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Why I Am Not Charlie Hebdo


By Garibaldi

In 2011, when Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed I wrote an article titled, The Politics of Provocation: What the Firebombing of Charlie Hebdo Magazine Means. In that post I noted that Hebdo’s purpose in publishing its racist and Islampohobic cartoons was to provoke, specifically its favorite target being Islam and Muslims (particularly French Muslims),

Charlie Hebdo knew what it was doing, they wished to provoke, they created a buzz and got world-wide media attention for their magazine which had little following outside of France.

I wrote then that the best response “for those offended or upset would have been to peacefully protest, or to satirize the Charlie Hebdo publication, or to do as most have done and simply ignore it.”

I also related the suffocating xenophobic, anti-Muslim context of France with its marginalization of its Muslim and African minorities in all spheres of the social and political life of the nation and the increase in hate crimes against Muslims (since then matters have worsened),

Lastly, the untold context in which this French saga must be viewed is the souring relations between the French establishment and their Muslim minority. Islam has been “otherized” in France and across Europe, just as it has in the States, but in France it is taken to the next level.

In the past few years, anti-Muslim bigotry has risen to epidemic proportions. The hijab was banned from public schools, the face veil has been banned altogether, and after a surge in popular support for Marine Le Pen’s anti-Muslim nationalist party, Sarkozy and co. instituted an unprecedented “national dialgoue” on Islam.

According to a recent report Islamophobia is rapidly on the increase in France

It appears that Alqaeda in Yemen, a foreign, non-French entity is playing its own politics of provocation. It wishes to, as Juan Cole aptly notes “sharpen the contradictions” and foment a greater clash between Muslims and non-Muslims in France. Of course, there are far too many willing to oblige such a plan, since as we have noted from the start, extremists on both sides, feed off of each other like parasitic leeches.

So why am I not Charlie Hebdo? Why can’t I join the feel good Twitter trend, #JeSuisCharlie?

I cannot in good conscience lie and say that those murdered were “martyrs of free speech.” I believe what happened was a massacre, despicable and the result of the cynical ploys of a foreign extremist organization that masquerades under the banner of Islam, when all they wish to achieve is power for themselves–damned be the Muslims who suffer because of their actions.

See, at the same time as these paramilitary style terrorists were mowing down French Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet, who was the first on the scene to help at the Hebdo offices, 35 Yemeni Muslim police cadets were blown up by one of Alqaeda’s bombs. Yet, no one considers them part of the story?

I cannot say “JeSuisCharlie” because I know what this neo-liberal* publication stood for: racist, sexist and Islamophobic hate speech. Take just a few samples out of many:


That’s a representation of a hook-nosed-goofy-smirking-Ayrab-Mooslim that one would expect from racists. Or take their publication after the Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram:


The girls are represented as screaming, “hands off our benefit checks!” A not so subtle reference to the racist narrative of the right, found all over the Western world, not just France, about impoverished minorities.

Or take this gem, I wonder what it could be saying?


The hypocrisy of Charlie Hebdo when it comes to free speech must also be pointed out. It fired one of its cartoonists for the offense of anti-Semitism because it mocked a former French president’s son who converted to Judaism, as NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin wrote,

Hebdo fired one of its cartoonists and accused him of anti-semitism because he mocked the son of a former living French President who converted to Judiasm. Why is mocking a living person anti-Semitic hate speech but mocking sacred religious figures not? Who decides what is anti-Semitic and who decides what is Islamophobic?

This is not a tabloid whose record of hate speech and hypocrisy should be whitewashed into a monument to martyrs of free speech. It’s satire was aimed against the oppressed and for the benefit of the powerful.

Lastly, I again would emphasize that there is no justification for the massacre in Paris or in Yemen carried out by Alqaeda, I hope the perpetrators are caught and speedily brought to justice so the families can have some semblance of peace and solace.

However, in the process Muslims should not have their individuality denied and erased, by being asked to condemn over and over actions which they had no part to play in but are considered guilty of because of their mere presence.

*[Edit: apparently there’s been a lot of confusion over my use of “right-wing” and so at the advice of some French readers I’ve changed it to the more apt description of neo-Liberal]

Update: Mehdi, regular commenter and guest contributor here made some additional and nuanced points that I include with his permission.–Garibaldi:

There are many valid points in this article but it misses others.
I never believed I would have to write something to defend Charlie, I was in fact a critic of its content, for the caricatures, like most Muslims, I shrug my shoulders and chose to ignore it or criticize it, I was more critical of other drawings where they just never made a difference between Muslims and extremists, so Charlie indeed had a one sided view of free speech and weren’t honest. The worst moment was the presidency of Philippe Val, he was really at war especially with Islam and since he left, the tone evolved slightly. For instance, they made several cartoons against ISIS which I found funny.

Now, while the guys of Charlie were not the free speech heroes that some want to show as, they weren’t either the racists that others want to depict.Their work and style was a very french mix of poor sense of humor, excess, anti-religious leftist zeal which targeted everyone (from catholics to jews, they also targeted Israel, all parties). I never bought Charlie and thought it wasn’t funny in general, as most Muslims did, I usually simply ignored it and sometimes posted critical pieces on my FB page. Part of their work was opportunistic, like republishing the cartoons when there was tension due to the Youtube movie affair in 2011

Another point that is hardly overlooked is that Charlie was a mix of journalists of different sensibilities, for instance:
– Siné was fired for supposed anti-semitism by Philippe Val and his paper, while very anti-zionist in the beginning has turned very Islamophobic too
– Cabu was depicted by many people I know as a very sweet person open to dialogue and had no racist prejudice against anyone
– Wolinski was an anarchist of the 70s style and not always interested in Islam
– Charb was a die-hard believer in free speech to the point of being stubborn but he was a complex person, rumors had it that he was against the firing of Siné, I thought he was an Islamophobe but was surprised to hear him speak intelligently during a debate on islamophobia where he had hard words against a pretty nasty Islamophobe commentator
– Bernard Maris is the person I really mourn out of all of them, he was a funny and very original economist, not that I always agreed with him, but several algerian friends speak fondly of him, a very intelligent and sweet person as acknowledged by almost everyone
– There wasn’t only Ahmed the Muslim policeman, there was also Mustapha who was shot, Zineb El Ghazoui, a Moroccan journalist (that I don’t really like but that’s not the point) was part of the staff but wasn’t there during the shooting.

While there were valid reasons to criticize Charlie, what happened is horrific, I’m still in shock personally. I have many friends who are Algerian journalists and what happened reminds them of the more than 100 journalists who were murdered during the 1990s. The animals who did that are a disgrace to Muslims and don’t deserve to be called as such, free speech is not subject to debate or speculation, it’s unconditional. Not to mention the fact that this attack is going to cause a backlash against Muslims… again.

I lived in the Netherlands in 2005 when Van Gogh was murdered, I didn’t know who he was but I saw the consequences for Muslims. We do have to fight the likes of Wilders, but we should not leave the defence of free speech to Islamophobes or other racists, this is why I attended the gatherings and will attend the Sunday march. I was happy to see that Islamophobes and provocateurs were kicked out of the Wednesday gathering, free speech should not be left up for Islamophobes to defend, otherwise this will be a disaster for Muslims.

So while I didn’t endorse Iamcharlie, I do support its message, supporting Charlie is not about agreeing with its editorial line or discourse, it’s about living up to a standard and showing that Muslims are like all other French citizens, they have the same expectations, have the same rights, and are also victims of this terror.

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  • Awesome

    We should all be hostile and oppose the spread of Islam because it wants us to submit.

    Submitting to religious mandates is something that all religions require of its followers and submitting to authority and the rule of law is something that all governments require of their respective peoples. If everyone should be hostile to Islam on that basis, everyone should be hostile to all religions, governments and the rule of law.

    In reality, however, human civilization comes from human domestication, which requires some level of submission. No submission means being feral.

    My Awesome Islam is inherently violent and the Koran permits deception of non Moslems.

    There is nothing “inherently violent” about Islam, only with armed conflicts involving warring factions. There is also nothing in the Qur’an that permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Rather the Qur’an only permits Muslims to conceal their religion for self-preservation without it counting against them.

    The whole premise that Mohammed is a prophet of god is false. If we look at his life, actions, behaviour, and changing edicts we see a fraudster.

    On the contrary, the premise is true, to which the life, actions and behavior of Prophet Muhammad are only confirmatory. The changing of edicts is necessary when the circumstances pertaining to them also change. One size does not fit all, and therefore this point proves nothing.

    Violence is the force that makes Islam dominant.

    God’s will is what makes Islam dominant. Violence only concerns warring factions, and only serves as a means to facilitate the dominance of one warring faction over the other.

    Many cherry pick nice bits but avoid the immoral behaviours exhibited by Mohamed and copied by his devotees.

    There are no immoral behaviors exhibited by Prophet Muhammad. He was of exemplary, moral character, which is demonstrated by his virtuous characteristics, such as piety, righteousness, humility, humbleness, asceticism in worldly affairs, integrity, magnanimity, nobility, sincerity, honesty, loyalty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, forgiveness, reliability, perseverance, forbearance, mercy and compassion (even to disbelievers), patience, altruism, politeness, good manners, pleasantness, decency, virtuousness, generosity in spending, charity, courage, bravery, modesty, justice, fairness, enjoining what is good, forbidding what is evil and most importantly, the love and fear (reverential awe) of God, as well as his gratitude and obedience to God.

    The only “cherry-picking” that occurs is when anti-Islam polemicists cite Islamic sources in support of their sensationalist claims against Islam.

  • George Carty

    Actually, ISIS/ISIL/IS owes as much to Turkish water theft as it does to Western imperialism.

  • Awesome

    My…my! Did you just get appointed in your cyber-propaganda unit? You do realize that you need to act a little smarter than that and not post all the material, you received, at one time.

    They load as many polemics in to make their case look convincing through quantity, especially since none of the polemics, when taken individually, are strong enough to support their case.

  • Awesome


    On the contrary, what I have said is
    true, and all that has been presented in response to what I have said is a
    composition of lies, half-truths and sensationalism, which has always been the
    case with the propaganda campaign against Islam.

    Islam is the
    driving force that ideologically inspired the Arabs to attack Egypt. Before he
    died Mohamed urged them to attack Egypt.

    In reality, it was the ongoing Arab-Byzantine
    wars between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Muslim Empire that was the
    “driving force” for the Arab Muslims to conquer Egypt. At that time Egypt was subordinate
    to the Byzantine Empire and therefore would have been perceived as posing a
    threat to the neighboring Arab Muslim Empire who the Byzantine Empire was at
    war with. Islam would have only provided a justification, not an actual
    motivation, for the Muslim conquest.

    For the early Muslim Caliphate,
    expansion of territory was justified as defense and security (which is a part
    of defense) through armed offense and conquest, particularly against the
    hostile Byzantine and Sassanid Empires. Later conquests had other, worldly
    motives that took precedence such as the acquisition of wealth and power. The
    Muslim conquests of enemy empire territories and the spread of Islam should not
    be conflated with each other because they are not the same thing. The Muslim
    conquests did not necessarily translate into conversion to Islam, and
    conversion to Islam did not necessarily involve an armed Muslim conquest. With
    the expanding Muslim state, conquest and conversion were mutually exclusive
    from each other even though conversion of the local population often followed
    (at varying rates) the Muslim conquests

    Also, Prophet Muhammad did not urge
    Muslims to attack Egypt before he died. Rather, he is only said to have
    prophesied the Muslim conquest of Egypt, which is not the same thing as
    ‘urging’ it:

    Abu Dharr narrated that Prophet
    Muhammad said:

    “You will soon conquer Egypt where
    Al-Qirat is frequently mentioned. So when you conquer it, treat its inhabitants
    well for there lies upon you the responsibility because of blood ties or
    relationship of marriage (with them). And when you see two persons falling into
    dispute amongst themselves for the space of a brick, than get out of that.”

    (Sahih Muslim, Book 31, No. 6174)

    Clearly this is a prophecy with
    injunctions of what to do when the prophesied event occurs and not an actual
    injunction to bring it about. Aside from this prophesy, Prophet Muhammad sent a
    letter to king of Egypt, inviting him to Islam in 628 CE.

    Translation of the letter from Prophet
    Muhammad to the king of Egypt:

    In the name of Allah, the
    Compassionate, the Merciful.

    From Muhammad Servant of Allah and His Prophet

    To Muqawqis, Vicegerent of Egypt

    Peace be on him who has taken the right course. Thereafter, I invite you to
    accept Islam. Therefore, if you want security, accept Islam. If you accept
    Islam, Allah, the Sublime, shall reward you doubly. But if you refuse to do so,
    responsibility for the transgression of the entire nation shall be yours.

    ‘O people of the Book! Leaving aside all matters of difference and dispute,
    agree on a matter which is equally consistent between you and us and it is that
    we should not worship anyone except Allah and that we should neither associate
    anyone with Him, nor make anyone else as our god.’ (Qur’an 3:64)

    If you refuse it, you must know that we, in all circumstances, believe in
    Oneness of Allah.”

    The response of the king of Egypt to
    this letter was to send another letter along with 2 maids as gifts:

    Translation of the reply letter:

    To Muhammad son of Abdullah

    From Muqawqis

    “I read your letter and understood what you have written. I know that the
    coming of a Prophet is still due. But I thought, he would be born in Syria — I
    have treated your messenger with respect and honor. I am sending two maids for
    you as presents. These maids belong to a very respectable family amongst us. In
    addition I send for you clothes and a duldul (steed) for riding. May Allah
    bestow security on you.”

    The two gifts were accepted, with one
    of the maids, Maria the Copt, marrying Prophet Muhammad and giving birth to his
    son, Ibrahim, who died in infancy. The other maid, Maria’s sister, Sirin,
    married one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions, Hassan ibn Thabit and had a son,
    Abdul-Rahman, with him.

    Thereafter, there was no
    further correspondence between Prophet Muhammad and the king of Egypt, and no
    “urging” Muslims to conquer Egypt either.

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  • Friend of Bosnia

    What I have seen from them is in quite poor taste. Some of it is downright insulting for Muslims. However, I can’t say that any of their drawing suggests that it’s all right to commit genocide against Muslims (or anybody else for that matter).
    Now Westergaard depicting the Prophet as a “terrorist” or as a founder of terrorism, that’s unacceptable. Because it suggests that it’s all right to commit genocide against Muslims because they are all terrorists.
    Even so, it’s not right to kill anybody over a drawing – UNLESS genocide or genocidal intent can be directly linked to that particular drawing or article. After all, Julius Streicher deserved to be hanged, didn’t he?
    I have checked out the cartoons Charlie Hebdo brought out during or after the war of 1992-95 and I have come to the conclusion that they are sympathetic to the Bosnian/Bosniak side, not to Serb aggression and genocide. And for that I have already forgiven them.
    The killing of those people serves the same purpose as the attempt of Sarajevo in 1914 did: to set up peoples and nations against each other and to serve as a pretext for war, aggression, genocide and destruction.
    I think that genocidals are the worst human beings around and that they deserve the very worst. That they can never be forgiven. And I will not let go of that conviction even if threatened with swift death.

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