- You conspire with terrorists by ignoring reality in favor of ideology and misunderstanding Western values. You are revolting and your self-righteous overconfidence has no place in this discussion. -1

11
Colin G. over 3 years ago

3 - Wearing a burqa or other religiously associated articles of clothing isn't antithetical to Western culture; telling people they can't wear such articles is directly contradictory to freedom of religion that Western culture idolizes.

4 - Contrary to the Fox News's security analyst's comments, there aren't actually no-go zones inside of France.

Moreover, Archis isn't arguing that Charlie Hebdo deserved to be attacked; he stated quite the opposite. He's stating that, while we should support the freedom of speech, we should also not publish blatantly offensive material that disenfranchises members of our community. The cartoons in question were undoubtedly offensive. Just as one shouldn't re-print racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semetic comments, it is amoral to re-print offensive, anti-Islamic cartoons. To quote the Canadian Star, which had a nice commentary on this subject, "We will not print [the cartoons] 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.We stand by our legal right to free speech. But we wont exploit it to commit a moral wrong."

One can, of course, print such material and shouldn't fear government prosecution so long as such cartoons don't condone violence against a certain person or people, but it is still amoral to print such articles. More explicitly, it's not technically illegal to be a douche, but it's still inconsiderate.

12
Freedom over 3 years ago

Quote: "we should also not publish blatantly offensive material that disenfranchises members of our community"

This comment is blatantly offensive to me and disenfranchises me because it restricts my right to free speech.

Indeed, I do not tolerate anti-free-speech comments like the ones you made because they make a culture of free exchange of ideas impossible. The most important exception to free speech is comments that advocate against it.

Quote: "it's not technically illegal to be a douche, but it's still inconsiderate."

It's fully and completely legal. "inconsiderate" and "legal" are two entirely different classes of things so stop mixing them up. The first is your naive opinion. The second is not.

Quote: "one shouldn't re-print racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semetic comments"

This is short-sighted. Take transgendered people. Are you saying that it is amoral and offensive for them to say they prefer to be one sex rather than the other, and that this thus cannot be printed in a discussion about transgendered people? There is simply no end to such political correctness.

You should go find a church. I encourage you to pray to God rather than pray to political correctness; the former is a true religion with a time-tested code of ethics, the latter is dangerous superstition that is antithetical to freedom, intelligence, security and wealth.

13
Anonymous over 3 years ago

With what are we standing in solidarity? With people who feel that free speech, no matter how offensive, must not be punished with murder! For goodness sake, this article is ridiculous!

14
Colin G. over 3 years ago

Dear Freedom,

First, there is a large difference between 'should not' and 'cannot.' I am not restricting anyone's right to freedom of speech by disagreeing with what someone says and saying that they shouldn't have said or printed something. Quite the opposite, I am exercising my right to freedom of speech by criticizing others' comments. As I have said before, I am in no way advocating for making any commentary illegal, but I do not agree with needlessly reprinting offensive material. However, your implication that some speech should be restricted - "The most important exception to free speech is comments that advocate against it." - is directly contrary to the freedom of speech that you so vigorously defend. As an aside, this discussion is exceptionally ironic on a mediated forum.

Secondly, I'm not conflating 'inconsiderate' and 'illegal.' In the quoted statement, I am clearly stating that my position against printing offensive material comes solely from a moral objection, but that such material is still legal. If that was unclear, then the preceding sentence - "One can, of course, print such material and shouldn't fear government prosecution so long as such cartoons don't condone violence against a certain person or people...' - should show that I have no problem with and do not wish to change the legality of making such statements.

Thirdly, I made no such statement about transgender people (Note: the more correct term is transgender, not transgendered. If you're interested, this article offers a very good explanation as to why:http://time.com/3630965/transgender-transgendered/). I don't see how anyone stating their identity by saying that they are not the gender they were born with would be offensive in any way. Transphobic comments, however, would concern me. Also, you're using 'politically incorrect' incorrectly. Under political correctness, comments shouldn't be made that marginalize transgender people, since transgender people are a socially disadvantaged group.

Finally, I'm an atheist. I believe that there are no god(s). Also, given your specious arguments, personal attacks, ambiguous statements, and habit of putting words in my mouth, might I suggest taking a few more CI-H courses? It might help you develop better arguments, or at least the ability to examine a text at a deeper level than a surface glance.

Sincerely,

Colin

15
Colin G. over 3 years ago

13 - You might find this interesting: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/14/377201227/controversial-french-comedian-arrested-over-facebook-post-on-paris-attacks

16
Freedom over 3 years ago

Point one.

Quote-- However, your implication that some speech should be restricted - "The most important exception to free speech is comments that advocate against it." - is directly contrary to the freedom of speech that you so vigorously defend.

It is indeed; I believe in practicality rather than logical coherence. See Popper (Google the quote for additional context): "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."

Quote-- this discussion is exceptionally ironic on a mediated forum.

?

Quote-- Secondly, I'm not conflating 'inconsiderate' and 'illegal.'

My point is you don't call something "technically" legal. If it's legal, it's legal. Respect the law.

Quote-- Thirdly, I made no such statement about transgender people

My point is that "sexism" is silly, since most so-called "sexism" I've seen is the promotion of gender differences. If a transgender person says the want to be identified as a certain gender, is that not sexist, since it promotes gender differences?

Quote-- Finally, I'm an atheist. I believe that there are no god(s)

Going to church or learning religion doesn't mean you believe in a real/scientific god. Instead you believe in a metaphorical one and you understand that religious wisdom cultivated over thousands of years is deeper than some well-written stuff about sexism or transphobia.

17
Arafat over 3 years ago

Islam is indeed a crime against humanity, and its first victims are Muslims. I think that is why Muslims are so quick and ready to assume victimhood. On a subconscious level, they feel victimized, but in their search for the cause of their discomfort they incorrectly identify colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth as the cause.

For a Muslim to face up to the reality of Islam and to admit to oneself that Islam is the problem means to lose ones identity. Hence the cognitive dissonance Muslims experience when Islam is called into question. Hence the scrambling for excuses and explanations that can convince the Muslims themselves that Islam is not the problem. And the explanations tend to be colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth.

When cultural Muslims refer to spurious arguments by Islamic apologists as a counterargument to brush aside direct quotes from the Quran and the hadiths, it is not that they are deliberately trying to deceive the non-Muslims. They are desperately clinging to the hope that Islam is not the problem. When they repeat the talking points of Islamic apologists explaining how Islam is a religion of peace, their primary aim is to convince (delude) themselves and make the cognitive dissonance go away at least momentarily, which then removes the immediate threat to their identity and postpones the inevitable confrontation.

18
Socialist Worker over 3 years ago

This happened in France despite the severest hate speech laws in Europe. There are enough laws already on the books to punish terrorist actions.

If we go back in US history the KKK was not just white it was also a Protestant Christian group. It's targets were Blacks, Jews, Atheists and Catholics.

The local authorities would refuse to prosecute KKK killers and when they did all white juries refused to convict.

Protest and use of the second amendment rights by Black People brought the racist to their knees. The deacons for defense and Robert F. William's NAACP and NRA chapter in Monroe, NC organized against these attacks.

The FBI siding with the racists put William's on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Williams went into exile in Cuba where he broadcast Radio Free Dixie which was heard throughout the US despite jamming organized by US Federal authorities.

Federal authorities were forced to use laws written after the civil war to prosecute local officials and sheriffs in the KKK leadership that violated the civil rights of Black people.

The Dixiecrats and cops were then forced to put their white robes in the closet.

The best thing to do is protest these Jew haters actions, demand action be taken against the murderers regardless of their religion and use the human right to defend one self from these violent bigots.

Working people need the right to discuss all ideas not just those that receive approval from a capitalist government.

No to hate laws yes to the punishment of those who engage in violent attacks on anyone be they Jews, Muslims, Christians or other faiths.

Attacks by those parading themselves as the true faith must be punished for their actions not their beliefs. If these governments refuses to take action then armed self defense is warranted.

19
Freedom over 3 years ago

23-- You are speaking way out of your league. The stupidity of your comments is getting boring.

Quote: "This happened in France despite the severest hate speech laws in Europe. There are enough laws already on the books to punish terrorist actions."

By comparing anti-hate speech laws to anti-violence laws, you show (a) you do not care much for human life, and (b) you not understand the freedom that is needed for open debate. This ideology clearly leads to murder and censorship, which happens to be the history of communism.

"Vigorous debate is not violence." Repeat it to yourself each day.

Put differently, you outed yourself as a person who thinks hate speech and killing people are in the same class of actions (you said 'violence occurred despite anti-speech laws'). Disagreement and hate, which never go away and are part of normal, productive speech between adults, are completely different from violence, and there is no reason to think that banning disagreement leads to less violence. Indeed, I argue open disagreement decreases violence. If I can refute your points in the open, I have less need to load up a gun.

Quote: "The local authorities would refuse to prosecute KKK killers and when they did all white juries refused to convict.

Factually incorrect. Your analysis of the KKK sounds like uninformed pandering to whites with a guilt complex and blacks with an entitlement/victimhood complex. Both groups are driven by negative emotions (rationalized as privilege) and plain evil, and it is sad you are taking advantage of them.

Quote: "use of the second amendment rights by Black People"

Not that it matters, but second amendment was intended for use by landowners.

Quote: "The best thing to do is protest these Jew haters actions, demand action be taken against the murderers regardless of their religion and use the human right to defend one self from these violent bigots.

Now you're pandering to Jews and their wage slaves (hint: media industry). We are starting to see your socialist coalition.

Punish murderers regardless of their religion? What a great insight! Never thought of it!

Use the human right to defend oneself? Though I am fine with the second amendment, that is not how you beat terrorists. Meh.

20
BuffaloBob over 3 years ago

3 - You say, "After all, France doesn't need Muslim immigrants...it's the immigrants who need France." As Lee Corso would say (when is College Game Day coming to Steinbrenner Field?), not so fast my friend. When you combine generous social benefits with a declining population (French birth rate is below the replacement rate), you need immigrants - and lots of them - to prop up the tax base and keep those bennies coming. Birth rate sources:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/14/us-france-demographics-idUSBREA0D0X720140114

http://www.france24.com/en/20130611-why-french-women-make-more-babies-fertility-austerity-welfare-reforms-france/#./?_suid=142550247808303140422058020701

Replacement birth rate is generally considered to be 2.1 in developed countries (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323375204578270053387770718)