A dangerous social consensus can be seen consolidating behind the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. France just announced it is sending its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to support military operations against ISIS in Iraq. This comes after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the Paris attack in a video message by commander Nasr Bin Ali al-Anesi on the Qaedist website Sada al-Malahim (not on Google, seemingly). Al-Anesi said the attack was carried out under orders from al-Qaeda's global leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. (Yemen Post, Reuters, CNN) Reprisal attacks are sweeping France. Abdallah Zekri of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia said that since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, 26 Muslim places of worship around France have been attacked with firebombs, fired at, or desecrated with pig heads. There have been many more insults and threats. (AP) We have heard of no arrests in these cases, but French authorities have detained 54 for violating the country's strong laws against anti-Semitism and racism—seemingly all preceived apologists for Islamist terrorism. Among the detained is comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has repeated convictions under the hate speech laws. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has declared Dieudonné "no longer a comedian" but an "anti-Semite and racist." He was arrested after posting a Facebook comment playing on the popular hashtag to suggest that he "is" one of the slain assailants in the Charlie attack. (AP, AFP, Foreign Policy, Jurist) However repulsive Dieudonne's post, the cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. An attack on free speech is being used to justify further attacks on free speech… in the name of protecting free speech.
It gets worse. We've noted that Turkey was among the countries to send leaders to the Paris march condemning the Charlie attack. Now, a Turkish court has banned access to websites showing the new cover of Charlie Hebdo (which of course features a caricature of the Prophet Muhammed). Turkish police are also inspecting print newspapers to see if they have run the new Charlie cover. (Jurist)
One paper that has run the new caricature (seemingly just before the court order) is the pro-secular Cumhuriyet. Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit quickly retaliated by running an Internet-culled caricature of Kemal Ataturk, the militantly secular founding father of modern Turkey, photo-shopped to look like he's been beaten black and blue. This, in turn, prompted bomb threats against Yeni Akit by Kemalists, adherents of the Ataturk personality-cult. So, the Islamists are fine with offensive images as long as it isn't the Prophet being offended, while the secularists abandon free-speech principles when it is their secular prophet Ataturk being offended! (Revolution News)
Just days after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu marched in Paris, Turkish courts sentenced a musician to a 10-month prison term (suspended for five years), for the "crime" of "denigrating religion." And of course we have noted persistent charges that Turkey has been covertly supporting ISIS in northern Syria. (Middle East Forum)
Then there are the Idiot Left responses to the affair, which are built around the ugly "murder is bad but" construction (e.g. on Common Dreams; Anarkismo) or the very tiresome "not about free speech" line (Asghar Bukhari on Medium, the annoying Chris Hedges on Op-Ed News). The erroneous assumption that Charlie Hebdo is an organ of the French racist right is expertly deconstructed by Leigh Phillips on Ricochet Media, who takes on "the unilingual [Anglophone] left" for misconstruing Charlie's edgy but ultimately anti-racist humor. He again provides context on the cartoon of Boko Haram rape victims demanding welfare checks, calling it a "first-world problems" commentary on recent protests by the French petite-bourgeoisie against measures to tie family allotments to income. Another cartoon jumped on as racist is the one of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (a Black woman) depicted as a monkey. Phillips provides the context: Taubira had just been monkey-baited by the right-wing Front National, and the cartoon was actually a mock-up of FN propaganda lit. "It is obvious to any French person familiar with the political context that the cartoon is mocking the racism of the Front National," Phillips writes. He also notes that Taubira has herself spoken out in defense of Charlie Hebdo since the attack. She even tweeted: "The free press is the enemy of obscurantism and violence." A little inconvenient truth for the Idiot Left interpretation!
A more complete breakdown of controversial Charlie cartoons, and how they are being widely misread by the Anglophone left, is provided by the Understanding Charlie Hebdo website. Check it out before you jump on the "racist" bandwagon. Blasphemy does not equal racism. Sorry. The prior is irreverence towards a religion, the latter is denigration of a people. The two can overlap, but they are distinct phenomena, and any effort to obscure this fact is dishonest. Freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion, which necessarily means a right to blasphemy.
Arguably, those throwing around the "racism" charge are themselves being a tad racist. Safely invisible to them is Charlie Hebdo copy editor Moustapha Ourrad, of Algerian origin, who was killed in the attack. Charlie Hebdo columnist Zineb El Rhazoui, of Moroccan origin, was luckily not at the office when the attack took place. She has vigorously defended Charlie against charges of racism, for instance in Cercle des Volontaires last year. Speaking to The Guardian, she now explains the new cover, which famously features a drawing of a teary-eyed Muhammed holding a #JeSuisCharlie sign under the banner "Tout est pardonné" (All is Forgiven). El Rhazoui says this actually refers to the attackers: "We don't feel any hate to them. We know that the struggle is not with them as people, but the struggle is with an ideology."
Absolutely correct. That ideology is political Islam, and leftist equivocation on recognizing and opposing it is part of the problem. Today's manifestation of this ideology, by the way, was the rally held in Peshawar (scene of the recent massacre of schoolchildren by jihadists) in open support of the Paris massacre. (AFP)
The dichotomy between those hastagging #JeSuisCharlie and #JeSuisMusulman continues to be utterly pathological. We can and must oppose both political Islam and the fascistic backlash against it (whether in form of the Western security state or xenophobic thuggery), which merely fuel each other and are equally exponents of reaction. Opposition to one is meaningless without opposition to the other.
Why is it that the most militant secularists seem to be from within the "Islamic world," while "leftists" in the West increasingly line up with the Islamist right? For those who remember the secular roots of the left, there is a sense of being through the looking glass. And when we say "militant secularists," we aren't referring to such condescending apologists for Western superiority as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. We are talking about genuinely heroic figures such as Iraq's Houzan Mahmoud, Iran's Maryam Namazie and Algeria's Karima Bennoune and Marieme Helie Lucas. These women intransigently oppose Western imperialism and political Islam alike, and speak with the moral authority of those who have placed themselves at risk.
Listen to them.