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: