Nous Sommes Charlie, But Do We Really Want To Be? Ctd

More reader feedback on this long and comprehensive thread:

Jonah’s Jordanian friend raised the tired and disingenuous claim of freedom of speech never being raised for people convicted of anti-Semitic speech in France, or elsewhere in Europe/the larger West, or hate speech convictions being reserved for Antisemitism. This is such a trope, and is extremely annoying to anyone (I’m a South Asian Muslim) who believes in the absolute right Funeral ceremony held for Ahmed Merabet in Parisof free speech (or at best, the 1st Amendment/Brandenburg Test), because European nations have a long history of criminalizing anti-Islamic speech or anything deemed too hurtful to Muslims.

Denmark, for example, convicted an ex-Muslim Iranian of being racist against Muslims. The UK routinely convicts people of anti-Muslim tweets or Facebook posts and stupidity, such as a year-long jail sentence or having an anti-Islamic poster in your window. Burning of a book (The Koran/Quran) can land you in jail for 70 days. In the UK. Conviction for anti-Muslim posters or speech or burning of a book is routine across Germany or Belgium or anywhere else in sensitive Europe. A racist joke is criminal in Sweden and a Finnish MP can be convicted of hate speech. The French have convicted Brigitte Bardot more than once for anti-Muslim immigrant and anti-Islamic speech and convictions for anti-Muslim speech are common in France.

Jews and Muslims are very well protected by the speech police in Europe. Any attempts to show the supposed “hypocrisy” of free speech campaigners is disingenuous. European-style hate speech laws are misguided but have protected European Muslims.

Another reader:

RE: the Jordanian friend, isn’t the reason obvious? France was complicit and helped in rounding up and sending Jewish people to execution camps. The legacy of Nazism is why anti-semitism is particularly taboo in Europe. I don’t think Dieudonné should have been jailed, but there are obvious historic reasons why anti-antisemitism is treated differently in Europe than other forms of offensive speech.

Regarding the third Abrahamic religion, another notes that “France banned an ad depicting Jesus as a female because of its ‘intrusion on people’s innermost beliefs.'” Meanwhile, like many others, Kenan Malik rejects the notion that Charlie is racist:

What is really racist is the idea that only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule. Those who claim that it is ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ to mock the Prophet Mohammad, appear to imagine, with the racists, that all Muslims are reactionaries. It is here that leftwing ‘anti-racism’ joins hands with rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry.

What is called ‘offence to a community’ is more often than not actually a struggle within communities. There are hundreds of thousands, within Muslim communities in the West, and within Muslim-majority countries across the world, challenging religious-based reactionary ideas and policies and institutions; writers, cartoonists, political activists, daily putting their lives on the line in facing down blasphemy laws, standing up for equal rights and fighting for democratic freedoms; people like Pakistani cartoonist Sabir Nazar, the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, exiled to India after death threats, or the Iranian blogger Soheil Arabi, sentenced to death last year for ‘insulting the Prophet’. What happened in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris was viscerally shocking; but in the non-Western world, those who stand up for their rights face such threats every day.

What nurtures the reactionaries, both within Muslim communities and outside it, is the pusillanimity of many so-called liberals, their unwillingness to stand up for basic liberal principles, their readiness to betray the progressives within minority communities. On the one hand, this allows Muslim extremists the room to operate. The more that society gives licence for people to be offended, the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. And the more deadly they will become in expressing their outrage.

Jörg Heiser also defends Charlie, citing another misconstrued example of their “racism”:

They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same welfarebiting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. … So how can it be that these editors actually campaigning for the sans papier would be so quickly identified as islamophobic racists? Some of the shocking imagery suggested such an allegation. Take one of the most outrageous examples [seen right]. ‘touchez pas nos allocs’ translates as ‘Don’t touch our welfare allocations!’. The case seems clear: an outrageously racist and sexist depiction of girls abducted by Boko Haram and made sex slaves presented, in racial stereotyping, as grotesquely screaming pregnant women of colour, with a future as ‘welfare queens’ in France. But then I did a few minutes of research and came across this online discussion.

What the contributing users – some French, some American – were saying can be roughly distilled into this: mixing two unrelated events that made the news in France last year – the Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram; the French government announcing welfare benefit cuts – is a double snipe, in classic Hebdo style, at both Boko Haram and those who hold grotesque fantasies and stereotypes about ‘welfare queens’, i.e. the French Far Right and its followers. Many of the covers of the magazine work in this strategy of mimetic parody mixing two seemingly unrelated things to create crude absurdity in order to respond to the crude absurdity of the Le Pen followers (think of the [Steven] Colbert Report done by Southpark, but ten times amplified by France’s tradition of mean, challenging joking, made to grin and bear it, going back to the 17th century ).

Max Fisher draws a good parallel to that controversial cover:

To get a sense of how Charlie Hebdo’s two-layer humor works, recall this 2008 cover from the 002485946.0New Yorker. It portrayed Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, as Muslim. And it portrayed his wife, Michelle Obama, as a rifle-toting militant in the style of the black nationalists of the 1960s. It caused some controversy.

If you saw this cover knowing nothing about the New Yorker or very little about American politics, you would read it as a racist and Islamophobic portrayal of the Obamas, an endorsement of the idea that they are secret black nationalist Muslims. In fact, though, most Americans immediately recognized that the New Yorker was in fact satirizing Republican portrayals of the Obamas, and that the cover was lampooning rather than endorsing that portrayal.

To understand Charlie Hebdo covers, you have to look at them the same way that you look at this New Yorker cover. And you also have to know something about the context of French politics and social issues.

(Photo: A Jewish man holding a placard reading “I’m Ahmed” in English attends the funeral ceremony for Ahmed Merabet, the French policeman killed by the Kouachi brothers in Wednesday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, at Takva Mosque before he is buried at the Muslim Cemetery of Bobigny in Paris, France on January 13, 2015. By Mehmet Kaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Will Europe Repeat America’s Mistakes?

That’s Cassidy’s fear:

Clearly, France needs to beef up security around potential terrorist targets, as well as take a look at its internal security agencies, which failed to keep tabs on three attackers who were known to be supporters of violent jihad. But there’s also a possibility that the French government will overreact, plunging France and other European nations into conflict with the millions of Muslims living in their own countries—something that organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS would love to see, and whose consequences might be disastrous.

From the images of the past few days, it’s plain that last week’s attacks have riled up the French public in a way that is, in some ways, redolent of the aftermath of the U.S. reaction to 9/11. On Sunday, millions of people took to the streets of Paris and other French cities. In addition to holding up signs that read “Je Suis Charlie,” many of the marchers were carrying the French tricolor and singing “La Marseillaise.” This outburst of patriotism was entirely predictable, and, in some ways, it is to be commended. But patriotism blends easily into nationalism, which, in turn, can be used to justify illiberal actions. In a country that has already banned the burka from public places, whose treatment of its immigrant population has long been a blot on its reputation, and where an explicitly anti-immigrant party, the National Front, gained twenty-five per cent of the vote in recent elections to the European Parliament, the potential for a lurch toward oppressive and counterproductive policies cannot be entirely dismissed.

Victoria Turk is concerned by the initial EU response:

Following the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the EU has issued a joint st​atement to condemn the act and work to prevent extremism and safeguard freedom of expression. The leaders’ suggestion? More surveillance and internet censorship. …

To suggest that absolutely everything on the internet should be protected—no matter what—would be naive, but it’s not the first time that politicians have tested the limits. In the UK, there has been di​scussion around flagging “extremist” content on YouTube that is deemed “unsavoury” but, crucially, might not break the law.

 crackdown on speech has already begun:

Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, generally known by his stage name Dieudonné, posted “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” to his Facebook account in the days after the attack. His message seemed designed to offend: Playing on the #JeSuisCharlie meme, it merged the name “Charle Hebdo” with that of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed four hostages in a kosher supermarket Friday. The post has since been deleted.

The 48-year-old Dieudonné is probably France’s most controversial comedian. His career began in the late 1990s when he worked in a comedy duo with his Jewish friend Élie Semoun. The pair poked fun at racial stereotypes and intolerance, but they fell out as Dieudonné began focusing more and more on France’s Jewish minority after 2002. Since then, Dieudonné’s act has frequently been accused of being anti-Semitic. It has also, however, made him popular.

Adam Chandler also covers the investigation of Dieudonné:

In identifying with both some of the victims and one of the shooters in last week’s attacks, Dieudonné’s statement, according to the prosecutor’s office, was being investigated on the grounds that it was “defending terrorism” rather than committing hate speech. Responding to the development, Dieudonné accused the government of persecuting him by banning his performances and treating him as “public enemy number one.”

Cory Doctorow is more worried about David Cameron’s goal of spying on all forms of communication:

What David Cameron thinks he’s saying is, “We will command all the software creators we can reach to introduce back-doors into their tools for us.” There are enormous problems with this: There’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it. If your Whatsapp or Google Hangouts has a deliberately introduced flaw in it, then foreign spies, criminals, crooked police (like those who fed sensitive information to the tabloids who were implicated in the hacking scandal—and like the high-level police who secretly worked for organised crime for years), and criminals will eventually discover this vulnerability. They—and not just the security services — will be able to use it to intercept all of our communications. That includes things like the pictures of your kids in your bath that you send to your parents to the trade secrets you send to your co-workers.

But this is just for starters. He doesn’t understand technology very well, so he doesn’t actually know what he’s asking for.

Friedersdorf questions the security benefits of such a plan:

[I]f Britain improbably succeeded in creating a society where its security services could read anything communicated online, if its citizens bore all the costs in the forms of decreased privacy, inferior technology, and vulnerability to abuses, would the country then be safe from terrorist attacks like the one in Paris? Of course not. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators didn’t need the Internet to nearly succeed in blowing up parliament (nor were they stopped by signals intelligence). Terrorists will always find methods of communication that are relatively hard to intercept, whether communicating in code online or sending documents via bike messenger or notes via pigeon or through unwitting children.

There is, if all else fails, meeting face-to-face to plan a future murder.

Turkey Blames The Victims

Steven Cook is dispirited by the country’s reaction to the terrorist attacks last week:

I find the Turkish leadership’s response to the events in France striking. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took part in the solidarity rally in Paris on Sunday, but among the near universal denunciation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent killings at the Hyper Cache market, the Turkish reaction was disturbingly equivocal. In a public statement after the assault on the magazine, the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu declared, “Terrorism and all types of Islamophobia perpetuate each other and we stand against this.”

It is hard to disagree. Islamophobia, of which there is much in Europe and the United States, is bad, and terrorism is bad. Both are scourges that need to be fought, albeit in different ways. And while Davutoglu was more direct in his condemnation, cloaked in Cavusoglu’s outrage against anti-Muslim bias and terrorism, the foreign minister was saying something else entirely: The people targeted specifically in the Charlie Hebdo attack were Islamophobes who brought Cherif and Said Kouachi on themselves, producing a cycle of more Islamophobia and thus more violence. More broadly, Cavusoglu was signaling that the West is to blame for terror because it is irredeemably anti-Islam.

Anyone who has been paying careful attention to Turkey understands that the foreign minister’s statement was calibrated and consistent with a message the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been hammering away at for some time. It is hard to tell whether the Turkish leadership believes what they are saying or whether it is invoked as a political strategy to keep the party’s core constituency mobilized. Either way it is dangerous.

Marc Champion points out that “Turkey’s government doesn’t respect freedom of expression for cartoonists, or journalists more broadly, at home”:

Indeed when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, Davutoglu’s boss, then-Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly condemned them for it. He insisted that free speech must have limitations — and cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo clearly breached the lines he would like Europe to draw.

Erdogan prosecutes Turkish cartoonists for much less. As the New York Times recently wrote, Turkey’s president is appealing the acquittal of cartoonist Musa Kart, whom Turkey’s leader sued last year for mocking his suppression of corruption allegations against the government. This is nothing new.

Michael Koplow feels that we are losing the battle of ideas, in Turkey and elsewhere:

A NATO-member country, with massive commercial and defense links to the U.S. and Europe, whose leaders speak English and many of whom have been educated in the U.S. and Europe, should know better. It should know that terrorism against civilians must be condemned full-stop, that drawing offensive cartoons does not mean that you deserve to be killed, that the Mossad did not just engage in a deadly false flag operation, and that no government is killing its own people in order to gin up anti-Muslim sentiment and create a pretext for persecuting its own Muslim population. When it doesn’t seem to know these things, it means we have lost the battle of ideas, and the extremists are winning.

What Sets Off Fundamentalists?

Ron E. Hassner ponders the triggers of religious violence:

[W]hat is truly puzzling about fundamentalist wrath is not merely why some fundamentalist Muslims but not others choose to resort to terrorism against cartoonists but why there is no such Islamist terrorism against abortion clinics, for example, a prime concern for Protestant fundamentalists.  For reasons anchored in theology, history and politics, these Christians would never consider reacting with force to a cartoon mocking Jesus just as a cartoon mocking Moses would barely elicit a shrug from a fundamentalist Jew. But fundamentalist Jews riot, and violently so, in response to desecrations of the Sabbath and the unearthing of Jewish remains by archaeologists, two themes that neither their Muslim nor their Christian counterparts have much interest in. …

Why don’t Protestant extremists bomb abortion clinics in Europe?  Why have there been no Muslim riots in response to blasphemous cartoons in the U.S.? We cannot explain why fundamentalists attack without studying religion and we cannot explain when and where they attack without studying politics.  This point is lost both on anti-Muslim voices, who wish to forge an essentialist link between Islam and violence, and on postcolonial activists who strive to place the blame for violence anywhere but on the shoulders of its Islamists perpetrators.

Update from a reader:

I had an enlightening conversation with a Kuwaiti medical student who is on placement at my practice today.

He is studying medicine at Queen’s University in Belfast and would describe himself as a “secular” Muslim, horrified by the events in Paris. Nevertheless he recognises why some followers of Islam, are enraged by the care-free willingness of some non-Muslims to mock things that are fundamental to their beliefs, albeit that he does not support their deeds in any way.

However, our conversation got round to the reasons why some Muslims take up this jihad activity. He knows some who have left his own country but others from Iraq and further afield as well, who have been captivated by Islamic State and motivated almost entirely by revenge. Many of these people have been directly affected by the Iraq wars but other conflicts including Afghanistan have had a significant impact on their apparent conversion from relatively secular, peaceful individuals to radical jihads.
Most have been directly affected with the loss of several family members. The messages and propaganda promoted by I.S. have captured their imagination in a much more effective way than previously occurred with organisations such as Al Qaeda. Most of these men are of similar age (early 20s) to him. He does agree though, that there are many other reasons why young men are joining this organisation too. Whether we agree with these views or not, he is certain that the most recent invasion of Iraq was entirely unjustifiable and today’s events are a direct legacy of this.

Like me though, he also believes that organisations such as I.S. will never be defeated militarily. I come from a part of the world where a 30-year conflict eventually ended after the realisation that dialogue and negotiation were the only way to bring about a (mainly) peaceful situation. The IRA could never defeat the British forces or the determination of the Unionist people, just as the British Forces could never defeat the IRA or the aspirations of Irish Nationalist people. That it took 30 years for all involved to find this out is regrettable but should give us an indication of how long it might be before there is an end to fundamentalist jihad activity and the assumption that Western society can, in some way, dictate to people in Middle Eastern countries how they conduct themselves.

It would seem that the lessons of history are lost on too many who believe that (para)military aggression/intervention and war of whatever nature, represent any hope of solution to the horrors that affect our world today.

The Profanity Of Blasphemy Laws

Such laws are still common in much of the world:


Doug Bandow calls the murders of Charlie Hebdo staffers “the international cousins of those who murder alleged blasphemers and apostates in Muslim nations”:

Earlier this year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that victims of the ongoing attack on free expression include people from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.  Nowhere are blasphemy laws more used and abused than in Pakistan.

In its study on the issue USCIRF explained how the law encourages abuse:

“The so-called crime carries the death penalty or life in prison, does not require proof of intent or evidence to be presented after allegations are made, and does not include penalties for false allegations.”  Judges prefer not to hear evidence, since doing so could be construed as blasphemy.  A claim usually is sufficient to send someone to prison, making the law a common weapon in personal and business disputes.

Non-Muslims are peculiarly vulnerable.  Many people do not reach trial:  mobs have killed more than 50 people charged with the offense. And thugs like those who gunned down the Charlie Hebdo staffers have murdered judges who acquitted defendants, attorneys who represented those accused, and politicians who proposed reforming the laws.

Ireland, at least, is now rethinking its laws against blasphemy:

One article published by the Irish Times newspaper, titled “Why a referendum on blasphemy is long overdue,” specifically cites the words of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier (aka “Charb”) as justification for an end to Ireland’s blasphemy laws. “Let’s repeal our blasphemy law if we really want to honor ‘Charlie,’ ” read a separate op-ed in the Irish Independent.

Meanwhile, an online poll conducted in response to the Paris attacks by news Web site found 64 percent in favor of scrapping the laws as quickly as possible.

Recent Dish on blasphemy laws here.

Reality Check

How Allahpundit frames a new YouGov poll: “Majority of Republicans think media should publish satires of religion, plurality of Dems disagree”:

In case you’re wondering which party is the anti-blasphemy party. Remember this the next time you stumble across a lefty thinkpiece on how Christian theocrats run the GOP. The top line is “should publish,” the second is “should not,” the third is “not sure”:


Some caveats are in order.

For one thing, when asked whether the media has an obligation to show controversial but newsworthy images even if they might offend the religious views of some, both parties are heavily in favor. Democrats split 76/24 while Republicans split 82/18. (The overall public split is 80/20.) That means that outfits like CNN and people like NYT editor Dean Baquet are crossways with fully 80 percent of the public in suppressing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, at least for their stated fig-leaf reason of “sensitivity.”

Another caveat: When asked if it’s acceptable or unacceptable to ridicule Christianity, both parties tilt narrowly towards “unacceptable.” (Democrats split 38/44 while Republicans divide 45/47.) When asked if it’s acceptable or unacceptable to ridicule Islam, both tilt towards “acceptable” — 42/38 for Democrats and a clear majority of 53/30 for Republicans. It’s actually the age split that’s more interesting on that question though. For some reason, young adults and seniors are more circumspect while the middle-aged say “go for it.”

But he sees the gender and race divides as “far more interesting”:

Women clearly, to an almost majority extent, believe religious satires shouldn’t be published; among blacks, that opinion is held by a clear majority.

Did ISIS And Al Qaeda Team Up?

Bobby Ghosh contemplates the French terrorists’ connections to the global terrorist groups:

At least one of the Kouachi brothers, the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdomassacre, traveled to Yemen to train with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and U.S. officials believe the attack was ordered by the group’s high command. But Amedy Coulibaly, who carried out several other attacks in conjunction with the Kouachis, including taking hostages at a kosher supermarket, had pledged loyalty to ISIS.

If there’s a difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS, it was lost on these men. The brothers Kouachi attacked Charlie Hebdo because of its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Coulibaly said he was motivated by France’s role in the war against ISIS. But their allegiances and affiliations didn’t prevent them from working together, from killing together.

How Keating understands the cooperation:

While ISIS and al-Qaida, as centralized organizations, may be sworn enemies, things may be more fluid for their adherents around the world, who share a common ideology and common goals. As the counterterrorism researcher Thomas Hegghammer wrote on Twitter today, the dual claims in Paris suggest that “some jihadis relate to IS/AQ like football teams. You can support different clubs and still watch game together.” Certainly, supporters of the two groups online seem to be reacting to the events in Paris with common enthusiasm.

Jeremy Scahill lends his perspective:

AQAP and ISIS have been engaged in a very public and bitter feud on social media and through official communications for the past year. While not impossible, it is unlikely that AQAP and ISIS at a high level agreed to cooperate on such a mission. An AQAP source told me that the group supports what Coulibaly did and that it does not matter what group — if any — assisted him, just that he was a Muslim who took the action. ISIS, clearly seeking to capitalize on the events in Paris, has now reportedly issued a call for its supporters to attack police forces. Of course, it is also plausible that all three of the men received some degree of outside help, but created their own cells to plot the Paris attacks. Whether Coulibaly was actually working with the Kouachi brothers or was inspired by their attack is also unknown.

For now, we have little more than verified statements from an AQAP source, a claim of responsibility from an ISIS figure and words of praise from both ISIS and some key AQAP figures. Taking responsibility for the attacks, whether true or not, could aid either group in fundraising and in elevating its prominence in the broader jihadist movement globally.