Charlie Hebdo vs Radical Islam

In the battle between radical Islamists and Charlie Hebdo, I’m going to give the win to Charlie Hebdo. The French satirical magazine was firebombed this week after offending some Muslim extremists.

Its latest edition carries a cartoon image of a bearded Mohammed – something which is blasphemous under Islamic law – and pretends that it is being ‘guest edited’ by the Prophet.

It is accompanied by the slogan ‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter’, and the magazine is renamed ‘Sharia Hebdo’, after Sharia law.

To be fair, the cartoonist did not immediately blame Muslims for the attack.

Luz, the cartoonist who drew the cover cartoon at the centre of the controversy, said it was still unclear who had carried out the attack.

“Let’s be cautious. There’s every reason to believe it’s the work of fundamentalists but it could just as well be the work of two drunks,” he said in the Thursday supplement.

Since then however, their website has been hacked and their home page replaced

The newspaper’s website was also hacked, with its regular home page replaced with a photo of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and a message reading: “No god but Allah”.

French news site said the cyberattack was carried out by Turkish hacker group Akincilar, which said it took the action to “fight against a publication that attacks beliefs and moral values.”

The hosting company has taken Charlie Hebdo’s site down and refused to restore it, citing death threats as the reason. Whether or not it was Muslims or drunkards who did the firebombing, the radicals have taken up the fight.

A word about the history of the magazine

Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical magazine, has its roots in the 1960s, under the name of Hara-Kiri Hebdo, when an irreverent cartoon culture was rising at the same time as the May 1968 libertarian revolution and its emblematic slogan “It’s forbidden to forbid”.

Charlie Hebdo is also the successor to a deeply rooted French anti-clerical satirical culture, dating back to the heated debate about laïcité (secularism), which led to the separation of church and state in France in 1905..

The irreverent tone of Hara-Kiri’s joyful band of cartoonists led to early troubles. In 1970, when Charles de Gaulle, founder of the fifth republic, died in his home town of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, one week after a fire in a disco killed more than 100 youths, the magazine had a highly disrespectful headline: “Tragic ball in Colombey: one dead”.

The successors of De Gaulle were outraged and banned the paper, under an obsolete (and now defunct) law. Hara-Kiri disappeared, soon to be reincarnated as Charlie Hebdo, with no less rage and irreverence.

As you would expect, there are some who blame the magazine for their troubles. If only you wouldn’t offend  these people, nothing would have happened. From Time Magazine.

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

He is absolutely wrong in his assessment. We all have the right to offend and be offended.  Charlie Hebdo has been in court numerous times defending itself against people who were offended by the often nasty satire the magazine publishes. This is the way we do things is a civilized country. We don’t resort to violence to attack those who offend us. If we do, we are punished according to the severity of the attack (at least that’s the theory).

Of course, we must recognize that the attackers are only a small subset of Muslims. The majority do not condone the use of violence.

While French Muslim groups criticised Charlie Hebdo’s work, they also condemned the firebomb attack. The head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, told a news conference on Thursday: “I am extremely attached to freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque.”

“French Muslims have nothing to do with political Islam,” he added.

On the other hand, the as soon as the news spread, the magazine was almost immediately sold out. Not only that, how many of us have ever heard of Charlie Hebdo before? So, injuries/deaths: none. International fame for a small magazine: huge. More condemnation for radical religious over-reaction: definitely.

The magazine wins hands down.



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