‘Je suis Charlie’. It’s a phrase in every newspaper, in every Twitter feed, on demonstrations in cities across Europe. The expressions of solidarity with those slain in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices are impressive. They are also too late. Had journalists and artists and political activists taken a more robust view on free speech over the past 20 years then we may never have come to this.
Instead, they have helped create a new culture of self-censorship. Partly, it is a question of fear, an unwillingness to take the kind of risks that the editors of Charlie Hebdo courted, and for which they have paid such a heavy price. But fear is only part of the explanation. There has also developed over the past two decades a moral commitment to censorship, a belief that because we live in a plural society, so we must police public discourse about different cultures and beliefs, and constrain speech so as not to give offence. In the words of the British sociologist Tariq Modood, ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’
So deep has this belief become embedded that even free speech activists have bought into it. Six years ago, Index on Censorship, one of the world’s foremost free speech organizations, published in its journal an interview with the Danish-American academic Jytte Klausen about her book on the Danish cartoon controversy. But it refused the then editor permission to publish any of the cartoons to illustrate the interview. I was at the time a board member of Index – but the only one who publicly objected. ‘In refusing to publish the cartoons’, I observed, ‘Index is not only helping strengthen the culture of censorship, it is also weakening its authority to challenge that culture’.
This time round, Index on Censorship laudably insists that ‘Freedom of expression is non-negotiable’ and is calling ‘on all those who believe in the fundamental right to freedom of expression to join in publishing the cartoons or covers of Charlie Hebdo’. But the culture of self-censorship has already become deeply entrenched. Indeed Charlie Hebdo itself has equivocated. All too often the defence of free speech has come with double standards attached.
The irony is that those who most suffer from a culture of censorship are minority communities themselves. Any kind of social change or social progress necessarily means offending some deeply held sensibilities. ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society. Once we give up such a right in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘respect’, we constrain our ability to confront those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice.
Yet, hardly had news begun filtering out about the Charlie Hebdo shootings, than there were those suggesting that the magazine was a ‘racist institution’ and that the cartoonists, if not deserving what they got, had nevertheless brought it on themselves through their incessant attacks on Islam. What is really racist is the idea that only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule. Those who claim that it is ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ to mock the Prophet Mohammad, appear to imagine, with the racists, that all Muslims are reactionaries. It is here that leftwing ‘anti-racism’ joins hands with rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry.
What is called ‘offence to a community’ is more often than not actually a struggle within communities. There are hundreds of thousands, within Muslim communities in the West, and within Muslim-majority countries across the world, challenging religious-based reactionary ideas and policies and institutions; writers, cartoonists, political activists, daily putting their lives on the line in facing down blasphemy laws, standing up for equal rights and fighting for democratic freedoms; people like Pakistani cartoonist Sabir Nazar, the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, exiled to India after death threats, or the Iranian blogger Soheil Arabi, sentenced to death last year for ‘insulting the Prophet’. What happened in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris was viscerally shocking; but in the non-Western world, those who stand up for their rights face such threats every day.
What nurtures the reactionaries, both within Muslim communities and outside it, is the pusillanimity of many so-called liberals, their unwillingness to stand up for basic liberal principles, their readiness to betray the progressives within minority communities. On the one hand, this allows Muslim extremists the room to operate. The more that society gives licence for people to be offended, the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. And the more deadly they will become in expressing their outrage. There will always be extremists who respond as the Charlie Hebdo killers did. The real problem is that their actions are given a spurious moral legitimacy by liberals who proclaim it unacceptable to give offence.
Liberal pusillanimity also helps nurture anti-Muslim sentiment. It feeds the racist idea that all Muslims are reactionary, that Muslims themselves are the problem, that Muslim immigration should be stemmed, and the Muslim communities should be more harshly policed. It creates the room for organizations such as the Front National to spread its poison. Whether there is an anti-Muslim backlash after the Charlie Hebdo killings remains to be seen, though there are reports of attacks on mosques and community centres. The fake liberals have played their role in fostering reactionary ideas about Muslims.
To ridicule religion and to defend free expression is not to attack minority communities. On the contrary: without doing both it is impossible to defend the freedoms of Muslims or of any one else. So, yes, let us challenge the Islamists and the reactionaries within Muslim communities. Let us also challenge the anti-Muslim reactionaries. But equally let us call the fake liberals to account.
Kenan Malik gets it dead right yet again, especially on the unwitting complicity of the “fake liberals” in nurturing anti-Muslim sentiment. Thank you.
What kind of psychopath would want to nurture pro-muslim sentiment, when islam, made manifest in allah, its “torturer in chief”, has made it quite clear to muslims that non-muslims must be subjugated and/or eliminated?
Religions change, look at Chrisitanity it was horrendous and is still bad in certain places and certain scenarios yet it is not as bad as it once was and people will attest to its benefits to them (as much as it was the detriment to me and others). With time and with personal interpretations of religion each person sees their religion differently. How else can Christians and Muslims alike argue that there is tolerance in their religion? Because with the contradictory nature present in both religions people can argue different points. It may not necessarily be pro-Muslim just not anti, simply secular where all religions are lowly but still allowed to be practiced. There are Muslims who are French who have shown solidarity with Je suis Charlie and there are gay friendly mosques in the UK just as there are gay friendly churches. There was a Muslim man who worked on the London Underground who thought the extremists acted badly and he said all he could do was ask for them to be forgiven because he saw them as badly influenced and he would likely be correct. Hell, there was the Islamic states in the past which promoted mathematics and the sciences. Because regardless of the Qur’an these are people subject to cognitive dissonance and influence outside of their religious beliefs and their religious beliefs are not conveyed through one channel. I’m sorry but if all Christians were attempting to copy the binding of isaac or if all Christians were anti-gay then you might have a point but the reality is not all Muslim interpret Islam or even allah the same way, the same reason Christians get away with saying ‘God is love’ about Yahweh an old war god. The same way women think they are equal in Christianity. I am not religious so people are all equal to me. There is thou shalt not kill in the Bible but there is also messages of eliminating non-Christians – people can cherry pick either. Religion is culturally influenced as well. In Turkey you do not have to wear a head-scarf at all times and people think of the animals going in two by two into the Ark. This isn’t based on scripture neither is the 25th of December. I am highly critical of religious scripture myself and I see the un-humanistic within scripture but if I were to denounce as you did I would have to do the same to more than one group. Actual adherents are a lot more complex than an ossifying text. We need to focus one the reality of the humans involved then we might understand how to act or think more appropriately.
Again and again we hear that “not all Muslims are extremist killers” – but if 1% are or 10% are or 20% are . . . I live in fear of Islam – Greek root for fear = phobia – I am Islamophobic!
I’m not sure I buy the idea that the root cause for these actions is Islam.
The perpetrators are from an excluded underclass with a grudge against society. Islam might be their *pretext*; but it would have probably have been a different pretext at another point in history.
If Islam has a role in this it might have been in providing these troubled young people with the means to do what they did; but I suspect that many of the others involved it will also be motivated by feelings of anger against society which have coalesced around a perverted idea of Islam rather than having been driven by Islam.
Among those condemning the terror in France are Hezbollah and Hamas. Thus these repulsive killings are opposed even by much of militant Islam, itself a small proportion of the whole.. To judge Muslims by the actions of these terrorists is like judging Christians by the witch burners or the KKK, and judging Italians by the actions of La Cosa Nostra..
At a time when Hamas and Hezbolla are desperate to win the hearts and minds of Europeans and turn them against Israel we should take their condemnation with a grain of salt.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is the most eloquent version of this argument I have read. Thank you. It should be read by every one of the owners and editors of all of those outlets who refuse, even after these assassinations, to publish the cartoons for which the staff of Charlie Hebdo killed, along with the police officers guarding them. (Buzzfeed published a report on those who refuse to publish the cartoons — apologies if you do not want links in comments: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/some-outlets-are-censoring-charlie-hebdos-satirical-cartoons)
Thank you Kenan for giving us hope once again!!! And thank you for having had the courage to post the cartoons!!! Perhaps what your readers should know is that the journalists at Charlie Hebdo were actually far left, antiracist activists who openly fought on behalf of sans papiers (illegal migrants), that they had also received several death threats from far right supporters (they had even received a letter with a bullet inside from a Front National supporter), and that several of their collaborators were muslims (one of the casualties yesterday was a young Kabyle – Mustapha Ourad – who worked as a proofreader for Charlie Hebdo) who evidently had no problems with blasphemy. It is precisely because they stood for what the left truly means that they posed such a threat to so many reactionaries. Let us hope that those who view themselves as progressives will finally get their act together and renew with the fight for freedom, justice and equality that once defined the left worldwide. At least this way they will not have died in vain.
I’m not by any means disagreeing with the thrust of your comment but I am struck by one thing: do you have any basis, other than the fact that he was of Kabyle origin, for asserting that Mustapha Ourad was Muslim? He may have been, I don’t know. But I think it is very important not to fall into the trap of equating a belief system (Islam) with ethnic origin. Nobody would suggest, for example, that Cabu was a Catholic.
George, you’ve made a very good point.
I had actually written “culturally muslim” in the first place (precisely because I wanted to avoid this sort of confusion), but somehow changed the wording for the sake of expediency, but also because I was overwhelmed with emotion (I happen to live in France and few people here are able to remain calm at the moment)… Of course, you might respond that “culturally muslim” itself is a problematic term, but I am not sure how else I can make the point that Charlie Hebdo never targeted muslims as such, but religious reactionaries in general, and that the two jihadis were not targeting “Westerners” (another problematic term if you ask me… especially since I do not want to suggest in any way that Westerners can only be Christians, Jews or atheists…) but all those whom they perceive as apostates – be they muslim or not. That said, given that Mustapha Ourad was born and raised in Kabylia (he arrived in France in his 20s), it is pretty safe to assume that he grew up in a “culturally muslim” environment (though of course I have met a significant number of Kabyles in Marseille who consider themselves atheists).
In fact, I feel that it is extremely difficult to find the right words to make sense of this madness. I recently realized that I had begun referring to myself as “culturally catholic” in conversations (even though I have been a certified atheist since the age of 11) because I feel obligated to account for an experience which is not that of my muslim or “culturally muslim” friends. But I fear that in doing so I am resorting to a non-secular reading grid, thereby letting the categories deployed by religious reactionaries shape how I view the world.
I think we will need time to develop new categories of understanding to account for what has just happened, and for what is likely to happen in the months to come (as you may already know, several mosques have been attacked in France in the last few days… which leads me to think that those who will suffer the greatest violence in the future are “ordinary muslims” – another term I am not happy with…). The left needs to take these events very seriously, and stop reading current tensions in France and in Europe merely through the lens of racial oppression (which is not to deny that racism is a very serious problem at the moment…). Kenan is certainly on the right track, and this is why I love reading his blog… But I feel that we must go even further than that.
If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.
“The Kabyle population are Muslims, and women enjoy great liberty and independence. Over recent times, tens of thousands of Kabylians have converted to Christianity, the traditional religion of the region” http://i-cias.com/e.o/kabylia.htm
I’d suggest some research before making statements.
To the article, I seem to have missed where the difference between speech and action, belief and evangelism is defined.
Without that definition, little can be said about goals of the far left, another noxious categorization, because to me the REAL problem is critical thinking and evidentiary behavior, both in speech and action.
For instance, the speech of an “ordinary Muslim” probably contains few calls to action (until honor killing, etc arise), but the speech of an imam inciting his congregation to riot and violence against the “oppressor society” is possibly an action punishable by law.
Disrespect is not definable in my universe. Possibly you could enlighten me what it means in practical terms. Is Dawkins comparable to a Wahabbi preacher?
Arianne, it isn’t an easy one. I’m Irish (although I’ve also lived in both Algeria and France) and we have historically had exactly the same issue with the terms ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’… to the extent that it is perfectly possible even today, in Northern Ireland at least, to be an atheist Catholic (or should that be ‘catholic, sans majuscule?). However, if the point is to show that Charlie Hebdo is not a racist publication, then surely it would be enough to use the term ‘Kabyle’ (or maybe ‘Berber’ for a moderately well-informed English-speaking audience, ‘North African’ for a less-well informed one)? I need to think a bit more about all this.
spot on Thanks Kenan
This incident is causing a major political crisis for me. Last night I had a dream that I was shot by gun rights activists for drawing a cartoon. There’s a certain realism to that since I’ve always declined to participate in the draw Mohammed day. At the secular conference in London I was very moved by what Pervez Hoodbhoy had to say on the subject. Later, I told him that the reason I never participated in the draw Mohammed day was because it felt too easy. Of course, I also stated that I had to support other people’s right to draw satirical cartoons. I could choose only for myself and not for anyone else. I’ve never felt that anyone had brought violence on themselves. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that I live in New York City and radical Muslims groups have no widespread influence here. There really isn’t much regarding that subject that is worth the effort to mock. I have, however, mocked gun rights advocates.
You have used the word “fake liberals.” For years now, I’ve made a distinction between “leftists” and “liberals”, although other people haven’t always understood me. I’m not nearly as articulate as you are, but I see leftists as seeing as more important the struggle between groups whereas liberals tend to look to the effect of policies on individuals. After growing up in a fairly leftward leaning environment, I came to a more liberal position during the Crown Heights riots in New York City in the eighties. Much of the left argued about who had suffered more historically, Jews or African Americans. I realized at that time that this was a recipe for constant strife, a question with no real answer. Secondly, it occurred to me that groups, because they are an abstraction, don’t suffer. Human beings suffer. When in people suffer because they are members of a certain group, we say that the group suffers, but what we really mean are that the people who belong to that group are suffering.
Of all European countries, I have always had the greatest hope for France in terms of fully integrating immigrant populations. This is because they have been adamant about not giving rights to groups. Regarding the emancipation of the Jews, Clermont-Tonnerre said:
The United Kingdom and Canada are not as clear on this subject as the French have been. I see the United States as being more like the French than the rest of the Anglophone world in this respect.
Leftists and liberals, if I may use those words, often make common cause. We both support civil rights for minorities and rights for LGBT people. However, our reasoning differs. Whereas leftists will see it as standing up for an oppressed group, liberals will see it as standing up for the rights of individuals. Since often it is historical oppression that has lead to current injustices, these two views tend to commingle. This is why the difference between liberals and leftists tend to arise when the interest of two oppressed groups come in conflict.
Until recently, I have been something of a “big tent” liberal, saving most of my arguments for the right rather than focusing on the left. In the wake of the assassinations of the cartoonists in France, I’m am seriously questioning that position.
Just one little note since you write for an international audience, “anti-racist” implies something very different in the U.S.
Good and thoughtful response to a great article. I also come from a family background on the left. I am in Scotland and have been in a state of mental crisis over the reaction of the British left to Charlie Hebdo.
Thanks, Kenan. A great article: principled, logical, just what is needed at a time like this.
I feel compelled to express my appreciation for your clarity of mind and your gift with the written word. It is not just that I agree with your sentiments and ideals, I do, but I am equally impressed with your demonstrative practice when conveying a point. Of the many you make, I echoed earlier that I choose to focus on freedom of speech and it’s profound significance for humanity, and not the divisive force of this violent act by religious extremists. The latter is what powerful conservatives would like us to focus on, while the former is truly terrifying to them both.
Also, I shared this blog entry and one other written a while back on the right to satirize. Your work has only come to my attention as of today, and I must say again, that I look forward to reading your entries both past and present. Thank you again, your voice and courage are appreciated.
Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
Excellent article from Kenan Malik which adresses the vacillation of the PC mainstream media and the fundamental error of social thinking underlying it.
Casting the problem in terms of “liberals” etc. probably confounds rather than enlightens and the use of “reactionaries” clarifies. Many so-called ‘liberals’ are reactionaries. Historically, the Liberal party in the UK was never the party of the left, but of Capital (Tories being the party of the landowners). The term has moved on, but in general Liberals are in favour of Capital and exploitation, because they benefit from these. How many “Liberals” live in the suburbs and of those living in cities, how many live in or adjacent to a working class area?
This is classic outdated crass Marxist rhetoric. A liberal believes in the rule of law, democracy, free market economics, small government & noblesse oblige, philanthropy and public service – that is to say everything that works!
Indeed everything that works, but what “works” can only be determined by looking at the evidence and not by rhetoric. Free market does not always work, and why this might be is explained vey neatly by Adam Smith, who deserves reading and re-reading. A recent UK example is provided by Circle reneging on their contract to run a hospital after a miserable 8 months in charge – stating they were going to save over £1 M on the stationary budget when this was in total just over £100,000 k per year. Lots of “free market rhetoric” but a complete absence of evidence-based decision making.
>Liberal pusillanimity also helps nurture anti-Muslim sentiment. It feeds the racist idea that all Muslims are reactionary, that Muslims themselves are the problem, that Muslim immigration should be stemmed, and the Muslim communities should be more harshly policed. <
ROFL What a bunch of crap – this virulent anti-Muslim bigotry would persist on the right with or without so-called "liberal pusillanimity" – don't try and pin that one on liberals, dude.
It helps to read rather than react to words.
“Liberal pusillanimity also helps nurture anti-Muslim sentiment.”
Kenan didn’t write: “Liberal pusillanimity nurtures anti-Muslim sentiment.”
Yeah, Kenan didn’t say that it wouldn’t persist, the point is that it makes things worse. When you “nurture” things you make them stronger. Dude.
Reblogged this on MyDoorIsAjar and commented:
This article speaks to a number of issues around the Hebdo affair. Censorship in the name of political correctness is a cancer on progressive thinking. We need to reject the notion that because you’re on a diet, I can’t eat a donut. Observing your taboos isn’t about respect, it’s about subservience.
“Those who claim that it is ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ to mock the Prophet Mohammad, appear to imagine, with the racists, that all Muslims are reactionaries. It is here that leftwing ‘anti-racism’ joins hands with rightwing anti-Muslim bigotry.”
This seems broadly correct, but I’d like to leave some room for choosing to desist from certain forms of mockery, or mockery at certain times, simply out of a desire to be polite or to refrain from what might (in context) be gratuitously cruel. In saying this, I’m not saying that we can’t mock whenever and whatever we like, just that there might sometimes be motivations to desist besides thinking all Muslims reactionaries.
As example, a David Silverman tweet on Wednesday read “Screw Muhammad, the pedophile fake prophet of Islam. In solidarity with #CharlieHebdo #blasphemyismyright #islamisbarbaric”. This seems to me unnecessary (though of course permissible), in that it would alienate the reactionary Muslims and the non-reactionary ones. By contrast, tweeting the cartoons themselves seem less likely to result in that sort of collateral damage, in that allies of liberalism within Islam have – I suspect – reconciled themselves with that offence already. I’d usually choose the second option, not because I think all Muslims are reactionaries, but because I can make my point without using a shotgun.
In short, I agree that it might typically be the case that you’re right, and that charges of racism or Islamophobia express this belief that all Muslims are reactionaries. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the case. Perhaps you don’t either, but I’m not sure based on this essay.
islam is an evil reactionary doctrine. All muslims follow, promote, spread and impose islam. Therefore all muslims are reactionaries.
Jacques, I agree that many who show ‘solidarity’ with Charlie Hebdo do so for bigoted reasons. I also agree that defending the right to free speech is not the same as defending the content of any particular form of speech, and that defending the right to mock or ridicule does not mean that one is compelled to mock or ridicule. I’ve also argued many times that it is morally incumbent on those who make the case for free speech also to challenge robustly racism and bigotry. My point here, though, is different: to challenge what has become a widespread view that to offend the deeply held beliefs of other cultures, faiths, or groups, especially those such as Muslims who are often the target of racism or bigotry, is itself morally unacceptable. It is also to show that these kinds of ‘liberal’ views, that take the reactionaries to be somehow representative of Muslim communities, help feed bigoted views about Muslims such as those of @tamimisledus in this thread.
“…defending the right to free speech is not the same as defending the content of any particular form of speech, and that defending the right to mock or ridicule does not mean that one is compelled to mock or ridicule.”
I hear this argument a lot, but if you refuse to offend with the cartoons you’ll be on the wrong side of history. In fact, any card carrying progressive has a duty to ridicule religion. If non-believers can’t criticise Islam then neither can Muslims. The cracks of Islam have begun to form. Once a new generation of Muslims feels safe enough to question it we’ll gradually see a liberalisation of Islamic doctrine. That can’t happen until those of us from countries that have already had that kind of progress pave the way. If we want the same for Muslims as we have for ourselves we have to show them how to defeat dogma the way we did. Through ridicule, satire and caricature.
Reblogged this on Synapses and commented:
To quote a previous post of mine on a related theme –
They all believe in the same god, sure, but from within a radically different value system – one which allows for beheading infidels and opponents, and the other not. The fact that these two sorts of Muslim are nominally on the same spectrum of belief doesn’t mean they should be conflated with each other.
Harris and other critics of Islam forget – or speak as if they have forgotten – that believers can have an interpretation of a holy text, rather than a set of dogmas related to it. Instead, critics take the most reactionary views and treat them as representative of the whole, or more broadly as the most authentic form of Islamic faith (with thanks to Kenan Malik for this insight).
What this move allows for is the invalidation of the beliefs and ways of living that are more typical or representative. If a Muslim were to say “well, I’m not offended by Danish cartoons”, you can retort with “but you’re not a typical (or even a ‘real’) Muslim, because you’re not being a literalist when it comes to interpreting your holy texts”.
But if the typical Muslim isn’t a literalist, why use that as the standard by which to criticise others? Isn’t it rather unusual to judge people by the standards of the most pure, or best, exponents of any skill, virtue of way of living? (“Son, I grant that you’re able to kick a ball, but you can’t be a real footballer until you’re as good as Cristiano Ronaldo.”)
How about if the anti-fundamentalists – like Harris – might be giving some cover or legitimacy for the extremists themselves, by making them seem more representative or relevant than they are?
I don’t think Harris believes fundamentalists represent all Muslims. Though clearly Sky News does. I think his argument is that moderate Muslims just aren’t as serious as the fundamentalists. They pick and choose the bits they like for various reasons, while the fundamentalists are deadly serious in their faith, and are ready to commit martyrdom, kill for ‘blasphemy,’ etc.
I read the “new atheists” as being strong advocates of evidentiary thinking, based on the harms done by its lack, especially in religion.
It applies also to racism, divisive politics, and censorship.
Don’t be knocking the new atheists. They’re hardly passive liberals.
Yes, I quite agree, although the other side of the coin is that far too many liberals and “intellectuals” seem to have a rather odious tendency to whitewash Islam or, like Gibbon, insist it is “the most rational of the monotheistic faiths”. I would heartily recommend Ibn Warraq’s Why I’m Not a Muslim, and of particular import this bit from the section titled Trahison des Clercs [Betrayal by the Intellectuals]:
And along which line I might note the following from the Wikipedia article on Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1):
In addition, one might question your assertion that “the typical Muslim isn’t a literalist”. I don’t know how true that might be outside the US, but inside it the Pew Forum Survey [Q38] (2) results suggest that (19 times out of 20) from 50% to 75% of American Muslims believe that the Quran is the “Word of God, taken literally word for word”. And I would expect that the number would be 90% of those outside the US. Which, one might argue, justifies Warraq’s view that Islam is simply antithetical to democracy – we might be wise to face that fact.
the quotation from tariq modood (MBE, member of the british empire) is part of argument that goes against everything you write here. Modood thought that salman rushdie should not have written or been allowed to publish the satanic verses (a novel for god’s sake) because it offended muslim sensibilities.
Obviously. That’s why he’s quoted it. He’s highlighting the problem.
Interesting discussion about the right to offend, which is bound to increase again after the terrible events in Paris. I have a question about “But equally let us call the fake liberals to account.”. As someone who supports “Stop the War”, I find the poppy worship quite distasteful and often hypocritical, as those who support war, and even cause it, shed crocodile tears every Remembrance Day. In 2011, some (Muslim) individuals were charged with public order offences and fined for burning poppies. It did not offend me, so should I have gone out on the streets with groups of other “real liberals”/anti-war groups and burned poppies in solidarity and in support of free speech. I did not, partly to avoid causing offence, and partly through fear of the consequences , so does that make me a fake liberal?
Were these social consequence you were afraid of or were you afraid for your personal safety?
The poppy is supposed to represent the soldiers. If it was remembrance day for all those leaders who sent us to war then there might be some sort of equivalence between ridiculing Remembrance Day and Mohammed.
I chose a practical way to demonstrate my support for Charlie Hebdo. Why not do the same? Go to http://www.viapresse.com/abonnement-magazine-charlie-hebdo.html and subscribe.
Thanks, mate. I was looking for that.
Kenan says there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims ”challenging religious-based reactionary ideas and policies and institutions” and I’m sure it’s true. It’s just that it doesn’t seem like that when you listen to a radio phone in programme in Britain when Muslim callers ring in. I must have heard a dozen in the last few days say why they think it’s wrong to mock their religion or prophet.
Percentage wise, I wouldn’t know where things stand regarding the split between liberal and more conservative Muslims. When I see people outside mosques for Friday prayers as I drive about London doing my job, I’m often not inspired by what I see. It does look like a conservative traditional community quite often. Whether it’s at Croydon, or Woolwich, Catford, the Regent’s Park Mosque – wherever.
But maybe that’s because that’s the most observant part of the wider community.
All muslims follow the evil reactionary doctrine of islam. Ipso facto, logically, there are absolutely no muslims challenging islam’s reactionary ideas. The only people challenging islam’s reactionary are non-muslims. This is of course not to say that there are not a good many non-muslims, ignorant of the true nature of islam, who even support its evil adherents. But if you want to know the true nature of islam, you should read the koran, but be aware, if you have any moral compass, you will need a very, very strong stomach.
Just so you know, according to islam, anyone challenging islam, is committing blasphemy, which automatically makes them non-muslim. So again, there are no muslims challenging islam’s reactionary ideas.
Your argument about Muslims makes about as much sense as someone reading your comment and suggesting that therefore ‘All non-Muslims follow the evil reactionary doctrine of racism’. You and Islamists should get on very well given your common, bigoted black-and-white view of the world.
This shows your inability to follow a rational argument is exceeded by your failure to provide a rational refutation. And as you cannot provide one (there is none) your have to resort to the tactics used by all bigots. You make up an argument of your own which bears no resemblance to the one presented and then smear your opponent. Joseph Goebels would have been proud of your propaganda skills, and Hitler would have seen you as a valuable asset. As I am sure he would have approved of your article on Jews – sorry I meant to say your article on “White Van Man”. That is not smearing you, that is the truth.
Give a man enough rope…
If someone mocks me or my beliefs, I’ll say that its wrong. I just won’t kill anyone because of it. And neither will the vast majority of Muslims.
Maybe we need to be more forthright in our criticism of Islamists. Because no doubt they will try and terrorise their fellow Muslims into acquiescence.
Unfortuneately John, the “vast majoriy” are largely irrelevant when the killings start in earnest.
This reply to a moderate muslim woman by Brigitte Gabriel is brilliant …
Only a racist or liberal or progressive or leftist would accept, and even condone the everyday murder, torture and lying promoted by muslimism and the riotous black fools in Ferguson and their destructive behavior.
It’s like those on the left believe barbarian reactionism is alwaysthe correct response.
But reasonable men know the ignorance of people and their way of life are the problem.
As the man correctly said it, “You can’t fix stupid.”
I kind of want to respond to you, but I’m too busy laughing my ass off. Bringing up Ferguson in this context could be used as the dictionary definition of “obsessive jerk”.
We’re talking not so much about having a moral compass as individuals but social altruism as individuals. The difference is between coming to the aid of our relative being attacked by a violent man and joining the army to fight our nation’s foes.
As an individual, we are exposed. We create an anti-Islam cartoon and the bad guys come to our house. As a social group we join a blockade or a company of soldiers and attack their soldiers. We have no protection as individuals but we have the force of our institutions behind us in the group. We are families with addresses as individuals but anonymous as a group.
There is a different type of danger and courage involved with what Charlie and others do. For this sort of speaking-to-truth to be widespread, it has to be institutionalized in the public mind. Our enemies must know that at attack on one is perceived at the very top as an attack on all AND deserving of counter-attack at that level: organization to organization.
I am reminded of the incident of the American man and his stepson taken hostage in Morocco in 1904. The American President Teddy Roosevelt send a squadron of ships and marines and took over Tangier, in essence, the Moroccan government, to get them back. The sense of security this gave the general American citizen lasted a very long time (even after it was not justified). You can’t screw with one of us, it said; my President will respond. He had drawn a line. Would Obama do that now? No. Nor would his advisers advise him to. Will ANY of the current powers (other than Russia, perhaps, but Russia is a wanna-be Power, where action now may create power later) do this now? I doubt it.
Philosophy clearly outlined limits the future jockeying of those in power (leading, in part, to your thoughts of the loss of moral compass. A moral compass is firm. Political expediency is soft.). De Gaulle is said to have told Yasser Arafat that “France has no friends, only interests.” The point could not have been stated more simply.
We live in a difficult time. We have consciously created a society of avowed multi-cultural permissiveness. Taking a moral or ideological stand is extremely awkward. We claim that there are multiple ways to believe and act that are morally equal and should be allowed. This is not quite true, of course. The freedom to think and act are always limited, even in the best of egalitarian democracies. When your community includes Islamists or others (like right-wing Christians) who have rigid views on what is allowed and what is not, even behind closed doors between consenting adults, you have substantial numbers who would say the Charlie antics are NOT to be tolerated at any level, and deserve to be punished. The government that takes a stance that it IS to be tolerated, is choosing a position and saying that those who do not agree really should knuckle under, get with the programme, or leave.
(BTW: personally, I think we historically Christian based, democracy inspired countries SHOULD tell certain groups to move if they don’t like the way we want things. There are plenty of places where their views might be better received. But we put ourselves in a pickle when we thought that multi-culturalism meant that the other cultures we invited in agree with the equality of the other cultures.)
The individual acts of resistance evidenced by Charlie and others (even Salman Rusdie of old) are extraordinary. They were in the times of Socrates, Galileo and Voltaire. I’d like to see our governments stand behind the values these citizens display. I’d also like to see our governments move fiercely against modern piracy as a moral principle. If the bad guys knew that the might of the Roman Empire would descend upon them if they stepped out of line, there would still be some to try, but not many. But if the relatively simple task of ending piracy, involving perhaps a dozen nations, is too hard or awkward for our leaders, what can we really expect them to do in this case?
There is something, though. All governments large and small interfere in the affairs of other countries in order to further their own ends. Institutional interference still has its innocent victims but there are controls within it and outside of it. The attack on Charlie has come through a door that reflects the modern power that ease of travel and access to weaponry gives determined individuals. But Al-Qaeda and IS still have an institutional aspects as both wish to become the rulers of States. They have OTHER governmental support somewhere. Al-Qaeda (and IS) will stop what they are doing when the governments that give them sanctuary, arms and financing make it a condition of continued support. That is where our leaders attention needs to be firmly directed. But we come back to the political value of not committing yourself to anything, anywhere, anytime.
There is something else here that needs discussion, however, something that is missing in the press:
IMHO the attack on Charlie was not actually about Charlie or its anti-Islamist work. Right now the Islamic State has grabbed all the headlines. IS looks to be “the” force of Islamic fundamentalist revolution. Until IS stood up and cut people’s heads off, Al-Qaeda was the big boy on the Islamist block. This attack in my view is an attempt to wrest recognition back to Al-Qaeda as a foe to be reckoned with, and a group to look to in the future. It is a ploy for recruitment, financing and, most importantly, legitimacy in the Islamist revolutionary world. I think we are seeing an internal revolutionary struggle played out on the international stage. It is a pity that third-party citizens are paying the price, but soft targets get the headlines easily. Globalization has many forms.
I think the only thing that put me on alert was your ‘Christian-based’ as if you felt the need to say it. It is not as if the book of Yahweh really is a symbol of democracy. Sorry. I would hate to focus on something for its Christian baseline because Christianity can be and has been bad. I would not bother to say a religion and then democracy and certainly not anything to do with Christianity as democracy pre-dates Jesus. I’ve had enough of certain religious persons trying to get the humanists and others to shut up about questioning religion. The republican spirit in France also references the revolution when de-christianisation of France happened. Of course there are still Christians in France.
The push pull relationship between religion and secular humanism was a much easier battle because there are humanist elements to the bible. It’s all a matter of emphasis. No amount of emphasis can make the Quran sound humanist. Jesus spoke in parables which can be interpreted and reinterpreted, Mohammed was a battle commander, he spoke in commands. Christianity has made many concessions to humanism because there was canonical justification for it.
Excellent article, barring one point:
“It feeds the racist idea that all Muslims are reactionary”.
A prejudiced idea maybe, but not racist. Muslims are not a race. Islam is a religion: a set of beliefs and cultural traditions which can be adopted and/or rejected at the will of the individual, not some pre-programmed genetic state over which someone has no control. Religious and cultural practices are absolutely legitimate targets for debate, criticism and ridicule in a Liberal Democracy. However, the conflation of religion/culture with race, and multiculturalism with multiracialism is a consistent error which serves to perpetuate many of the issues illustrated in this article.
Culture and Equality by Brian Barry covers this topic very well:
This is a straw-man argument that unfortunately appears again and again. You say Muslims do not constitute a ‘race’; well, actually, by the same token, one could argue that neither do ‘blacks’ or ‘whites’ or ‘Asians’. What we call ‘races’ are broadly socially constructed groups (For a discussion of the relationship between the social and biological and the problems of defining racial categories, see here and here.) The contemporary idea of race, as referring exclusively to differences of skin colour or ethnicity, is a twentieth century development. Nineteenth century notions of race were very different. Race referred to class and social differences as much as to colour. The working class and the rural poor were as racially distinct, to Victorian eyes, as Africans or Native Americans, and often more so.
To ‘racialise’ a group is to essentialise it; and that can happen to group such as Muslims as it can to African Caribbeans or Asians (or, indeed, sections of the working class). On the relationship between contemporary notions of culture and concepts of race, see my book Strange Fruit, or my talk on ‘Conflicting Credos but the Same Vision of the World’. Brian Barry’s critique, incidentally, was of the essentialisation of culture, a point on which I agree with him.
Quite right Kenan. A lot of people confuse the biological definition of race (as used for sub-species of plants, for example) with the sociological use of the term, which is cultural. There are no “races” of human in a strict biological/genetical sense.
“But equally let us call the fake liberals to account.”.
I think there are some liberals who imbibe certain memes from the postcolonial post-Marxist corner of the public sphere (because of academic, social or biological proximity to the prime movers of these memes) without realizing that the underlying framework of the originators of these memes was not (and was not advertised as) classical liberalism. We may then unthinkingly mumble things that Kenan finds “fake liberal” without fully grasping that we are being illiberal. But we should be clear that the conscious prime movers of these apologetics do NOT regard themselves as liberals. They may regard themselves as revolutionaries or Marxists (of a very post-Marxist type obviously) or progressive Islamists or, more vaguely, as “progressives”; but they are not liberals, so they cannot really be accused of being “fake liberals”.
Within these ideological currents (necessarily vague and rich with paradox, given their overlap with postmodernism) classical liberalism is a fraud and a weapon of “empire”. As is bourgeouis democracy, as are such bourgeouis notions as freedom of speech and freedom of religion (the last two not necessarily condemned in principle, but criticized as being hollow claims in a capitalist and unequal world, etc etc). Once you accept all (or even most) of these “progressive” claims about the reality of the world, with it’s metropole and it’s empire and it’s orientalism and so on, then is it really that hard to accept that Hebdo itself is an evil that needs to be eliminated; perhaps not in such a literal way, but still, you get the point..
What Kenan really has to do is somehow draw a line between himself and this stream of thought… Which may be hard. Are we not (at least in our dreams) in the boat of world revolution? the boat that will take us closer to the global overthrow of capitalism and it’s diseased appendages, bourgeouis democracy and classical liberalism?
Friends may find this a bit of a stretch, but think about it and a lot of what we believe or repeat is really picked up from people who want to overthrow the world in which liberalism and it’s pieties operate… . they (say, Tariq Ali?) may be many things, but they are NOT liberals. So they cannot be “fake liberals”.
“Islamists”, “Anti-Muslim reactionaries” and “Fake liberals”.
That leaves the rest of us, who, in challenging things in not being a “Fake liberal”, tread a very fine line of being accused of that “Anti-Muslim reactionary” label.
I’m certain that you know this has happened to some very high-profile people, including Muslims!
Thank you so much. This is probably the most clear-headed thing I’ve read on the recent events in Paris. In between reactionary right-wingers calling for blood and hand-wringing liberals shouting ‘racism’ at the top of their lungs, you’ve restored a small bit of sanity to the equation.
Reblogged this on The Brain Science Critic and commented:
This is an excellent post about Charlie Hebdo and the culture of self-censorship, and what Pascal Bruckner and others call “the racism of the anti-racists” and that annoying insistence by some people on the left and liberals that darker skinned people can somehow never be villains. Including that having that attitude both excuses crimes like the Charlie Hebdo massacre and assumes that all Muslims are reactionary.
Best so far, thank you, a million times thans you. The stance of many so called liberal friends is scaring the hell out of me. Nice to have this to share.
I take your point. I have been struggling against a new and vicious anti-Islamic mind-view since the Charlie killings. The trouble is that most people in the West are too busy to seek out alternate Muslim viewpoints and it is only when obscenities like this happen that we hear about the courage and tenacity of critical voices and illustrators in Middle Eastern countries. The international press, so eager to show equivalence when it is frivolous, should perhaps help us by constant and in depth reportage on these journalists and activists. My anti-Islam attitude, [it is a sudden fever, it will pass,] is a result of being fed a diet of news which encourages ignorance, and rage.
Q. What would John Milton, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire and John Stuart Mill have thought about mass immigration by Muslims into the West?
A. They would have thought it was an insane idea that would have disastrous consequences for free speech, among much else.
But why should we care about the dead white males who actually created free speech?
It feeds the racist idea that all Muslims are reactionary…
Please quote anyone who has said that “all Muslims are reactionary” or admit that, once again, you are being less than entirely honest in pursuit of your ideology. I think that Muslims as a group are disastrous for free speech and female rights. There are mountains of evidence on my side, from the murders in Paris to the so-called Rotherham scandal to the state of free speech and female rights in actual Muslim nations like Pakistan and Somalia.
There is no evidence is on your side.
As an ideologue rather than a rational human being, you won’t admit it.
You have obsessively made this point again and again on Pandaemonium. I have shredded it many times; but you continue to repeat the same idiocies. I have no inclination yet again to take it apart. All I would say is that your concept of ‘evidence’ is far closer to that of the Islamists than it is to mine.
You have obsessively made this point again and again on Pandaemonium. I have shredded it many times; but you continue to repeat the same idiocies.
Do you accept that Thomas Jefferson et al would agree with me rather than you? A simple question that I do not think you will answer. My evidence is the absence of free speech in Muslim countries and the presence of gang-rape culture. Muslims in the West behave in the same way.
I understand free speech, the Enlightenment and liberalism. You do not. Here are two central Enlightenment values:
1. Free speech.
2. Free enquiry.
But free movement, i.e. mass immigration, was never an Enlightenment value and is not part of genuine liberalism. Liberals believe in democracy and distrust grand projects. Mass immigration is a very grand project carried out without a democratic mandate by an illiberal, arrogant and (at best) deluded elite — the European Parliament that hosted you is a good example. You neither understand genuine liberalism nor assist its cause.
And when I make such claims, I can back them up:
“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance; the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favor of the government against the rest.” — John Stuart Mill, “On Representative Government”, Chapter 16.
As I said: Mill would have been horrified by mass immigration from Muslim nations. Unlike you, he understood free speech and how to protect it.
And as you’re well aware, it wasn’t just liberals who supported mass immigration: it was enemies of free speech like the SWP (remember that?). This is Peter Hitchens admitting their real motives:
When I was a Revolutionary Marxist, we were all in favour of as much immigration as possible. It wasn’t because we liked immigrants, but because we didn’t like Britain. We saw immigrants – from anywhere – as allies against the staid, settled, conservative society that our country still was at the end of the Sixties. […] What did we know, or care, of the great silent revolution which even then was beginning to transform the lives of the British poor? To us, it meant patriotism and tradition could always be derided as ‘racist’. And it also meant cheap servants for the rich new middle-class, for the first time since 1939, as well as cheap restaurants and – later on – cheap builders and plumbers working off the books. It wasn’t our wages that were depressed, or our work that was priced out of the market. Immigrants didn’t do the sort of jobs we did. They were no threat to us. The only threat might have come from the aggrieved British people, but we could always stifle their protests by suggesting that they were modern-day fascists. I have learned since what a spiteful, self-righteous, snobbish and arrogant person I was (and most of my revolutionary comrades were, too).
Mass immigration was supported by enemies of free speech who then used it to end free speech. They knew what they were doing. You don’t. You are what Lenin called a useful idiot.
Sigh. You have asked these questions before. I have answered them before. As I’ve said, you just repeat them ad nauseum. So, let me be brief in my response.
I doubt very much whether that Jefferson or Locke or Mill would have any truck with your bizarre concept of ‘liberalism’. Not that it would matter if they did – I prefer to argue from reason than from authority. There are many aspects of many Enlightenment thinkers’ beliefs with which I disagree. Jefferson, after all, was a slave holder and Locke refused to extend tolerance to Catholics and atheists.
That makes about as much sense as Islamists pointing to the Jimmy Saville case as ‘evidence’ for the innate depravity of the West.
Since you are such an authority on the Enlightenment, I guess it must have just slipped your mind that the demand for freedom of movement regardless of social background, and for the ability to ply trades in different areas, was a central feature of eighteenth century radicalism.
Are you now a believer in conspiracy theories too?
Yeah, right. I’m afraid half-baked bigoted assertions do not evidence make. As I’ve already observed, your concept of ‘evidence’ is far closer to that of the Islamists than it is to mine.
Do you accept that Thomas Jefferson et al would agree with me rather than you? A simple question that I do not think you will answer.
I doubt very much whether that Jefferson or Locke or Mill would have any truck with your bizarre concept of ‘liberalism’. Not that it would matter if they did – I prefer to argue from reason than from authority.
Their authority is based on their success: they obviously knew what they were talking about. Your reason is fallible and has no record of success. Instead, it has a record of disaster, followed by excuses. It’s racism. It’s the wrong government policies. What else can explain how Muslims from corrupt, crime-ridden, free-speech-hating countries have failed to be ornaments of our liberal democracies?
There are many aspects of many Enlightenment thinkers’ beliefs with which I disagree. Jefferson, after all, was a slave holder and Locke refused to extend tolerance to Catholics and atheists.
Pioneers are rarely perfect. But their general principles are clear and all of them would have been horrified by Muslim immigration. You and other liberals (genuine, fake and Marxist) are not horrified by it. The results are plain to see.
My evidence is the absence of free speech in Muslim countries and the presence of gang-rape culture. Muslims in the West behave in the same way.
That makes about as much sense as Islamists pointing to the Jimmy Saville case as ‘evidence’ for the innate depravity of the West.
You’re joking. Savile’s victims were not subject to years of gang-rape and sadism, nor trafficked by extensive networks of ordinary, unintelligent men whose activities were well-known in their communities. If you believe in reason, why do you not compare sex-crime statistics between the white British and Muslims (and blacks)? Because if you did, you’d have to admit that Muslims commit sex-crimes at much higher rates, even after decades in which the authorities have turned a blind eye to their behaviour. But why should Muslim gang-rape and child-prositution networks be a surprise? Just look at the state of female rights and free speech in Pakistan.
I understand free speech, the Enlightenment and liberalism. You do not. Here are two central Enlightenment values:
1. Free speech.
2. Free enquiry.
But free movement, i.e. mass immigration, was never an Enlightenment value and is not part of genuine liberalism.
Since you are such an authority on the Enlightenment, I guess it must have just slipped your mind that the demand for freedom of movement regardless of social background, and for the ability to ply trades in different areas, was a central feature of eighteenth century radicalism.
You’re wilfully misreading me. I was careful to define what I meant by “free movement”: mass immigration. That is not covered by social mobility or commerce and is not an Enlightenment value.
Mass immigration was supported by enemies of free speech who then used it to end free speech. They knew what they were doing.
Are you now a believer in conspiracy theories too?
No, in this case I’m a believer in the horse’s mouth:
But if you’re worried about conspiracy theorists: like sex-criminals and haters of free speech, they are much more common in Muslim nations.
My evidence… And when I make such claims, I can back them up
Yeah, right. I’m afraid half-baked bigoted assertions do not evidence make. As I’ve already observed, your concept of ‘evidence’ is far closer to that of the Islamists than it is to mine.
Here’s that well-known bigot John Stuart Mill:
Most supporters of mass immigration — the Guardian, the BBC and mainstream politicians — are also enemies of free speech. New Labour, for example, who concealed their open-border policies from the white working-class. A conspiracy, in other words.
This is such a mishmash of specious arguments and rotting prejudices that it is difficult to know where to begin. So let me just deal with one issue: the claim you consistently make that Enlightenment philosophes would have been ‘horrified’ at Muslim migration to Europe. Yet again this reveals your ignorance of Enlightenment ideas. In reality, Enlightenment philosophes were often appreciative of Islam, partly because they saw the promotion of Islam as a useful weapon in their war against Christianity, but also because they regarded it the religion most compatible with human reason. So Henri de Boulainvilliers’s The Life of Mohammad, published in 1730, acclaims Muhammad as ‘an incomparable statesman, a lawmaker superior to all those produced by ancient Greece’. Voltaire praised Islam ‘because it does not descend into the folly of giving God any assistants, and it has no mysteries.’ But perhaps clearest of all was Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon, like most philosophes, saw Islam as the most rational of the monotheistic faiths:
According to Gibbon, in Islam, ‘the intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.’
As Jonathan Israel puts it in Radical Enlightenment, eighteenth century thinkers were certainly hostile to Islam as they were to all religions, but at the same time ‘viewed [it] positively, even enthusiastically, as a purified form of revealed religion, stripped of the many imperfections of Judaism and Christianity, and hence reassuringly akin to deism.’
So, if you do want to set yourself up as a defender of Enlightenment beliefs, it might at least help to know what those beliefs were.
In reality, Enlightenment philosophes were often appreciative of Islam, partly because they saw the promotion of Islam as a useful weapon in their war against Christianity,
Exactly. But that did not lead them to support mass immigration by Muslims.
but also because they regarded it the religion most compatible with human reason.
How does this contradict the idea that they would have been horrified by Muslim mass immigration? I’m “appreciative” of Islam for the great philosophy, mathematics, architecture and calligraphy it has overseen. That does not contradict my opposition to mass immigration by Muslims.
Voltaire praised Islam ‘because it does not descend into the folly of giving God any assistants, and it has no mysteries.’
I assume you knew about this too?:
Yes, he was using Islam as a sly way of attacking Christianity, but Voltaire did not want to see Islam established in the West.
So, if you do want to set yourself up as a defender of Enlightenment beliefs, it might at least help to know what those beliefs were.
That’s why you cannot quote anything from the Enlightenment in support of mass immigration by Muslims. As for mass immigration by blacks — they would have thought the suggestion a sick joke, at best.
That’s true. I can’t quote anything from the Enlightenment in support of mass immigration by Muslims. But neither can I quote anything from the Enlightenment about the war on terror, the Holocaust or climate change. That’s because eighteenth century thinkers tended not to write about issues that only became manifest in the twentieth century. I cannot quote anything from the eighteenth century in support of mass immigration. And, for exactly the same reason, neither can you quote anything in opposition to it. It’s an idiotic argument. When Enlightenment thinkers wrote about freedom of movement, they did so in the context of the eighteenth century. And in that context, the philosophes were, almost without exception, in favour of freedom of movement.
Yes, the philosophes were often critical of Islam, because they were critical of all organized religions. I’ve already made that point. But your claim about Muslim immigration is that there is something peculiarly problematic about Islam and about Muslim countries. Unfortunately for you, most Enlightenment philosophes took the opposite view – they believed that there was something far less problematic and far more rational about Islam than about Christianity or Judaism.
I’ll say this much for you: you have a rare facility for not letting the evidence get in the way of your prejudices and for ignoring any facts that may be laid before you. I wrote at the beginning of the thread that you obsessively make these points again and again on Pandaemonium, refuse to accept any evidence to the contrary and simply continue to repeat the same idiocies. You have continued to the same on this thread. So I am bringing this thread to a close. I have better things on which to waste my time.
I am so pleased to have read this, this morning. It completely sums up my opinion. I have been so angry at the mainstream response and the hypocrisy spoken about freedom of expression in the West. I went to your page knowing that you would give a reasoned response and you came up trumps. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Tijani Fulani and commented:
Calling the fake liberals out! Another interesting post about the attacks in Paris and reactions.
Great read, thanks. May I simply add to the conversation – pose a theory, really – that perhaps there is a fine line between satire and bullying?
I’m based in France. I suppose I’m liberal (not one of the white ones. Are we seperate but equal?) though I’m told by my better half that I show conservative leanings on the topic of Charlie Hebdo.
France is a country filled with many contradictions. There’s the belief in freedom of expression for all, (just be sure to leave your burqa at home, or, wear it, “inside” as Charlie suggested); legendary musicians – Americans of African decent, were welcomed with open arms because of the oppression they experienced in their native country. However, Dog help you if you originate from North Africa, Nigeria, Mali… With all honesty, were it not for my American tongue, my fair skin and my passport to boot, my life here would be considerably less charmed.
This is about bigotry seeping through the cracks of the foundation of western society – bigotry, in sheeps clothing as it were. This is about history turning our “modern world” on its head. As much as I wish I could be caught up in the romance that the assualt on Charlie, in turn, was a strike against “freedom of speech”, I can’t. This is bigger than cartoons, no matter the offence.
There is no doubt that France is filled with contradictions, and that racism against non-whites is extremely widespread in this country. But I fear that you are confusing several things here, as many North American commentators tend to do (FYI, I am Canadian, I did my PhD at Duke University in the US, and I have been living in France for seven years now…which means that I feel I have at least as much knowledge of US society as you do of French society). I have written this before, and will write it again: Charb and the other journalists were decidedly on the far left, viewed themselves as anti-racist activists, had a number of North Africans cartoonists collaborate with them, fought for years on behalf of illegal migrants, and angered Front National supporters so much that they even received a bullet from one of them in an envelope. Of course, this does not mean that they never questioned their own unconscious racist stereotypes about arabs or blacks, but to assimilate them with ordinary French racists is simply mistaken, and it is making a mockery of what leftist politics is all about. As far as I am concerned, suggesting that Charlie Hebdo was an openly racist journal amounts to killing them a second time — this time symbolically.
I would also invite you to consider the possibility that Charlie Hebdo’s stand against the burqa stemmed for their positioning themselves as activists of the far left. I am fully aware that, in Canada and the US, “liberals” (who are often clueless about what is going on beyond their borders and whose critical faculties have been gradually undermined by the ideology of multiculturalism) usually defend a woman’s right to wear the burqa if she pleases. This was also my position when I first moved to France. But after working for years with illegal migrants in Marseille and interviewing dozens of North African women and Middle Eastern activists, I have most certainly changed my mind.**** I still believe that the state ban on the burqa in France is a terrible mistake, and yes, defending freedom of expression while also telling burqa-clad women that they should stay at home is an impossible contradiction. But it is a contradiction that reflects the difficulty we are faced with today when trying to fight a highly reactionary ideology that is embraced by many among muslim communities.
If, as you seem to suggest, you are African-American, then perhaps you might consider the possibility that the **gender apartheid** promoted by Islamists of all strands — which materializes itself in the practice of rendering women invisible via the burqa — is just as violent and horrid as the racial apartheid that your own grandparents are likely to have experienced in the US. In other words, you might consider the possibility that Charlie Hebdo’s stand against the burqa was not at all racist but, on the contrary, that it stemmed from a refusal to turn a blind eye on the oppression that non-white women have been experiencing with the recent spread of Islamist ideology in the muslim world (an ideology which, you might like to know, was actively financed and supported by your own racist government as a way to counter the progressive, secular, marxist and feminist movements that were very strong throughout the region during the Cold War). The fact that many muslim women choose to wear the burqa today does not constitute a valid counterargument, first because it is a sociological verity that the dominated often embrace the ideology that keeps them in a subordinate position, and second because there are countless feminists in the muslim world who are fighting against such sexist violence (yet unfortunately are not being listened to by the so-called postcolonial “left”).
Another point I would like to make — one that most class-blind Americans have great difficulty understanding — is that the widespread rejection of migrants from North and Sub Saharan Africa that we are witnessing in France at the moment has more to do with these migrants’ class position than it does with their skin color or “otherness.” Most sans papiers in France come from the poorest sectors of their own countries, are often low-skilled, and have not benefited from the education that you and I apparently have. (The state policy on immigration in Canada is far more restrictive than it is in Europe, which means that most immigrants in Canada are high-skilled and/or wealthy, and are therefore more easily accepted by the “native” population… I am always “morte de rire” when Canadians tell me that they are much less racist than Europeans). In fact, the very dark-skinned son of a Senegalese diplomat who studies at Normale Sup will fare much better in France than many pale-skinned migrants because he has the cultural capital that allows him to feel at ease among the white bourgeoisie. And of course, the same applies to the very wealthy, Wahhabi Saudi elite whose power is hardly challenged by the contemporary French state. Even poor whites in France (or your ordinary “beauf” for that matter) will not be able to circulate in such circles as bourgeois Arabs and Senegalese will. (I think the reality of class society in France goes a long way towards explaining why you are having a far easier time in the country than poor migrants from Mali or Algeria… the postcolonial explanation is simply insufficient in my view). In short, considering everything through the lens of race is not necessarily the most productive approach.
I am mentioning all this mainly because I want to emphasize the fact that the French left, unlike the North American one, is far more aware of the gender and class divisions that cut across migrant communities, and is generally not afraid of showing solidarity with leftist activists in North Africa and elsewhere in their fight against oppression. (North American liberals are so plagued with white guilt that they generally don’t dare do such a thing, but as far as I am concerned it is a tragic mistake… Kenan seems to have been making the exact same point over and over in his blog). Charb and his friends were certainly offensive, but they were offending — or bullying if you want to call it that — the bullies and reactionaries among muslim, jewish and christian communities. They also understood that the greatest victims of Islamist ideology were muslims themselves.
If you can understand that, then you can understand what Charlie Hebdo was all about.
** I began to realize how much my reasoning was flawed when I attended a meeting organized by the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste on the theme of Marxism and religion (FYI, the NPA is the only far left party in France that works with Islamist organizations). After a number of white leftists in the room had gone on and on about how Islamists were freedom fighters and how we should embrace the hijab and the burqa because “Hey! There is sexism in French society also!” (a type of relativizing that would never pass when it comes to racial oppression), a young, clearly working-class Algerian man got up and said that Islam had always been used to oppress and reinforce the power of the upper classes in his country, that he was an atheist and that he refused to be told that he should not offend God, and that the hijab and the burqa were tools to oppress women. (He also reminded the audience that the French state had supported the development of prayer rooms in factories in the 1970s to ensure that North African workers would refrain from joining radical unions). This episode, and many others after that, made me realize how low the contemporary left (and especially the North American one) had fallen over the last thirty years.
Well written reply, thank you. I’m quite tempted to read it again, but at the moment I think I should let your response gestate, as it felt more like a personal attack than a continuation of respectful discourse. Just to be certain: Yes, I’m an American of African decent; I’ve lived in France for seven years (we’re tied!); my posting was not at all an attack on Charlie: it was a written observation – my personal opinion – of why Wednesday happened and will continue to occur. Though, that being said, I don’t believe in martyrs; “If you can understand that, then you can understand what Charlie Hebdo was all about.” — what I understand is precisely what I wrote, and no, that sentence wasn’t the least bit condescending. Another that caught my eye: “As far as I am concerned, suggesting that Charlie Hebdo was an openly racist journal amounts to killing them a second time — this time symbolically.” So, just to be clear: Charlie Hebdo can practice free speech…but I can’t.
Again, I appreciate your feedback.
I apologize if my post felt like a personal attack. It was not my intention, but I must recognize that I have become far more polemical after living in France for so long (I am sure you’ve noticed that the French easily turn to insults when discussing politics). I would like to engage in respectful debate with you in the future if at all possible. And I certainly don’t want to prevent you from exercising free speech.
I also recognize that referring to your grand-parents was a bit of a cheap shot.
I guess I also responded the way I did because I am extremely worried about a tendency among many leftists (especially in Canada and the US) to overlook the inherent fascism — and misogyny (which I am particularly concerned about since I am a woman) — of Islamist ideology by reading the events on Wednesday primarily through the lens of racism. There is no doubt that French society is racist (and I recognize that my being white often makes me oblivious to that fact) and that this racism must be opposed, but jihadis are not responding to racism as such. They kill anyone that is opposed to them. Their primary target is apostates, and muslims are their first victims.
Non-whites who live in the banlieues have every reason to be angry. But in the face of racism and imperialism, no one is obligated to respond with misogyny, racism and fascism. As far as I know, African Americans fought racial apartheid in the US through remarkably progressive politics, as did the ANC in South Africa. Islamists, *of their own volition*, are responding in the most reactionary manner. (Indeed, they have free will, like you and me). There is a history of progressive opposition to racism and imperialism in the Arab world, which means that the rise of Islamist ideology is in no way a natural response to racism in France. As I mentioned in my previous post, this ideology was promoted by the US government during the Cold War (and according to my Arab socialist friends, it still is…). If we miss that point, then we can’t respond properly to what happened on Wednesday.
I’ve just reread my post, and yes, the tone was very harsh… even disrespectful at times. Again, I would like to apologize for this.
But I would also urge you to please consider the possibility that your being African American will not protect you from the violence of jihadis. You are a potential target, and as a woman I am most certainly a target.
In fact, we are all targets, unless we submit to their ideology.
I look forward to reading your response.
Cheers, really appreciated your response.
For some reason, the site isn’t allowing me to reply to your previous post, so I’m having to continue our conversation here instead.
You bring up some very valid points in your argument, and I’m truly appreciative for the food for thought. I know that drawing a spotlight on France’s racism as an American is the pot calling the kettle black – so to speak! – and that the States can be considered, rightfully so, the drum major of terrorism. I didn’t deny that, but I see now that I failed to preface my post with that in mind. We’re on the same page though, I assure you..Charlie Hebdo aside…
I’m aware that my colour isn’t a shield against the jihadis. But it is my complexion and my nationality that are a shield against the xenophobia of France – a theory I expressed in my initial posting. “Most sans papiers in France come from the poorest sectors of their own countries, are often low-skilled, and have not benefited from the education that you and I apparently have. ” I’m “sans papier”, and a high school dropout from a middle class upbringing in Missouri. My profession, (I’m a musician), has allowed me to travel the world, which I credit as my “higher education”; picking up where the US standardized system failed. All that to say, I’m just as “bad”, but you wouldn’t know that – see that – by how I’m treated. “There is no doubt that French society is racist (and I recognize that my being white often makes me oblivious to that fact).” Indeed.
However, you’re absolutely right that, to say this starts and stops at racism is immensely short sighted. My wife, a French teacher for the last decade and some change, born and raised in France and I, have had so many debates on “what’s it all about?”, (she’s far more biting than you, by-the-way – and intentionally so. A French thing, no doubt, ha!). I suppose that, because of who I am and, having had my own experiences, racism isn’t a convenience; a calling card: it’s just reality. So too, the grip of misogyny and inherent fascism, yes.
Thank you again for the conversation.
I’m not at all convinced that women have or had it worse in the Muslim world or anywhere, past or present. Traditional gender roles were certainly restrictive to both sexes and should be done away with, but for every disadvantage that women had, men had it just as bad, if not worse, such as being raised to accept their bodies to be used in war, protect and sacrifice their lives for women. My main problem with the whole burka issue is that Western society doesn’t help at all when it often continues to treat women wearing burkas as objects without agency, but grants agency to men that are completely covered up in traditional garb as well (just look at the clothing of men at a mosque).
It’s this that I find to be remarkably traditionalist – only granting agency to men that are covered up, and continuing to treat as objects women that are covered up.
The burqa is a statement of contempt, primarily based on islamic doctrine, for liberal Western views on women and total disrespect for these Western views. It is also a statement that all women should behave the way in which the wearer behaves. Also it implies that the person wearing the burqa expects that the West should be made follow the misogynist principles of islam within an islamic society. That would be a betrayal of Western values. It would be the equivalent of allowing nazi thugs to walk on out streets, chanting nazi slogans. This and this alone justifies total banning of the burqa.
I think this post is the most rational and well argued comments on the Charlie Hebdo killings. Thanks for this
As a supporter of the cause of muslims, and therefore a supporter of the evil doctrine of islam, please tell us which version of sharia you wish to see imposed on the world. Of course, I mean the version of sharia which will be imposed when all non-muslims have been eliminated.
An incredibly articulate, beautifully argued piece of writing that almost perfectly describes some of the inherent problems with much of the reaction towards the recent atrocities in France, and beyond. Thank you sincerely for taking so much care in crafting this – I hope it is widely read.
Thank you Kenan, again your argument is superb and I’ve fired this piece at specific friends and posted strategically. Since speech was hijacked by political correctness public discourse is constrained and clear communication impossible. My throat has road rash from the politically correct leaping down it. We must push back, reclaim free expression while listening and viewing without presumption. Comedian Pat Condell’s ‘Laughing at the new Inquisition’ mercilessly sticks it to ‘progressives’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6jiNMg1PAk
Why am I not surprised to see that Richard Seymour @ leninstomb is who you link to as describing Hebdo as a ‘racist institution’? I used to see that guys comments on a webspace I used to engage in alot and thought him pretty smart, then things started to not stack up so well.
Great piece Kenan.
Great piece, Kenan. Thank you for distilling what so many of us are thinking. If anything good comes of this terrible business, may it be that we understand properly what free speech means. Of course, they must be some limitations to free speech, predicated, not by political correctness, but by good taste. Inevitably – and quite rightly – the boundaries will be pushed and challenged all the time.
Limitations to free speech? Do you even know what the word “free” means? Of course, there can’t be limitations to free speech. If there were, that wouldn’t be free speech, it would be limited speech.
The basic question I have is: is altruism compulsory?
Do I have to feel pity for the murdered cartoonists or the purportedly oppressed Moslems in the West? And my answer is: do — or did — they have a choice to be in a different situation?
Are the cartoonists who chose to produce and carry tasteless drawings, offending everybody the same as ebola victims who couldn’t have done anything to protect themselves? Are Moslems forced to live in the West when as first generation born in France (UK, USA…) descendants of immigrants they can go back to countries where cartoons like that are not appearing in the press?
No, this leaves me pretty unperturbed. No one cared when I wanted to live in Holland and Flanders in the 1980s but was turned down, or when I was discriminated as a descendant of pre-WWII rich landowners in Communist Yugoslavia, a Serb in Canada, and a gay man in the heteronormative societies of the 4 countries I lived in, in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s…
So now I do not care. This is none of my business and the extreme attention given to all this I find rather offensive.
Spot on article. Tolerance of violent intolerance is never a good idea.
I AM NOT Charlie! But God Has Not Commanded Punishment for those who fight The Religion with
just words & similar, It is matter of Patience. To be Faithful; Patience is more valuable than punishment.
“Liberal pusillanimity also helps nurture anti-Muslim sentiment.”
I agree only to the extent that it concedes “Islam” as an issue entirely to the right and thus leaves left ideologies, feminism in particular, looking glaringly hypocritical and wanting. Because of having conceded this ground, those left-of-center critics who address Islam are constantly attacked as pro-Christianity, rightwing, and of course ‘racist’ as a glaring substitute for responding to the actual argument at hand. Thus liberal pusillanimity erodes our already gasping public discourse.
The fact is also that identity politics needs an alarmist narrative to sustain itself. By fostering a simplistic view of Muslims as the “afflicted”, any criticism of Islamic values can be criticized as “punching down”.
By my count, 4 people are dead in anti-Muslims violence in America since 9/11, two of them non-Muslims, and one of teh Muslims killed by an ex-Muslim, that being with 99% of the populace as potential perpetrators, where as there have been 16 family-related murders among American Muslims with a clear religious dimension, and 40 non-Muslims murdered in political acts, including anti-Semitic attacks. There are also the 17 people murdered by John Allen Muhammad, however one chooses to tally those.
Meanwhile one of the most prominent Muslim-Americans, Reza Aslan, a darling on the left, was going around squealing about ‘unprecedented levels of Islamophobia’ all last autumn in response to Bill Maher. It is telling of why I deem Islam such a malign force that the honor murders ignite so little passion among Muslims, nor does the epidemic of FGM that is overwhelmingly a Muslim problem, but rather even many genuinely moderate Muslims of tepid faith choose to wallow in an endless sense of victimhood.
I have no doubt that the world would be a better place without Islam. I don’t fancy waiting 50 years or a century while Muslims sort themselves out. I’ve only got a very sketchy idea of what the words offensive, insult and so on mean, and then I’m not sure of their selectional restrictions. I though “Insult” was something you did to a sentient human being, not a dead one, or a book, or a religion.
Like many people, I was shocked to hear of the slaughter of the journalists in the Charlie Hebdo offices. I was in equal parts astonished that it was apparently possible in France, go up to a newspaper building wearing a balaclava and brandishing Kalashnikov’s and still gain entry. Because if there were two targets for Islamic extremists in France they were, in order of importance, Charlie Hebdo and the Elysée Palace. One evidently received rather better protection than the other.
Why were the Hebdo journalists, numbering amongst them some of France’s best known and best-loved humourists, left to carry the flag of freedom of speech more or less alone? And here, I think, academics have a lot to answer for. It is academics who really ought to protect freedom of speech and the the right to argue positions that some people would rather not hear. Yet with the blood still fresh on the floor of the Hebdo offices on Wednesday, it seemed that academic opinion was if anything condemnatory of the cartoonists.
It was revealing that on the BBC’s flagship news program (t6he World Tonight), pride of place went to two academics. One was Chis Allen, professor of social policy at the University of Birmingham, who was asked what he thought the implications of the attacks were for ‘Islamophobia’. Without pausing for a word about the recent victims, he launched into speculation that islamophobes might attack and spit at women in hi-jabs in the street, and expressed concern that the attack might ‘reinforce fears’ about Islam. In his view, the Hebdo massacre would be used as an opportunity for “prejudice and bigotry and hate”. He agreed with the interviewer that ‘extremist voices’, and ‘pockets of anti-Islam’ – terms that by by context and association included the Hebdo journalists’ – had become mainstream.
On the same program Arzu Merali, director of research of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, saw the massacre as part of a discourse in which members of minority communities were disempowered by racism.
It is all rather as Kenan Malik puts it above, self-censorship has become the order of the day, with the duty not to offend, Meanwhile real rights are being trampled underfoot.
(BTW, Locke wrote key documents whle working in the North Carolinas implementing slavery. I think a woman changed his mind about that later!)
Yes, I gave you enough rope … But please tell us why you are such a willing collaborator in your own execution …
Please let us know which of the immoral teachings of the evil doctrine of islam you find most appealing. Don’t bother looking for for any moral teachings, there aren’t any.
This is what needs to be said to anyone who plays the “offended” card.
Being offended is a choice. It is a choice that you get to make. Choosing to completely ignore the fact that you are offended is a choice I get to make.
The left/progressives/collectivists/zealots of any kind want their choices to dictate your behaviour. Do not let them.
Just so you understand, referring to the moral teachings of islam is just like referring to the moral teachings of white supremacy, a doctrine with which islam has a lot in common.
I think most rational and knowledgeable people would agree that Western nations, particularly those with a past as colonialist powers, have a rather large amount to answer for in the Islamic World; and that one might reasonably argue that they – “we” – are faced, to some extent, with the chickens coming home to roost. For instance, I’m in the midst of reading All the Shah’s Men which argues rather persuasively that a significant factor in the precipitation of Khomeini’s revolution was, apparently, the aborting of a more democratic one because it conflicted with British and American interests there – i.e., oil though some geopolitics as well.
Which is why I can sort of sympathize with those who say “understandable” in the context of Charlie Hebdo. After all, one might argue that the West is at war with Islam (we’ve always been at war with Islam – at least for the last 500 to 700 years) – and that CH’s cartoons were merely attacks on a different “front”. And that “they” were therefore “entitled” to respond in kind: “all’s fair in love and war”. Seems somewhat disingenuous at best that many get on their high horses and exercise their umbrage by sniffing “How dare they attack our most cherished institutions and values?” when “we” have been doing pretty much the same to them for some time.
Now one can easily argue that the two cases aren’t really equivalent, and that the Muslim response to the CH provocation was disproportionate. However, while I’ll readily sympathize with that position, I think it exhibits, or at least suggests, some serious anti-Islamic bias in assuming that the degree of “hurt” felt by Muslims has to be deprecated relative the “hurt” Westerners feel at the murder of cartoonists and satirists.
Not quite sure how “we” can get off the rather uncomfortable horns of that dilemma, but maybe acknowledging that state of war might be good start. And another might be some “truth & reconciliation” commission that recognizes the faults and flaws on both sides, if not some “irreconcilable differences” which might precipitate some wholesale “population exchanges” (1). However, to reiterate, while I think “our” record is hardly exemplary and unblemished, I don’t see that precludes an honest assessment of Islam, and the prospect of any meaningful integration of Muslim immigrants into Western societies – which is, I think, kind of somewheres between slim and none at best; Ibn Warraq [Why I’m Not A Muslim] argues that Islam is intrinsically antithetical to free speech and democracy – as the events of the last couple of weeks clearly illustrates.
And as case in point, you may wish to take look at Joseph Hoffmann’s Illiterate Islam (2). And then there’s this rather old [January 2011] Jesus and Mo (3) cartoon, the first panel of which has Jesus quoting something from Harris’ The End of Faith:
And finally, along the same line, there’s this from the book The Trouble With Islam Today (highly recommended though it could have done with an index) by Irshad Manji (as a practising if largely secular Muslim):
Poached. That is manifest fact, and it is merely the tip of a rather large and problematic iceberg. And it points to some intrinsic and systemic flaws within the entire religion, and those cultures which sustain it – and which were present largely before North America at least was populated by anything more than buffalo and native Indians.
Disingenuous at best to try to absolve Muslims of their contributions to their own predicaments by overly inflating those by the West. As Hoffmann concluded:
The “disproportionate” response to Charlie Hebdo was exactly what allah, the “Terrorist in Chief” of islam ordered. (koran, passim)
islam has been at war with the non-islamic world since the day it was “founded” approx 1400 years ago.
So you manage to confuse criticism with censorship, like any good “I’m allowed to say that, so it can’t be problematic”-debater. I have yet to see any “fake liberal” claiming that gunning down people is an acceptable way of criticism, and I seem to have just read a lot of text that says to me: mighty whitey just wants to help everyone, and it’s the intent that counts, so let’s never argue about how exactly some sort of “help” might come across as demeaning and accomplish nothing but resentment and contempt.
“I have yet to see any “fake liberal” claiming that gunning down people is an acceptable way of criticism…”
And I haven’t seen anyone saying that they’re claiming that.
What I do see is fake liberals and SJWs claiming that while the response was unacceptable, it was ‘understandable’ or that Hebdo brought it upon themselves.
To decide whether CH had “brought” anything “onto themselves” would be mixing up different questions by trying to find a single answer to all of them. To claim any singular party carries the whole responsibility for what happens between humans is ridiculous, no matter what side one chooses.
But to me the question “Does radical criticism of religion need racist and insulting depictions of people and their beliefs” is the important one for this text here, and it can clearly be answered with “no”.
There is nothing ‘fake liberal’ about seeing issues that people who use the label “SJW” as a derogatory clearly choose to ignore and thus are ready to accept any sort of real oppresion as a-ok, just as long as free speech is defended.
Heaven forbid though if ‘SJW’ mis-use said freedom of speech to voice their concerns about what is being freely being spoken (while actually never questioning the value of free speech) – that would totally be censorship again, a coward’s move and a betrayal of the liberal ideal, right?
There are a few that apply the term SJW to anyone that supports any social justice, but I’m not one of them. I use the term for most wrong-headed modern social justice, especially the type from online and offline zealots interested in letting any groups perceived to be oppressed do almost anything and shielding them from criticism.
In a sense, if Hebdo did not publish the cartoons this specific event would not have happened, obviously. But what is under criticism is the idea that the killers were in any way justified or understandable.
As for your question I can point that there are plenty that are offended by any criticism of their religion as well. There are also many religious people that would be offended by your insinuation that they can’t take a dig at their religion. You’ll always be offending someone and I’d rather that be the most conservative.
No one is censoring you out for saying what you are. I don’t have a problem with you saying that you want censorship, but don’t expect that to go without criticism. Unless you consider receiving criticism to be shutting you up.
Also, your quote about “racist and insulting depictions” makes me wonder if you glossed right over this part:
“What is really racist is the idea that only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule. Those who claim that it is ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ to mock the Prophet Mohammad, appear to imagine, with the racists, that all Muslims are reactionaries.”
(Commenting as new since wordpress allows only so many reply layers:)
” especially the type from online and offline zealots interested in letting any groups perceived to be oppressed do almost anything and shielding them from criticism.”
— that again would imply that someone claimed that gunning down people is acceptable under the circumstances, and that the islamists had no other choice. You previously denied that anyone made that claim, but this is what at least to me ‘shielding them from criticism by categorizing them as opressed’ would mean.
“In a sense, if Hebdo did not publish the cartoons this specific event would not have happened, obviously.But what is under criticism is the idea that the killers were in any way justified or understandable.”
— Understandable yes, justified no. In my book, nothing that can be understood is immediately justified. An important distinction to me. And to argue that criticizing forms of satire is a coward’s game because it only questions the value of free speech in fear of violent reprisal is lacking any distinction whatsoever.
“As for your question I can point that there are plenty that are offended by any criticism of their religion as well. There are also many religious people that would be offended by your insinuation that they can’t take a dig at their religion. You’ll always be offending someone and I’d rather that be the most conservative.”
— Yes, it is hard to question religious core beliefs of others without a sense of provocation. It is even harder though when said provocation includes perceived racist and generalized jabs at whole cultures. It depends on where it is published, who publishes it, and who reads it. I definitely *don’t* think that there are no religious who can’t take a dig at their religion (They, however, would obviously not be that offended by something that does not happen?). And yes, someone will always be offended. But I prefer it to be those about whose opinion I don’t hope to sway with my forms of criticism anyway (that includes uncritical, reflex-driven overzealots of any kind btw, even the SJW ones). Anyone else, I better make sure to not having to work afterwards on distancing myself from this and that accusation, which eats away the time I have to actually make my point. That is today’s culture, which you can like or not (it’s honestly nerve-wracking to me), but it exists and can’t be argued away.
“No one is censoring you out for saying what you are. I don’t have a problem with you saying that you want censorship, but don’t expect that to go without criticism. Unless you consider receiving criticism to be shutting you up.”
— I’m not sure where this comes from now, but I completely agree.
“What is really racist is the idea that only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule….”
— I certainly do not believe that. I do believe though that white liberals will have a harder time convincing people who view them as ‘outsiders’ of the good intentions they had with their funny little pictures. See above: ‘perceived racist and generatlized jabs at whole cultures’. Not to mention the applause they get from ‘truth-seeking’ people in the same country who care little for minorities in the first place, and would love nothing more than to see them gone (along with “left/progressives/collectivists/zealots”)…
I think if you reply to the latest comment that allows a reply, it’ll appear below the replies to that, flat thread style.
“Shielding them from criticism” to me is a spectrum from “it was understandable and they were provoked so it was partially the satirists’ fault” to outright justification.
Why exactly were they “understandable”? Because Hebdo should not have done what it did? Where does this duty not to offend come from? Why do you only apply it to some people and not others? Because of racism? There’s a huge difference between satirizing a set of beliefs and making bigoted comments about a race or ethnicity, and with the latter they still have a right to say it so they can get called out.
You again assert the cartoons are racist. Ignoring the Muslims that are not offended by them, you also seem to think all people of certain ethnicities must be Muslim and/or must be following the cultures associated with their ethnicity. To say that Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons are racist against ‘brown’ people is to act as if all ‘brown’ people are Muslim.
My comment about no one censoring you out was based upon what you said here: “Heaven forbid though if ‘SJW’ mis-use said freedom of speech to voice their concerns about what is being freely being spoken (while actually never questioning the value of free speech) – that would totally be censorship again, a coward’s move and a betrayal of the liberal ideal, right?”
I am not too bothered by Christian conservative bigots applauding such cartoons or being on my side on anything. It might raise some suspicions if I have racists on my side on other issues, but on this it’s pretty clear why that’s the case – both of us are opposed to Islamism. The fact that they are opposed to all Muslims in general isn’t going to change my position. I’m based on principles, not who currently happens to be on my side for entirely different reasons.
Actions of people become understandable when mindsets, motivations and circumstances are known. Whether someone *should* have done or not done something is again a question of justification, and I think I made clear that I differentiate between the two.
There is also no “duty not to offend” – but awareness of whom I am going to offend, be it “SJWs” or people I may actually not want to offend (because I’ be busy afterwards explaining how I didn’t mean something a certain way instead of being able to focus on my actual point can be a useful timesaver – if of course I am serious about my desire to encourage critical thought.
Let’s maybe take a look at this strange argument that something can only be racist if all members of an ethnic group feel offended by it. Would you argue that the worst imaginable depiction of e.g. a Chinese person is not racist at all just because there are Chinese people who laugh at it instead of feeling offended? Would you then go on to demand that all Chinese are supposed to laugh at it and that anyone with hurt feelings over awfully stereotypical imagery must be wrong to feel this way?
I don’t think the exact amount of offense caused bears any direct relation to the stereotypical content of an image or text. As you rightly put, someone will always be offended at something. And some people will never feel offended by anything. And yes it would probably be a nice world in which everyone could just laugh these off (or would it?) But I don’t believe it it is anywhere near.
You’re again conflating race with religion, and giving no reason as to why. A cartoon mocking Judaism as a religion is not racist. A cartoon mocking Jews as an ethnic group is racist. A cartoon mocking Islam is not racist. A cartoon mocking Middle Easterners is racist. Racist cartoons should still be allowed to be published and called out. Cartoons mocking religion should be published and debated, without bringing in the topic of race. Stop treating race and religion as the same.
As far as genuinely racist stuff goes, I judge it for myself if it has any bullshit stated about a group based on their race. I don’t base things on how offensive someone finds it, and I don’t operate on a principle of “listen solely to them, they’re right on everything concerning them”. That’s for the SJWs, not me. I only point out the existence of people that aren’t offended because it proves SJWs constantly ignore and silence the people they’re supposedly standing for, when they go against their narratives.
I am and was not conflating anything: I was talking about racism in my example, and racism only. And I don’t think racist caricatures should be published – because I can’t well both agree with calling racist things out and at the same time deny that I would prefer racist content not being published. Whether I think that the proper way of ensuring that are laws (which I of course doubt, because censorship in a legal meaning is something I abhor) is beside that point for that first decision in where my political will goes.
As for religion, stereotypical depictions can be just as hurtful there: Maybe you know what it is like being a rather progressive, liberal person of a certain faith, then see that faith attacked by generalizations, ridicule and fearmongering. If so, I wouldn’t understand why you had no desire to speak out against “funny” imagery and texts that, aimed at people you don’t feel connected to at all, spread a wrong picture about your beliefs and are suited to move a majority against you. In germany, a lot of newspapers and magazines do not tire these days of asking “how dangerous is Islam” – I’m an atheist myself but I have no trouble understanding how moderate muslims will feel repeatedly offended by that, and rightfully fear an increasingly hostile climate. As I have said, there is no duty not to offend. But awareness or at least an attempt of imagination of whom I am going to offend can be prudent in any political endeavour, be it satirical, parlamental or activism. It is this kind of responsibility I miss when people hold free speech as sacred – almost religiously so.
I’m more than grateful that you repeatedly have invested time (and possibly nerves) in replying to my numerous comments. At this point though I’d be content not to pester you any longer. I also have the gut feeling we are both slightly missing each other’s points (or even just me missing yours) but I can’t put my finger on it. In any case: thank you for indulging me. It may not seem that way to you, but what you have written resonates with me to some degree (otherwise I wouldn’t have argued about it so much, of course).
See you maybe,
It’s not inconsistent at all to both support racists’ freedom of expression and oppose the content of what they are saying. Malik has already written plenty about this. To use a more extreme analogy, just because I refuse to murder a racist doesn’t mean I endorse at all what they’re saying. It means that I still value their right to live, just as I value their freedom of speech. Neither means I’m endorsing anything they say, and I really wish people like you would grasp this better. In fact it seems to be an example of the fallacy of P therefore Q, Q therefore P. If I support the content of something, it could follow that I would support the right of it to be spoken, but if I support the right of it to be spoken, that doesn’t mean I support the content of it.
Moderate Muslims are right to fear an increasingly hostile climate, but that comes from genuine Islamophobia mostly from the right, not cartoons from atheists who while satirizing their religion, also support their freedom of religion and oppose discrimination. I’m an atheist as well, but I would expect these moderate Muslims to join with me against all religious extremism. Just because the political climate often doesn’t distinguish between “Islam” and “Islamism” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. We ought to point it’s Islamism that’s dangerous, not Islam, and support the Muslims that oppose Islamism. Nuance becomes ever more important in an un-nuanced world.
You’re not really pestering me, and I’m glad what I’ve said resonates with you. For what it’s worth I’m only sympathetic to responsibility if we’re talking about personal etiquette at a dinner table so as not to cause awkward moments, but public spaces are a completely different situation.
Well, I thought I made it clear that my honest wish that racists rather not say racists things does *not* mean that I wish they weren’t allowed to say it by legal means. I really don’t believe in censorship as measure to enforce enlightenment, quite the opposite. But the goal itself does not change just because there are methods other than law to work for a reduction in racist or otherwise offensively biased expression. And based on previous experiences, I initially was (but am not anymore) burdened by the feeling that “people like you” (to return the stereotypical treatment) who are ready to support racist’s rights to say racist things have the defense of free speech as their main focus, and care a little less about the problematic nature of what is actually being said. Such was the problem of the german pirate party I observed – a lot of free speech activists there who viewed any (mostly left-wing) criticism of racist or misogynistic expressions from inside the party as an attack on free speech, which resulted in a massive backlash against those perceived as ‘dogmatic do-gooders’, and finally, a schism, lots of quitters, and the end of the whole party as a politically relevant group. To be sure: This is not an attempt to put *you* in this ‘free speech nut’ corner – just an explanation of where I was coming from, and what my worries were made of. You have by now made it abundantly clear that you neither ignore nor belittle problems of racism or other forms of opressions, so I think there’s little need to keep arguing about this this one.
“Nuance becomes ever more important in an un-nuanced world.”
I completely agree. And yet I maintain that expectations of support can fall flat when there is little thought for how potential supporters will perceive my messages. That, to my understanding, is the essence of politics, of taking other viewpoints and their possible reactions into account, and I believe it matters more in public space than at the dinner table, if I truly care about my goals, and believe in the influence of my satirical attempts (because if I’m doing it just for particularly clever laughs, I won’t care about such things, of course).
Many people say they despise politics and diplomacy. They like to more or less shout their insights at the world and whoever does not immediately becomes enlightened by that gets sooner or later accused of having chosen not to, or having chosen to be offended instead. The temptation to fall into that M.O. is great sometimes, especially when frustration runs high, and I have my fair share every day of giving in to it. But I will hopefully never defend it as a reasonable way of communicating ideas, no matter how good the cause, or how desperate a crisis.