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Teju Cole: Charlie Hebdo Finally Steps Away from the Mask

Author Teju Cole

Author Teju Cole

 

In July of last year, the editor of Charlie Hebdo told Entertainment Weekly the French paper would no longer draw Muhammad-themed cartoons.

Critics decried the decision, accusing editors of caving in into “radical Islamists” in the wake of the murderous attacks on their offices the preceding January. The paper insisted they had done their job in defending the “right to caricature” and questioned why  they were, “expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to.”

Now it seems they were neither caving in nor moving on, but rather dropping the mask of “satire” alltogether. Painting all Muslims with a broad brush, they ditched their longstanding ruse in favor of a straighforward assault, launched in an article entitled, How did we end up here?

Below is an excellent analysis by Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian, Teju Cole, cross posted from Facebook:

Teju Cole: Charlie Hebdo Finally Steps Away from the Mask

H/T: Yousef

Charlie Hebdo was given last year’s PEN/James and Toni C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, despite the objections of hundreds of members of PEN. Now, the people of Charlie—who in my view were simultaneously the victims of a terrifying, unspeakable crime, and the producers of an antic and gross publication (nothing wrong with that) that was at the same time deeply prejudiced—finally step away from the mask of “it’s satire and you don’t get it” to state clearly that Muslims, all of them, no matter how integrated, are the enemy.

Historical analogy can be tiresome and too easy, but sometimes it’s the sharpest thinking tool around. Reading this extraordinary editorial by Charlie, it’s hard not to recall the vicious development of “the Jewish question” in Europe and the horrifying persecution it resulted in. Charlie’s logic is frighteningly similar: that there are no innocent Muslims, that “something must be done” about these people, regardless of their likeability, their peacefulness, or their personal repudiation of violence. Such categorization of an entire community as an insidious poison is a move we have seen before.

Read the piece yourself—don’t just react. Read the piece and think through who you wish to be in relation to the kinds of arguments it presents. If I hadn’t carefully scrutinized the url (and thus confirmed that it really is legit), I’d have thought someone was doing a cruel parody of laïcité. The fact that the essay itself is written in English also indicates very clearly that Charlie is aware of its global audience now, of the bigotry that is increasingly popular here in the US, disguised and undisguised.

Meanwhile, you might remember that SOS Racisme, a French “anti-racist” organization, was brought to New York last year to defend Charlie from accusations of racism. One of the founders of SOS Racisme was Laurence Rossignol, the current French minister for women’s rights. This same Rossignol said last week that women who wear the hijab are like the “nègres américains” (American negroes/ American niggers) who accepted slavery.

So, SOS Racisme gets on stage and, on behalf of PEN, gives an award to Charlie Hebdo, and everybody applauds and congratulates themselves for their fine understanding of satire. The same Charlie, in this new editorial, writes: “From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts.”

What thoughts? The wish to discriminate freely against Muslims without having to be called out on it. The freedom to draw everyone who is Muslim, or comes from a Muslim family, or is connected to North Africa, or “looks” Arab, into one big universal blood guilt that makes them literally responsible for the horrors perpetrated by a few maniacs. The desire to have this hatefulness lauded as courage.

This is precisely the logic also of the masses who praise Trump for his “honesty”—as though only ugliness could be honest, as though moral incontinence were any more noble than physical incontinence. But when someone sh*ts their pants in a public gathering, we do not immediately congratulate them on their freedom, on their honesty.

I don’t enjoy writing about this—and I certainly didn’t enjoy the endless insults I inevitably receive for daring to even write about it. But the situation is f*cking absurd. It is deeply consequential for Muslim people in France, in Europe, and everywhere where they are minorities. It is consequential for their safety, for their daily lives, for their well-being in the countries they call home. I’m more convinced than ever that PEN, a fine organization whose fierce advocacy of persecuted writers I’m proud to continue to support, in this case got it very, very wrong.

Read the original Facebook post here.

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  • Friend of Bosnia

    Tsk, tsk, tsk. Will you fashos ever stop whining?

  • Marinater

    no rasheeds here sorry

  • Reynardine

    Do the ragheeds make you sneeze? At least you haven’t accused the innocent goldenrod.

  • HSkol

    Well, I suppose it’s better to heed of one’s rag than to not – and, especially so when tending to the dishes. I moan on occasion; but, my back is old – it seems to have been born a hundred years before eye myself. I don’t whine so much, however. Huh?

  • anotherjoeblogs

    will you ragheeds ever stop moaning ?

  • Reynardine

    If Depends aren’t enough for you, you might need Blunderpants.

  • Reynardine

    Nope.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Ha, that’s a good one!
    In 1804 the Serb proncipality gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and they started expelling Muslims from their territory, not just Turks but autochthonous Muslims as well.
    The notion to get rid of Muslims even though they offer peaceful coexistence was enunciated in Petar Petrovic Njegos “Gorski Vijenac(The Mountain Wreath)”; the black legend of “centuries-old ethnic hate” in Ivo Andric’s works. The description of anti-Muslim genocide in “The Mountain Wreath” is so graphic that one could say Radovan Karadzic and his thugs misused that book as an instruction manual for genocide, even though many Serbs say it wasn’t written with that intention. Be as it may, that’s how it turned out to be.
    There were Bosniaks living in such places as Niš, Užice and Vranje; today only in the region around Novi Pazar and that only because the Serbs conquered it from the Turks in, I think 1909.
    There were forced conversions of Muslims to Orthodoxy also at about that time.
    I’m not saying that all Serbs are like that. Thre are many who aren’t anti-Muslim at all, but those who are, are a very loudmouthed lot and you get to hear only them. I wish people would relax a bit and learn to get along with each other for a change. Mankind has much more pressig problems than to bash tehirheads inbecause the ones pray in the direction of Mecca and the others in that of the sunrise.
    But when I hear someone voice genocidal anti-Bosniak hate speech I only want to hit them on the head very hard.

  • Jekyll

    Don’t public-crap-shame

  • Jekyll

    As someone who habitually takes a crap on public streets whenever I feel I need to, I am not triggered my Illish’as comment, so please do not think you speak for all of us public shitters.

  • Reynardine

    Disowned Charlie Hebdo.

  • Reynardine

    I was unaware that Serbs had such a project since 1804. However, the joke around the Balkans is that, if you exclaim, “Oh, God!” and someone answers, “Yes?”, it’s a Serb.

  • Reynardine

    It was about Hitler’s furious hatred for what he secretly feared he was… the Other.

  • Reynardine

    His sole incontinence problem is oral stercorrhea.

  • Reynardine

    I have a trick knee and tendonitis. Pity me.

  • Reynardine

    Take an antispasmodic, watch your diet, wear some Depends if that doesn’t work, and shut up. No one is going to feel sorry for you.

  • Reynardine

    ‘Scuse. I spent much of my youth and prime suffering from what was then called spastic colitis and is now called IBS, and I never pooped my pants. Had I been in a condition where I might have done so, I would have stayed home.

  • Reynardine

    I’ve been mobbed for mentioning Miracle Gro.

  • Yausari

    It’s like you’re trolling for attention. Look at the context here. We’re talking about trump supporters doing their thing. They metaphorically s#it in their pants in public (Intentionally, as in NOT DISABLED) and you warped on IBS and “other incontinence issues”. You’re not even making any sense. Unless you’re saying Trump supporters have mental issues, then I…. Oh, I see what you mean now…

  • NilbogResident

    It’s surprising that more Harris/Hitchens cult members haven’t responded in their usual anger and condescending pats on their own backs.

  • Jekyll

    Well that did not last very long

  • Jekyll

    Lol

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Addendum: the “thwo schools under ine roof”: in Travnik, of all places! My, I thought they have a Bosniak majority in Travnik; however when I was there I could not distinguish the Bosniak quarters from the Croat ones, at least not by the degree of dilapidation of the houses. Same in Vitez which is not far off and that was the place of some of the most vicious combats between Bosniaks and Croats. Even in Mostar, the Bosniak quarter (mostly the old part opf town) which in 1995 looked like Dresden did in 1945, has, at least partly, been rebuilt. Of course I know where the front line was, and the bullet-riddled ruins and various buildings which were not rebuilt (which I call Mostar’s gembaku domu or A-bomb dome because they remind me so much of the ruin in Hiroshima – and they didn’t need a nuke, it’s just as horrible as it is) are a stark reminder. People of course know – Bosnia is a small country and everybody knows what everybody else did.
    As long as there isnt a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as in South Africa, it will be very difficult to bring about reconciliation.
    Some rightist Croat said that “the norm in Europe ist that there#s war every few generations.” Well, that was teh norm until 1945; and then in 1992 the norm seemingly came back. What a stupid waste of lives, resources, wealth, effort. But it’s no use. Jonathan Swift already mocked it in “Gulliver’s Travels”. It seems since then mankind has refused to learn anything.
    If that’s the norm, then I don’t want it. I will defend myself against genocide, but other than that I refuse to go to war. And I want my children to do the same.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    True, the RSS Hindutva fascists are no better than the Nazis (they openly express their admiration for Adolf Hitler). And everybody will see, they will not just try to do in the Muslims, they are already attacking Christians, then they will tunrn on Jews, Sikhs, then other Hindus who don’t conform to their ideas of racial and religious purity, members of lower castes who want equality, and so on.
    The world is again turning towards fascism. Forgetting about WWII.
    Another example: During the Russo-Japanese war and WWI, the Japanese treated the Russian and German POWs humanely (they were as beastly as ever to the Chinese however). But in WWII they treated their POWs horribly, because by then they believed in the superiority of the Japanese race.
    The road of fascism seems wide and easy; it’s a steep and slippery one. Once someone starts sliding down it, there’s no stopping. Until the bloody end.

  • Marinater

    internet outrage culture in a nutshell

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