Charlie Hebdo massacre: murderous Islamophobia and free speech made us do it
After the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the liberal turns to Islamophobia. It’s not the murderous bigots we should be uniting against, standing on the front line in this horrendous assult on free thinking and free speech. No. It’s about making a stand against Islamophobia.
What good is legal freedom of speech if violent enforcers of a different, older, and foreign set of laws take it upon themselves to punish you extrajudicially?
Richard Seymour writes:
The murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists is appalling. But we should fear the coming Islamophobic backlash.
If your first thought on seeing cartoonists murdered by Islamic racists was to wonder about non-Islamic racism against the racists, you’re not alone.
Now, I think there’s a critical difference between solidarity with the journalists who were attacked, refusing to concede anything to the idea that journalists are somehow “legitimate targets,” and solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication.
You hold that view? Then you’re no champion of free speech and the right to cause offence. You only like free spech when the speaker agrees with you.
The argument will be that for the sake of “good taste” we need “a decent interval” before we start criticizing Charlie Hebdo. But given the scale of the ongoing anti-Muslim backlash in France, the big and frightening anti-Muslim movements in Germany, and the constant anti-Muslim scares in the UK, and given the ideological purposes to which this atrocity will be put, it is essential to get this right.
No, the offices of Charlie Hebdo should not be raided by gun-wielding murderers. No, journalists are not legitimate targets for killing. But no, we also shouldn’t line up with the inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized “secularism,” or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.
We’ll be safe as long as they don’t cross the same line?
You might recall the words of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who wrote in the Independent, writing a few days after 9/11:
“We brace ourselves again for a period of bile and beatings and hate mail… Islamophobia will once more erupt worldwide and be legitimised by some political leaders. It is okay to hate a Muslim again.”
Birmingham City councillor Salma Yaqoob told Guardian readers in 2006:
“[Muslims in Britain] are subject to attacks reminiscent of the gathering storm of anti-Semitism in the first decades of the last century.”
The media’s go-to Islamist Anjem Choudary gets a column in USA Today:
…why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk? It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.
Bias against Muslims is real and it hurts. And the easiest way to radicalize un-radicalized people is to treat them like enemies.
I am not inclined to take lectures about defending Muslims from people who utter not a word in condemnation of the systematic slaughter of gay Muslims across the world, nor a splutter of condemnation about the violation and battery of Muslim women across the world. As Tatchell asks, “Since when has being oppressed given anyone the right to oppress others?”
The New Yorker‘s George Packer sees the wood for the trees:
A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too – but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism.
It’s all about Islamophobia yet there was a 30% Rise in Anti-Semitic Incidents Worldwide in 2012.