A reader writes:
I’m a former Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia as the daughter of Pakistani expatriates. I left everything to come to the US and created a wonderful life that has involved practicing as an attorney. Several years ago, I worked out my Islamic demons via a blog focusing on my apostasy – still a capital crime in Saudi Arabia – but Islam has become largely irrelevant to my life in recent years. That is, until something like the Charlie Hebdo attack happens.
I found myself thinking that I don’t want them to win, and they win so much, everyday. I grew up in a country that bans philosophy books because they might encourage free thought. When people are killed for speech, speech is silenced. I can‘t stand the thought that fewer people might draw silly cartoons because of Islamism.
So I created drawingislam.com, which will post drawings, cartoons and sketches sent in by anyone who has anything to say about Islam and Muhammad. I’m hoping it will generate enough material that the best of it can be published in a book that Saudi Arabia will have to ban.
I was one of your earliest readers, back in Saudi as a teenager. Thank you for your honesty about Islam. I’m a socialist-level liberal, and I find the liberal cowardice around speaking out about Islamism disgusting. Here’s to speaking the truth, even if it’s in the form of satirical cartoons.
Another counters Chait:
“One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.” I’m sorry – what? As an atheist who personally has no problem with blasphemy, I still don’t think this statement makes any sense.
In a liberal society, we routinely “defend the right” to express all sorts of awful opinions – racist, homophobic, etc. My guess is that Chait would defend the rights of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church or even the Klan to express their vile views. Does that mean that he also defends the practice? That there is no room to say that such views have no place in a civilized society, but that at the same time we will allow people to express them? (And in fact that we must allow them to, or risk repression of vital and valuable discourse as well.)
I am not familiar enough with Charlie Hebdo to know whether their publications warrant the same sort of public contempt as those of hate groups. My guess is that they do not. It could well be that I would defend their practices as well as their rights. But it’s a question of degree, and it does not follow from defending their right to publish that we must also defend their practices.
Another isn’t alone:
I’m missing Hitch. His voice is needed regarding France. His words regarding Denmark will have to make the point:
Hitch’s words – about how religious fundamentalists of all stripes defend each other when it comes to secular free speech – prove prescient:
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a U.S. organization that “defends the rights of Catholics,” issued a statement [yesterday] titled “Muslims are right to be angry.” In it, Donohue criticized the publication’s history of offending the world’s religiously devout, including non-Muslims. The murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his [own] tragic death,” the statement reads. “Had [Charbonnier] not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue says, in what must be one of the more offensive and insensitive comments made on this tragic day.
Another reader flags a much longer video from Hitch on free speech. Another shifts gears and wildly speculates about the motives of the massacre:
In thinking about the horrible attack today, the typically dormant conspiracy theorist part of me wondered if this really was an act of Islamic Fundamentalist terror, or if it was only intended to look like one. You posted a snippet of Juan Cole’s message, saying that that this played into the hands of both Al-Qaeda and the “Islamophobic French Right wing.” Why are we so sure it wasn’t some hardcore nationalists who wanted to create the very kind of backlash the attack is likely to create?
Now, obviously the likeliest scenario is that it was, in fact, perpetrated by three (including the driver) Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists, but two things have made me question it apart from the multiple parties who had motive.
First, the terrorists told the woman opening the door for them that they were Al-Qaeda, in unaccented French, and then they started screaming Allahu Akbar as they perpetrated their assault. It all seemed too stereotypically like Islamic Fundamentalist terror. Of course, maybe that’s a stereotype because that’s how it happens, but it made me question things a bit. Second, and this is very tenuous, the skin of the attackers under their masks look very white. (Yes, there are obviously also light-skinned and/or white Islamic Fundamentalists).
Anyway, that’s my conspiracy theory for the year. I wish it had to do with something far less sad and horrible.
Follow all Dish coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack here. Update from a reader:
The discussion around the attack has focused around freedom of speech, and whether or not we should lionize the magazine despite its baiting tactics. Some voices emphasize the need to defend freedom of speech at all costs. The others say that Charlie Hebdo was a little over the top – their cartoons weren’t critiques so much as racist slurs. The problem with both stances is they still limit this attack to an attack on free speech. And while I think that’s a part of this cultural tension, I don’t think it’s the whole story, or even the central one.
Maybe Charlie Hebdo wasn’t attacked because of its cartoons but instead because of larger political forces at work. Maybe people don’t become radicalized because of ideas or teachers, but rather because of living conditions and/or identity politics. Few commentators have mentioned how European Muslims are statistically poorer and less culturally integrated than Muslim Americans. I haven’t seen any of the write ups discuss the 2010 banning of face coverings, the strict anti-immigration policies that are common throughout Europe, or the lack of Muslim representation in European governments.
Do crazies pick up guns and shoot people sometimes? Of course. But if this is terrorism (and not simply a killing spree), we can not stick our heads in the sand and retreat to cliches like “They hate us for our freedom.” Not only is that an oversimplified approach, it also prevents us from healing the wounds that continue to haunt us. Political violence cannot exist in a vacuum. Talking about this awful crime like it’s simply the product of a few cartoons is unproductive, and leads to deeper lines drawn in the sand.
(Illustration details here)