Nidra Poller has a piece on the Charlie Hebdo bombing in Paris well worth considering. The incident itself was a classic example of the effort to spread Sharia to the West, especially in the form of showing “respect” for the Prophet Muhammad. This began in earnest when, ten years into his millennial project of the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khoumeini put out a fatwa condemning Salman Rushie to death for his blasphemous Satanic Verses (which neither Khoumeini nor his advisors had read).
The next major event in this campaign came in 2005-6 when Muslims objected vigorously to the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad, another attempt to extend to infidels what in principle only applies to (some) Muslim – not depicting the prophet’s face. If there are those in the West who thought that we stood up to our principles of Free Speech and right to criticize during the Cartoon Affair (or, at least that there were no winners), then reconsider. The folks who bombed Charlie Hebdo apparently thought they made it perfectly clear what the price of crossing them would be.
Comments added to bring out some of the implications of Poller’s allusive style.
Auto da fe in Paris: it’s no joke
Paris November 3, 2011
The brand new—and deliberately unmarked– offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in the 20th arrondissement of Paris were destroyed by arson hours before a special issue, renamed Charia Hebdo, hit the newsstands on November 2nd. All 75,000 copies were sold out by noon (a rerun went on sale two days later, bringing total sales to 200,000). One or more firebombs aimed precisely at the IT department wiped out the satirical magazine’s nerve center. Charlie Hebdo’s Facebook page had been bombarded with threats, insults, and koranic verses since it pre-released the front page with a caricature of guest editor Mohamed promising 100 lashes to anyone who doesn’t die laughing. As the offices went up in flames, the hacked website was plastered with a photo of Mecca packed with pilgrims, and the declaration, in English, “No god but Allah / Mohamed is the Messenger of Allah.”
This shocking attack on press freedom inspired a rush of near-unanimous solidarity in French society. Unambiguously labeling the act an “attentat,” meaning “terrorist attack,” Interior Minister Claude Guéant promised to find and severely punish the perpetrator(s). Various Muslim authorities condemned “all violence,” reiterated their disapproval of caricatures of Mohamed and other insults to Islam, and vowed to defend their religion as law-abiding citizens, in the courts.
Editorial director Charb posed meekly in front of the smoking ruins of his offices, displaying the front page that provoked those devouring flames. Interviewed by Rue89 he said that real Muslims don’t burn newspapers. Elsewhere his colleague, Pelloux, opined: “As far as I know, there is no koranic law against laughter.”
But (as Nidra well knows, see below) there is a Sharia law against laughing at Muhammad or his religion, something that Muhammad himself enforced quite vigorously in his own day (see the rebuttal to this article here).
Charlie Hebdo collaborators cannot declare often enough that they have nothing against Islam. In fact, Charia Hebdo was inspired by solidarity with kindred souls, the Facebook-Twitter generation whose Arab Springtime struggle for democracy is now jeopardized by Islamists determined to replace the dictatorship of strongmen with the tyranny of shari’a law. Forty percent of newly liberated Tunisians—including expatriates who voted in France– chose Nhada!
Another group fallen victim to the fantasy purveyed by the Mainstream news media that this was the dawn of a new (21st century) generation of Arabs ready for the real thing.
The Hebdo staff’s dismay at the torching of their offices suggests they may have underestimated the dangers of sentencing shari’a to a thousand satirical lashes. Hassen Chalgoumi — the Franco-Tunisian imam mercilessly targeted by the extreme-extremist-Islamist Sheikh Yassin Brigade — warns Europe against the dangers of political Islam. “Why do the Americans rejoice in the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, why did France play into the hands of al-Qaeda in Libya…?”
All excellent questions which Barry Rubin is asking about the USA.
French participation in the NATO operation in Libya was, surprisingly enough, approved by a broad bipartisan majority in France. The peace marches of 2003 are long forgotten. No voices were raised to deplore the use of force and insist on a political solution. Guttural cries of allahu akhbar (Allah is the greatest), summary executions, the destruction of Sirte, and the savage murder of Mouamar Gaddafi did not visibly disturb the peace of French society.
Poller is here referring to the exceptionally “moral” opposition to American intervention in Iraq which somehow switched sides when it was a question of French intervention. Asked if her opposition to globalization was because it was a bad idea, or because it was American-led, and were it French-led she’d approve, a Science-po friend of mine readily admitted the latter. For an analysis of the “disgace of the anti-war movement,” see Nick Cohen (chapter 10).
The term “Islamist” was coined to distinguish “radicals” from a “harmless” mainstream Islam that has every right to prosper in the bosom of our democratic societies. Then the aggregate term “moderate Islamists” was crafted to deny that Turkey is on a slippery backward slope. Quickly resigned to the inevitable domination of the Nhada party in Tunisia, commentators served up another dose of “moderate Islamists.” Now we have “extremist Islamists” throwing firebombs at a French weekly. And moderate Muslims promising to plead their anti-blasphemy case in court.
Instead of reflecting any reality, such designations serve political ends. Islamophobia is a term largely to depress any opposition from the West to developments. It’s okay, maybe even good, if Islamists take over, as long as they’re moderate. And if they’re not? M0st of our political language – right-left, moderate-radical, imperialist oppressor-post-colonial victim – has become not just useless, but disorienting, indeed dangerous.
One of the favorite memes of the “progressives” (I’d call it a palliative) is that the “vast majority” of Muslims are moderate, and only a “tiny fraction” are extremists. Indeed, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, in what should constitute a laughably arrogant version of post-Saidian orientalism, remarked that the folks who did this were “radical stupid people who don’t know what Islam is… I think that they are themselves unbelievers … idiots who betray their own religion.” Well thanks for telling us about what “real Islam” is. Shades of the US Attorney General. Meantime, Fareed Zakaria assures his ample audience that the moderate Muslims have defeated the extremists.
People readily labeled Islamophobes point out that in a debate over the meaning of the tradition and its texts, the moderates will lose to the extremists every time. Consider the meaning of the following: This is from the annual mass gathering called the Hajj at Mecca (where non-Muslims are not allowed). They are melodiously chanting the following:
O Allah, vanquish the unjust Christians and the criminal Jews, the unjust traitors; strike them with your wrath; make their lives hostage to misery; drape them with endless despair, unrelenting pain and unremitting ailment; fill their lives with sorrow and pain and end their lives in humiliation and oppression; inflict your tortures and punishments upon the unjust Christians and criminal Jews. This is our supplication; Allah, grant us our request!
It’s hard to get more mainstream than the Hajj. Do we want to define this as “moderate”?
Rethinking… there’s a project. But difficult, as Nidra’s final paragraphs explain:
We saw the same configuration in 2006 when Charlie Hebdo reproduced the Mohamed cartoons published by Denmark’s Jyllands Posten that provoked mayhem and murder worldwide. The weekly was acquitted in a case brought against it by the Grande Mosquée de Paris and the UOIF (French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) but the judgment specified that the right to publish the “admittedly offensive” turban bomb image in the context of a worldwide controversy should not be construed as license to disregard religious sensitivies.
This time around, French media, including the newspaper of record, le Monde, have amply reproduced and displayed material from Charia Hebdo. Not so the BBC’s Paris correspondent Charles Chazan, who explicitly rolled up the front page to show the banner while hiding the offensive image.
“A hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing.”
Note that in Germany, the story received such low-level coverage that most people I speak with here don’t even know about it. Der Spiegel also didn’t show the cover.
A half dozen publications offered refuge to the homeless editorial staff. They chose the left wing daily Libération where they were welcomed with juvenile excitement and given free reign to do the front page and a double spread in the next day’s paper. This week’s issue of Charlie Hebdo, we are promised, will appear on schedule and, we expect, will respond forcefully to those who think they can silence the free press in France.
Last spring, anti-shari’a authors extensively cited in the Manifesto posted by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik were accused in some quarters of inspiring his hateful crime. Today, in virtue of solidarity with the endangered freedom-loving democrats of the Arab Spring countries, it is permissible to expose the dangers of shari’a without being labeled Islamophobe. And, says Charlie Hebdo, we can make fun of shari’a with all the vulgarity we exercise on any subject that tickles our minds. Perhaps. But it would be wise to go to those anti-shari’a authors and find out whether there is, in fact, a koranic law against laughter.
Because the day might come when newspaper offices have to be protected by the police in France, like synagogues, Jewish community centers, and day schools.
Precisely. The “progressive” West has no idea what it’s dealing with, and its thinking is so deeply confused by unacknowledged agendas in the narcissistic wars of small differences, that we can’t even begin to think straight about so serious a problem.