Capitulation Of The Day

[Re-posted and updated from earlier today]

A reader spots an “interesting bit of irony”:

The Washington Post article that criticizes Donohue’s ridiculous comments about Charlie Hebdo and the idea that offensive speech ought to be censored contains this cowardly disclaimer:

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included images offensive to various religious groups that did not meet the Post’s standards, and should not have been published. They have been removed.

If any reader knows exactly what images they removed, let us know and we’ll post them here. Update:

I saw the WaPo story before the images were pulled down they were exclusively images aimed at insulting Catholics and Jews. I left a comment asking why they weren’t also running the images aimed at insulting Muslims – i.e., the images that were particularly newsworthy. Awhile later all of the images were taken down. Definitely not my intent in making the comment. I just thought it was hypocritical to run one set of cartoons and not the other.  Here are a couple of the images I remember seeing before they were pulled:

hebdo-covers

Another reader:

The CBC has also refused to air the cartoons. Here’s the internal memorandum courtesy web journalist Jesse Brown:

The Urgency Of Blasphemy

In the wake of the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, Douthat stands up for blasphemy:

[T]he kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more.

Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Saletan refuses to pretend that the hyper-sensitivity to religious mockery that motivated this attack isn’t specific to Islam:

Islamic moderates who protest these caricatures are undercut by Islamic radicals. Charlie Hebdo insults all religions. Its current issue mockingly questions the existence of Jesus. But Christians haven’t responded with bullets.

Three years ago, after Charlie Hebdo’s office was bombed, its editorial director, Stéphane Charbonnier, pointed out that the magazine was “provocative on many subjects. It just so happens that every time we deal with radical Islam … we get indignant or violent reactions.”

Now Charbonnier is dead. The problem isn’t just the violence. It’s the celebration from other quarters of the Muslim world. On social media, there are comments celebrating Wednesday’s “blessed” attack and telling the killers, “You pleased our hearts.” There are congratulations to the terrorists for shouting “God is great” and striking “a paper known for its abuse of Islam.”

But Sarah Harvard stresses that Islamic doctrine doesn’t actually condone killing those who create offensive images of the prophet:

So what does Islam say about depictions that are not in a positive light? Islam’s most poignant instance of aniconism came when the Prophet Mohammed returned to the city of Mecca in 630 AD. After years fleeing from persecution, Mohammed and his followers had marched back to Mecca to rid idol worshiping from the holy city. According to the critically acclaimed book Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, upon entering the most sacred point in Islam’s most sacred mosque, Mohammed destroyed all the pagan idols and paintings that were sacrilegious to Islam. (He specifically guarded images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.) Mohammed didn’t seek out the creators of the images or sentence those responsible for the idols and sacrilegious depictions to death.

Historically, Razib Khan argues, the Islamic radicals’ views of blasphemy are far closer to the norm than our modern, somewhat radical attitudes toward free speech in the US:

[T]he behavior of Islamic radicals is definitely not beyond comprehension. Rather, it is totally explicable, and in many societies and times would be entirely normal and healthy behavior. Attacking the religion of the folk is understood to be synonymous with attacking the folk. That is why Thomas Jefferson had to elucidate his views on religion in the first place, they did not come naturally to people in the 18th century. They had to be inculcated over generations. Even if Islamic radicals in the West prey upon the marginalized, they reflect ancient and primal methods of social outrage and sanction. What you see here is the reality of living in a multicultural world where there is no a harmony of values and norms, and free movement of individuals who don’t necessarily subscribe to the social viewpoints of the lands in which they settle.

To Michael Brendan Dougherty, the incident illustrates how modern secularism is not only a Western idea, but a Christian one:

We used to say of comedians, “He can make that joke because he’s Jewish.” In this respect, the Western world’s comfort with attacking Christianity is an inadvertent admission that Christianity is “our” religion. And so it elicits from us none of the respect, deference, or fear we give to strangers. Viewed this way, secularism looks less like universal principle than a moral and theological critique derived from Christian sources and pitched back at Christian authorities.

The great irony of Islam’s continued clashes with the Western way of life — whether its widespread riots over a YouTube video or the murderous actions of a crazed minority— is that it has revealed, to the surprise of everyone but Pope Emeritus Benedict, that modern secularism is a kind of epiphenomenon of Christendom.

Who Won’t Republish Charlie’s Cartoons?

Mark Steyn wishes the MSM would grow a pair:

Amen. Christopher Massie finds a clear divide between digital and legacy publications:

With few exceptions, it has been digital outlets like The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Vox, and Slate that have exercised their constitutional right by republishing the cartoons that are thought to be the basis for the attacks. In contrast, many “legacy” organizations, from CNN, to The Washington Post, to The New York Times, largely withheld the images.

A Dish reader also called out the CBC, as well as an egregious example from the WaPo. Massie talks to Daily Beast editor Noah Shachtman, who calls not publishing the images “giving in to the monsters that just massacred a bunch of people.” Massie is on the same page:

While editors are regularly forced to make difficult calls about publishing sensitive material, and while yesterday’s murders show that worries about angering jihadists are not without basis, in this case, the obvious news value of the cartoons ought to have outweighed any trepidation. The absence of a confirmed storyline as to whether a specific cartoon ignited the attack means that a wide array of context, including the images, is potentially relevant. Furthermore, if readers want to understand the tragic affront to free speech, there is no replacement for seeing the cartoons, in their unabashed irreverence.

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

Yglesias, for one, is dismayed that yesterday’s attack made martyrs of cartoonists whose work he found distasteful in the extreme:

Viewed in a vacuum, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons (or the Danish ones that preceded it) are hardly worthy of a stirring defense. They offer few ideas of value, contribute little to any important debates, and the world would likely have been a better place had everyone just been more polite in the first place.

But in the context of a world where publishers of cartoons mocking Mohammed have been threatened, harassed, and even killed, things look different. Images that were once not much more than shock for its own sake now stand for something — for the legal right to blaspheme and to give offense. Unforgivable acts of slaughter imbue merely rude acts of publication with a glittering nobility.

One of Dreher’s readers makes a similar point:

I am a francophone European, and I sometimes read Charlie Hebdo. I am shocked by these murders and I hope the assassins will be caught and will pay dearly for their crimes. This being said, je ne “suis” pas Charlie et je ne l’ai jamais été: I am not Charlie and I never was.

I’ve always thought that Charlie’s brand of “humour” was despicable and part of the problem, not a solution. I’m not going to change my mind about this because of the murders. The people who died have become martyrs of the freedom of expression, but they were hardly the best defenders of the freedom of expression. First because the freedom to express your opinions does not imply that these opinions are correct – and Charlie was a far left, violently anti-religious rag. It is not because you are free to be vulgar, unfair and insulting that all these things are good. Moreover Charlie was not very good when the freedom of expression of its adversaries was at stake: look at the “Dieudonné” affair for instance.

Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is a controversial French comedian and political activist who’s been convicted many times of antisemitism. Diana Johnstone is on the same page as Dreher’s reader when it comes to Charlie Hebdo‘s spotty record on free speech:

In 2002, Philippe Val, who was editor in chief at the time, denounced Noam Chomsky for anti-Americanism and excessive criticism of Israel and of mainstream media.  In 2008, another of Charlie Hebdo’s famous cartoonists, Siné, wrote a short note citing a news item that President Sarkozy’s son Jean was going to convert to Judaism to marry the heiress of a prosperous appliance chain. Siné added the comment, “He’ll go far, this lad.” For that, Siné was fired by Philippe Val on grounds of “anti-Semitism”.  Siné promptly founded a rival paper which stole a number of Charlie Hebdo readers, revolted by CH’s double standards. In short, Charlie Hebdo was an extreme example of what is wrong with the “politically correct” line of the current French left.

Indeed, many Muslims on social media are wondering why free speech seems a bit freer than usual when Islam is the target. One such Muslim is a Jordanian friend of Dish editor Jonah Shepp, who didn’t want to reveal her name:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.19.55 PM

Meanwhile, responding to calls for other publications to reprint Charlie’s most controversial work in solidarity, Arthur Goldhammer cautions against sacralizing artists and journalists who saw profaning the sacred as their life’s work:

Reproducing the imagery created by the murdered artists tends to sacralize them as embodiments of some abstract ideal of free speech. But many of the publications that today honor the dead as martyrs would yesterday have rejected their work as tasteless and obscene, as indeed it often was. The whole point of Charlie’s satire was to be tasteless and obscene, to respect no proprieties, to make its point by being untameable and incorrigible and therefore unpublishable anywhere else. The speech it exemplified was not free to express itself anywhere but in its pages. Its spirit was insurrectionist and anti-idealist, and its creators would be dumbfounded to find themselves memorialized as exemplars of a freedom that they always insisted was perpetually in danger and in need of a defense that only offensiveness could provide.

Update from the in-tray:

Long-time reader (and francophone) here. I just saw you forward a tweet regarding Charlie download (1)Hebdo‘s alleged racism in its cartoon “Rassemblement bleu raciste” [Update: the Twitter user deleted that tweet, but the image in question is embedded to the right]. I am not 100% certain of the background behind that cartoon. Unfortunately, the Charlie Hebdo website isn’t showing much in the way of past content at this time. That said, a quick google search reveals that this caricature – albeit maladroit – might have been put forth as a criticism of the French extreme right’s racist references to Minister Taubira. I invite you to look at the following links – here and here – which give a bit more detail on the text that allegedly accompanied the caricature. I may be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure that caricature was not the whole story and is mischaracterizing Charlie Hebdo’s position.

The first link is to a web forum and the second is to an article in French, so if any other readers, especially French-speaking ones, have something more conclusive, please let us know. Update from another:

As a French citizen, I was infuriated by your understanding of this drawing by Charlie Hebdo.  This drawing was made as a response to racism found in the French weekly newspaper Minute, which depicted Taubira as a monkey.  This shocking (and I concede awkward) drawing is meant to denounce the racists from Minute and the Front National, the nationalist extreme right party (their logo at the bottom left of the drawing).  The drawing is meant to exemplify how racist and shocking their words were.  I found that title/question insulting the memory of Charlie Hebdo.

Another adds further context:

Charlie Hebdo’s picture of Minister Taubira was indeed posted in the context when many Front national supporters and representatives made racist comments about Christiane Taubira, who supported legalizing gay marriage. They constantly compared her to a monkey and on some occasions taught their children to throw bananas at her.

The title is in fact a pun on the new name Marine Le Pen wanted to give to the Front national so as to nominally distance her own political agenda from her father’s (who was well known for his antisemitic and racist comments). She called her own movement « Rassemblement Bleu Marine » (this name itself included a pun since it means both a « Blue Navy Rally » and a « blue rally around Marine Le Pen » ). Charlie Hebdo just added a pun on her pun, replacing “Bleu Marine” with “Bleu raciste”. It was meant to show that the new Front national around Marine Le Pen was in fact just as racist as the former one and the caricature of Taubira as a monkey was meant to represent the so-called new Front National’s vision of a black female Minister of Justice.

Regarding “freedom of speech”, Dreher’s reader’s comments about a double standard are quite off the topic. From a legal point of view, in the US sense, freedom of speech is restricted in France. The cases that reader mentions does show an obvious double standard when it comes to antisemitism on the one hand and islamophobia on the other, but rather the fact that there is room for prosecution in France if you make public comments that suggest that you support racial inequality or that you deny the existence of events such as the Holocaust. There is no room for prosecution for any kind of religious blasphemy. Charlie Hebdo fought against the idea that anything was too sacred not to be ridiculed or laughed about. Such was their idea of freedom. They were irreverent by principle, but never racist nor in any way comparable to ideologues such as Dieudonné.

In any case, thank you for your coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack and for pointing out the MSM’s lack of courage in reproducing the caricatures. Below is a picture I took at yesterday’s march in Place de la République around 8pm:

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Kids, students, anonymous people are absolutely not afraid of showing these caricatures in public in France. It’s important that they are not and to some degree they are less than they ever were.

Did Terrorists Just Elect Le Pen?

James McAuley worries that the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo will empower France’s xenophobic far-right:

An additional dimension to this tragedy is that it plays directly into the hands of those public figures and politicians who would like to see France Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.45.23 PMregress into an organic national community of blood ties, rather than of citizens. The Islamic extremists who executed the attack on Charlie Hebdo may have murdered journalists and artists, but surely their crime is also against other Muslims in France, who are now likely to be viewed as enemy aliens hostile to the essence of the Republic itself, regardless of their own beliefs. Michel Houellebecq, for instance, who often paints Muslims as a dangerous fifth column, might now perhaps be vindicated in the eyes of unreflective readers; and, in the words of one Lebanese blogger, today might very well be the day that Marine Le Pen became President of France. Le Pen, by the way, has compared the Muslim presence in France to the German occupation of the 1940s. After today, we can only hope that others will not start doing the same.

Le Pen was quick to express her own outrage, calling for France to bring back the death penalty and demagoguing against “Islamists who have declared war on France”. It’s a bit rich, given that Le Pen herself has been ridiculed in Charlie more than the Prophet Muhammad and once sued the magazine for its depiction of her (the cover on the right is one of its kinder representations of the far-right leader). And as Juan Cole astutely observed, inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment is a feature, not a bug, of Islamist terrorism. Kaj Leers reinforces that point today:

The danger now is that populists will hijack the debate and push the press into an anti-Islam frenzy. As this was being written, nationalist organizations and proponents of identity wars, such as supporters of the Pegida movement in Germany, were already using the Charlie Hebdo massacre as justification for their anti-Islam stance. This is precisely what religious fundamentalists seek:

to divide the world neatly into pro- and anti-Islam parts, leaving no distinction between mainstream Muslims and the fundamentalist fringe. In reality, no group has suffered more from violence by Islamist extremists over the past decades than Muslims themselves. At around the same time the hitmen exited Charlie Hebdo headquarters, where they killed 12 people, a bomb attack in Yemen killed 37 people and injured scores more. The last thing media should do now is give the terrorists the divided world they seek.

And it’s not just Le Pen; Bershidsky discovers that the attack is driving more Frenchmen into the arms of right-wing nationalist and anti-immigrant groups:

After the Paris attack, the number of people who “liked” the Facebook page of the German anti-immigrant group Pegida, which holds big and ever-growing weekly demonstrations in Dresden, moustachejumped by about 7,500 to 120,500. … After the killings, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National, made a politically correct speech condemning Islamic fundamentalism, but one of her top lieutenants, Wallerand de Saint-Just, explained in an interview before she spoke that the problem was Islam, which “has a tendency to create fanatics more than any other religion,” and the French nationality of the suspected terrorists, which makes it impossible to deport them.

Wednesday’s act of terrorism is clearly encouraging anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant forces. They also don “Je suis Charlie” buttons, even though Charlie Hebdo was a leftist publication that made fun of them more often than it went after Muhammad.

But Kevin Lees sounds a more hopeful note, stressing that France hasn’t been instantly engulfed in anti-Muslim hysteria:

Instead of instinctively falling into some cartoon mould of right-wing xenophobia, most of what we saw from Paris, from France and much of the rest of the world were precisely those things about which France should be proudest — the freedoms and rights that necessarily follow from the liberté, égalité and fraternité that have formed the heart of French public life since the 1789 revolution. Far from embracing knee-jerk anti-Muslim sentiment, the world watched as France, implausibly, united behind Hollande, who actually looked like a president for perhaps the first time since his election. They rallied in city after city, from Paris to Marseille and beyond, not to excoriate a religion or five million French Muslims, but to defend freedom of expression and speech. No one’s burning down banlieues tonight in France.

But there been at least three attacks on mosques throughout the country so far, so Lees may be speaking prematurely here. Aurelien Mondon pushes back on Le Pen’s “clash of civilizations” posturing:

Le Pen told us that we should not be in “denial” but should name things for what they are. It is time to talk about Islam openly, she suggested. This is, at best, out of touch with contemporary French fillettesociety. Currently, two of the best-sellers in France are filled with virulent anti-Islam rhetoric and countless vocal anti-Islam commentators are given air in the mainstream media on a daily basis. Islam is definitely not absent from the public debate.

What is absent from our mainstream media and politics is a careful analysis of what Islam is in France today. This would show once and for all that the Muslim “community” is not the monolith Le Pen would like us to believe. The terrorists who massacred 12 people on 7 January are apparently Muslim but so was the policeman who lost his life trying to stop them. Mustapha Ourrad, Charlie Hebdo’s copy-editor killed in the attack, was born in Algeria.

If yesterday’s events do catapult Le Pen into the presidency, Marian Tupy mulls over what that would mean:

While, as libertarians, we despise much of what Ms. Le Pen stands for, the two mainstream political parties in France, Mr. Sarkozy’s socialist center-right UPM and Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party, have totally failed to address the legitimate concerns of the French citizens, chief among them the failure of multiculturalism and high unemployment. The country is ready to hand the reins of power to someone else.

Second, the euro will end its role as a global currency and remain a legal tender in something akin to Großdeutschland greater Germany, composed of Germany and her satellites, like the hapless Slovakia. … Third, on day two of a Le Pen presidency, border guards will return to the French frontiers. Of course, the end of the freedom of movement will be in full breach of all sorts of European treaties and conventions. (The British, by the way, would love to do the same, but cannot, because the British, being British, follow the rules. In contrast, the French, being French, will do what they have always done: follow their national interest.)

Slaughtered For Satire, Ctd

After their accomplice turned himself in, “reportedly after he saw his name circulating on social media,” the gunmen have been identified – but they remain at large. Their affiliation with terrorist organizations, if any, remains unclear:

On at least one jihadist website, the group calling itself the Islamic State, but more widely known as ISIS or Da’esh, appeared to claim responsibility for the shooting, which also injured 11 people, four of them seriously. But many jihadist groups have grievances against France because of its leadership in the war against them in Mali, its participation in the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq, its laws imposing secularism in public offices and schools, and the ban on full-face veils, known as niqabs or burqas, on Muslim women.

The Kouachi brothers may be linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch of the organization active in Yemen. Noah Feldman thinks through the implications:

If indeed the Paris attack is the work of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the franchise that includes Yemen, then its purpose is almost certainly to regain public attention from Islamic State and remind the world, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, that the old jihadi terrorist paradigm is still effective. France has no troops in the Middle East right now, so the attack needed another excuse. A satirical magazine that has made fun of the Prophet was just a convenient reason to get the al-Qaeda approach back in the headlines.

Of course, it’s possible that an Islamic State connection may still be found to this attack. If it is, that would be evidence that the group wanted capture the traditional al-Qaeda terrorism market for its own brand. That would be important and interesting, because it would mean Islamic State was trying to monopolize the global terrorism franchise.

Josh Rogin points to a recent ISIS video that urged followers to attack targets in France:

“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French jihadi identified as Abu Salman al-Faranci says in the video. “Operate within France. Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror.” He then offers more practical advice, implying that there were IS assets already in place to aid in such attacks. “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit,” he said. “Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”

But it’s not clear whether the Kouachi brothers were acting on specific orders from above or on their own, but Allahpundit finds it hard to believe that an attack this well-executed was the work of lone wolves:

It’s possible, I guess, that two French Muslim amateur terrorists fancied themselves members of the group in spirit, if not in fact, and wanted to do something sensational to earn their jihadi stripes. In that case, though, why didn’t they go to Syria to fight with ISIS as so many budding western mujahedeen do? And if they’re amateurs, they’re awfully precocious — taking time to learn the Hebdo publication schedule and keeping cool while executing staff members, all the while knowing that police could descend on the building at any moment, demonstrates a degree of poise you wouldn’t expect to find in a rookie. …

These two degenerates not only assassinated their targets individually, like ISIS does in lining up Shiites and noncompliant Sunnis to be shot, they had the balls and skills to leave the building and get away. When was the last time there was a major terror in the west that didn’t end up with the perpetrators splattered on the ground when it was over? And where exactly did these guys get AKs and a rocket launcher?

Juan Cole notes how the brothers were radicalized:

[I]n early 2003 at the age of 20, Sharif Kouashi and his brother Said started attending the al-Dawa Mosque in the Stalingrad quarter. They had showed up with long hair, smoking, and lots of bad habits. The mosque gave them a sense of purpose. Sharif told his later lawyer, “Before, I was a delinquent.”

One member of the congregation at the al-Dawa Mosque was Farid Benyettou. He was only a year older than Sharif, but was learned in Muslim texts, and taught informal classes at his apartment after prayers at the mosque. The boys began spending time with Benyettou. They stopped smoking, stopped getting high. At his apartment, Benyettou took them on the internet, and showed them images from Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Sharif said, “It was everything I saw on the television, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, all that, which motivated me.” …

Without Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is not at all clear that Sharif Kouachi would have gotten involved in fundamentalist vigilanteism. And if he hadn’t, he would not have gone on to be a point man in murdering out the staff of Charlie Hebdo along with two policemen.

Joshua Keating points out that “recent days have also seen a series of smaller attacks in France”:

On Dec. 20, French police shot dead a man who had shouted “Allahu Akbar” while stabbing three officers in a police station near the city of Tours. Just before Christmas, the country saw two attacks, one in Nantes and another in Dijon, involving cars hitting pedestrians, which fit a pattern of similar recent attacks around the world. In the car attacks, prosecutors specifically said the men were mentally unbalanced and that these were not instances of political or religious terrorism, though that definition seems a little hard to parse given that the Dijon driver was a recent convert to Islam who was reportedly upset over the treatment of Chechen children.

And today, there was another shooting in Paris, this time of a policewoman, which authorities believe may be linked to yesterday’s slaughter:

Officials described Thursday’s shooting as another terrorist attack. Paris Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman said they were braced for a “wave” of terrorism. “It’s probably not the end,” he said. “We are ready to face it. We will fight.” Heavily armored commando units were deployed at the southern edge of Paris as a second major manhunt got underway on what was supposed to be an official day of mourning. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who rushed out of an emergency cabinet meeting about the previous attack, arrived in the suburb of Malakoff to say that the gunman had escaped. Three armed killers are now at large.

Follow all Dish coverage of the terrorism in France here.

Slaughtered For Satire, Ctd

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 10899542_1531240417130999_737500267_nattorney. 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)