Charlie Hebdo, Selective Free Speech and Muslim Minority Discrimination

Anti-Muslim Backlash has Begun

As the world now knows, three masked men stormed Charlie Lebdo offices killing 12 employees including four cartoon artists a few days ago. As I write this, they are still at large leaving a trail of damage.

As is the norm now, Muslim organisations have come out condemning the action.  Nevertheless the discourse rapidly focussed on two key areas, which are typically only discussed in the Muslim context.

Free Speech and Propaganda

Reading statements from politicians and emotionally-charged papers defending “free speech”, the fact that free speech is not absolute, is continually ignored.  The right to life is an absolute non-derogable right.  Thus balancing the two rights in the human rights discourse would mean giving way to one when the two are in jeopardy.  This is not something new. Balancing competing rights happens every day in the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights restrictions may be imposed on freedom of expression “for the respect of the reputations and rights of others”, and protection of national security, public order, health and morals.[1]

As it is there needs to be some pressing questions which need to be answered. Rights, as I discussed last year, is often used as a stick to beat the Muslim minority with. The freedom of expression is an important right.  After all, it is the protection measure for the people against the state and a fundamental mechanism of holding the executive to account, sharing knowledge and challenging ideas. The question is however, at what point does it become hate speech and/or propaganda to alienate a minority and normalise xenophobia? A further restriction on freedom of expression lies in the prohibition of abusive invocation of rights. Article 5(1) states,

“Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.”

As such Article 20(2) requires that, “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

The French Muslims have been systemically discriminated against, their places of worship desecrated and attacked, their religious manifestations curbed and their faith repeatedly mocked. Freedom is binned when a Muslim woman wears a hijab on the beach. The European Court of Human Rights in its judgement upholding the French ban on the veil acknowledged that the discourse leading up to the enactment of the law banning the veil was in fact Islamophobic thus demonstrating that discrimination against Muslims is strongly institutional.

CharlieHebdoEgyptprotestTo foment further discrimination of the Muslim minority through increasingly repugnant anti-Muslim drawings in such a politically charged environment smacks of Goebbels’s strategy to demonise the Jews. Take for instance the paper’s incredibly disgusting image depicting a caricaturised Egyptian protester being riddled with bullets by the Egyptian army.  Mocking one of the worst massacres of protestors in recent history, the writing on the cover translates as “killing in Egypt – the Qur’an is s**t – it does not stop the bullets”. The propaganda image at the very least normalises the killing of Muslims and wanton attacks on the Qur’an, at a time when Muslims were being massacred by the military. It is purely Nazi-esque. In 1946, Julius Striecher, editor-in-chief of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer, was convicted by International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. According to the Tribunal,

“Striecher’s incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial ground in connection with war crimes… and constitutes a crime against humanity”.[2]

Were it not for common decency, I would present an open challenge to “satirists” and papers to depict a picture of a Jew holding the Torah while being gassed in a chamber. I for one would condemn such actions. Would the defenders of free speech publish such an image? Or perhaps publish a “satirical piece” on how no one really died in the holocaust? At this point the liberals point to the fact that free speech must be exercised within the confines of the law and in French law anti-Semitism is banned, thus conceding the point that unfettered free speech in society is not possible and a blatant unreflective delusion.

As a matter of “principle” (for free speech purists), one needs to question why the Holocaust is such a “sensitive” issue that it is off-limits for “criticism”, or, in the present context, “satire”.  Why are the “freedom to offend” brigade so deafeningly silent on this topic? If satire involving a religious figure who is central to the hearts of a minority to such an extent that it evokes strong emotions globally is open game, then what is so sacrosanct about the Jewish holocaust that any criticism or expression of suspicion must be gagged through law? If a protestor holding his sacred Book is being shot in Egypt can be depicted in such a repugnant fashion, which “principle” restricts its application to Jewish sensitivities and why is this restriction not universally applied?

Today’s freedom-defending French President François Hollande called the attack “an attack on free speech”. A year ago, celebrating the ban on comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala’s performance before France’s anti-semitism laws were breached, Hollande declared the decision a “victory”. Casting doubt over Charlie Hebdo’s claims that they satirise everyone, in 2009, when their cartoonist Maurice Sinet made a snide remark and drew cartoons about Jean Sarkozy’s marriage to a Jewish heiress, he was promptly fired when he refused to apologise on the editor’s orders.

It is clear that some human beings are more entitled to human rights than others.

David Cameron

This hypocritical application of free speech couldn’t be more acute in the British context than Cameron’s statement on the French shooting. Condemning the actions as a sickening attack on press freedom, he said,

“We stand united with the French people in our opposition to all forms of terrorism and stand squarely for free speech and democracy.”

This is of course, rather rich coming from the leader of a government whose laws detain, harass, and monitor journalists.

Cameron’s government is pushing forward with measures which gag dissenting voices, and ban speakers from speaking at universities. In fact, the PREVENT strategy which draws parallels with Nazi Germany and East Germany’s Stasi goes beyond free speech and seeks to discriminate and sanction based on thought, thus violating the absolute right of freedom of conscious and belief!

Cameron couldn’t be more hypocritical even if he tried.

Collective Amnesia and Framing the Discourse

Interestingly, when news of a number of Swedish masaajid being attacked hit headlines, they were described by the media and state officials as “arson attacks” thus given the action a criminal framework (see here, here, and here for example). Where the perpetrator is allegedly a Muslim, the public, papers and politicians in Western nations rapidly deploy their highly politicised “terrorism” linguistic-armoury. Following this, “free speech” and “values” are used to evoke a sense of collectiveness, similar in method adopted by authoritarian demagogues of the past.

Often the broader public, as evident on social media networks, suffer from a collective amnesia. “Only Muslims kill!” “You don’t see Jews and Christian killing when they are offended”. Except they do. The only problem is it is not as comprehensively broadcast daily as it neither serves the purposes of the right-wing and neocons in Western governments. When it is reported, it is done so from a different perspective.

If we continue to use the human rights framework to frame the attacks, then far-right, Christian fundamentalist terrorist Anders Breivik, attacked a much weightier right: the right for immigrants, Muslims and those who support multiculturalism to exist in Norway. In other words, Breivik attacked the fundamental right to life of minorities and those he politically differed with. The same applies to Pavlo Lapshyn, who murdered an 80 year old and bombed masaajid in Britain. His intent was to create a race war and kill “non-whites”, thus denying them the right to life purely on the basis of their skin colour.

On 7th of January of this year, a white man committed a “terrorist” attack in Colorado, US, against the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, one of the oldest civil rights groups in the US. Again, this attack, if framed in the human rights discourse can be viewed as an attack on the freedoms of “coloured” people. The provocation is the existence of “coloured” people in a given area. The same can be applied to far-right, white supremacist attacks on Jews in the US last year, and the several far-right terrorist attacks in the preceding years.

But you will never read a report entitled “far-right, white, Christian terrorist attack on Muslims provoked by their fundamental right to exist”. Nor will you see the level of reporting, national debates, and continued Muslim-reaction baiting we are currently witnessing.

Provocation and Backlash

As is the norm with such events, a backlash has already begun, with #killallMuslims hashtag trending on Twitter. Masaajid and kebab shops have been subjected to French “terrorist attacks”, despite the chorus of condemnation from Muslim leaders. Of course, the Daily Mail and Western media generally won’t class these as terrorist attacks. They are but white, non-Muslims “coming to terms” with what has passed.

And herein lies a more subtle point. When a “provocation” is made against western nations in their own countries, we witness a backlash by the white people; mosques are bombed and Muslims are terrorised, yet there seems to be an inability to comprehend or a refusal to accept Muslim backlash when western nations bomb Muslim lands, exploit their resources and destroy future generations. At its most basic level, both cases are emotional responses to provocation which continue cyclical violence. Yet one is humanised whilst the other, is dehumanised. It is this unceasing hypocrisy which undercuts the Western liberal discourses which will continue to demarcate the dire situation of the Muslim minorities and fuel resentment.

Concluding Remarks

Globally Muslims feel the pain that French Muslims feel when the noble Prophet peace be upon is insulted, for verily he is revered more than the human who gave birth to us. It hurts us when the French racists and xenophobes use the Muslims to pedal themselves to power, curtail their freedoms in the name of freedom, perpetuating an atmosphere of hate. We understand Muslim minority discrimination all too well.

The discourses around such attacks certainly emphasis an important point. The Muslims do not benefit from such actions, neither do the perpetrators spiritually as they break the commands of their faith.  It does however, provide a justification for further persecution of the Muslim minorities, further curtailment of freedoms and further military invasions abroad as the hot pursuit for the ever evasive “Islamist extremism” materialises exasperation. For particular policy-makers and politicians, events like these are a benefit; be it whipping up fear to manufacture consent of an uniformed public, winning the upcoming elections, justifying French military invasion of North Africa, or all three. Indeed the neoconservative and Zionist advisors in Western governments feed off such tragedies and direct their renewed warmongering vigour through their policies.  When the September 11th attacks occurred, Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan university that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks had been beneficial for Israel. The neocon David Brooks wrote,

“Sept. 11th really did leave a residue — an unconsummated desire for sacrifice and service.”

Of course this self-sacrifice translated well in the jingoist neocon plans for global hegemony. In the Great Game, such actions play neatly into the hands of those who wish to exploit the vulnerable mood.


References:

[1] Art.19(3)

[2] Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of Major War Criminals, Cmd.6964 (London: HMSO, 1946)

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8 thoughts on “Charlie Hebdo, Selective Free Speech and Muslim Minority Discrimination

  1. Free speech” insulting others beliefs , free speech” why is islam targeted but anyone else killing like Israel bombing gaza n killing innocent children not targeted by the cartoonists, it’s not free speech it’s insulting others beliefs , why are people after the prophet .

  2. Where to begin? Your name is appropriate – you are ( like a large number of muslims) only concerned about muslims. I do get confused about muslims – they seem almost as keen to kill each other as the rest of us. Still, you say sunni, I say shia….
    I’m a lapsed catholic – lapsed because I don’t need anyone’s god to be able to behave in a civilised manner and indeed I dislike what most people’s gods seem to find acceptable behaviour. I’m in my 60’s and have mainly Irish blood. When my ancestors came to this country they abided by the law of the land and got on with life – not unlike the sizeable jewish population in the UK ( which doesn’t mean that I think the Israeli government is correct in its actions).
    There appears to me to be a sizeable proportion of uk muslims who are happy to live within UK law – they may feel grateful for living in a country which amongst other benefits and unlike many islamic countries, allows them to follow, or not, whichever religion they wish. However, there’s a vociferous section – such as yourself, who feel aggrieved at this, that and the other.
    Your father or your father’s father etc etc came here because they felt they ( and their children) would be better off. If they thought they could impose their own laws on this country they were wrong and you’re the victim ( and from what I’ve read you’re very good at being a victim).
    So you need to sod off to one of those delightful looking countries where you and a few thousand other testosterone fuelled males ( no sign of women, obviously) can have a good shout and feed each others sense of entitlement.
    You could carry a banner with a picture of a hand with a pen labelled “The pen is mightier than the sword” and another hand labelled islam wielding a scimitar labelled “sharia” cutting that hand off at the wrist. You and many of your readers will nod approvingly at that.

    P.S. I cannot adequately express how sick to death I ( and many,many others) am at hearing the word muslim especially as it’s almost invariably followed by a report about some murderous act carried out in the name of this “peace loving” religion. Mind you, that’s all just an invention of the zionist, neo con press ( hope I’ve used the right buzzwords there)

    • Hi John,
      Thank you for taking your time out to comment on the blog. I chose to tender your comment because from the many abuse comments I receive, your comment seemed sincere and heartfelt. For that I thank you. My responses are below your quoted text.

      “Where to begin? Your name is appropriate – you are ( like a large number of muslims) only concerned about muslims.”

      This blog, yes is about my concerns, and for this blog, yes they do focus on Muslims. The black movemvents in America focussed on the black community and fought for equality, they didn’t campaign for human rights in China. As for “a large number of Muslims”, I don’t blame you for making such an unsubstantiated claim, the government along with the media machine has ensured you draw this conclusion from all the reports.

      “I do get confused about muslims – they seem almost as keen to kill each other as the rest of us. Still, you say sunni, I say shia….”

      No need to be confused, this is from an earlier blog:
      The previously peacefully coexisting Sunnis and Shia, are now, post-Iraq war, at each other’s throats. Perhaps the incident of 19th September 2005 can shed some light on this. On this day two undercover British SAS operatives, dressed in traditional Arab garb who were planning to set off bombs in the main square in Basra coinciding with a religious event, were caught in the act, imprisoned and then broken out of the police station by the British army. The leading thinker and linguist, Noam Chomsky, writes,
      “By now, Shiites and Sunnis are the bitterest enemies, thanks to the sledgehammer wielded by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney… and others like them who understand nothing beyond violence and terror and have helped to create conflicts that are now tearing the region to shreds.”

      “When my ancestors came to this country they abided by the law of the land and got on with life – not unlike the sizeable jewish population in the UK ( which doesn’t mean that I think the Israeli government is correct in its actions).
      There appears to me to be a sizeable proportion of uk muslims who are happy to live within UK law – they may feel grateful for living in a country which amongst other benefits and unlike many islamic countries, allows them to follow, or not, whichever religion they wish. However, there’s a vociferous section – such as yourself, who feel aggrieved at this, that and the other.”

      As Catholic Irish, I am sure you aware of the Troubles dating back to over 400 years. Wherever there are grievances, there will be an airing of those grievances. I am not living in an “Islamic” country (there isn’t one which fits that country – most if not all countries are manipulated by the West through iron-fisted puppet regimes following the Sykes-Picot). I am living in Britain, which apparently proclaims values of tolerance, mutual respect etc, yet the government, bound by rule of law does not follow these values themselves and seek to undermine them at any given opportunity. it’s not good enough to simply be “better off than Islamic countries” – no, as a person born in this country, it is my right to be treated as other faith groups are treated, without government interference in architecting the “right religion” and without stigmatising faith practices shared with other religions yet singled out because of political expediency.
      Also there are vociferous section of the British community who campaign for other things. Singling out a “vociferous” section in the Muslim minority seems a little discriminatory, no?

      “Your father or your father’s father etc etc came here because they felt they ( and their children) would be better off.”

      Please don’t assume you know my background.

      “If they thought they could impose their own laws on this country they were wrong and you’re the victim ( and from what I’ve read you’re very good at being a victim).”

      Given you have read my blog, please quote the text in which I have called for our “own” laws to be imposed in this country? Buying into the right-wing media a bit too much John.

      As for “being a victim”, every article written, is supported through a testifying link. If highlight facts point to me being a victim then point to the facts not the one communicating to them. By the way is that what would would say to the Irish Catholics who were seeking a united Ireland in the 1920s? A bunch of moaners with a victimhood mentality imposing their ideas of nationalism through terrorism and war? According to the Mi5 head Andrew Parker, 20 Irish terror plots had been thwarted. Are they suffering from excessive grievances victimhood mentality?
      The black people used to be told that they too that they were playing the victimhood card too. Not much has changed it seems.

      “So you need to sod off to one of those delightful looking countries where you and a few thousand other testosterone fuelled males ( no sign of women, obviously) can have a good shout and feed each others sense of entitlement. You could carry a banner with a picture of a hand with a pen labelled “The pen is mightier than the sword” and another hand labelled islam wielding a scimitar labelled “sharia” cutting that hand off at the wrist. You and many of your readers will nod approvingly at that.”

      That’s not very nice is it John? Thank you for the suggestion though, but no thanks.
      Firstly, you do not know whether I am man or woman, so please stop assuming things about me. I was born and bred here. I practice the values of respect and tolerance I learned through my education here before the neocons took power in government. These were values I experienced through good non-Muslims and which I tried to reciprocate in the best of ways. This is my country. You need to get over it. As for your suggested portrait, it is reflective of you inability to comprehend the double standards employed in the West:
      Here take read of this: https://coolnessofhind.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/we-must-defend-free-speech-but-respect-my-british-values-muslim/
      And also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2906539/Calls-BBC-reporter-resign-told-daughter-Holocaust-survivors-Paris-Palestinians-suffer-hugely-Jewish-hands-well.html?printingPage=true
      Yes I accept there nutters who will act impulsively, but in the West, free speech is selective institutionally.

      “Mind you, that’s all just an invention of the zionist, neo con press ( hope I’ve used the right buzzwords there)”

      Bang on!: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Tf8UVa54O5AC&pg=PA226&lpg=PA226&dq=fox+neoconservatives+and+think+tanks&source=bl&ots=uKxsxMm9sr&sig=F2AhjBVE_JRHMp9cVXR61j8fbmk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Xtm2VKTWK9PhaJ7EgfAJ&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=fox%20neoconservatives%20and%20think%20tanks&f=false

      Regards,

    • John . John . John.

      1) Sectarianism – let’s take a look at some non muslim sectariansim

      I) Protestant/Catholic 2)Catholic/Orthodox 3)Capitalist/Communist/Fascist/Nazi/Zionist 4)Global North/South.

      I’m sure if we counted the skulls of these modern largely western white sectarian driven conflicts vs Muslims in their totality, the everst of white European mass murder would stand tall and high over the hill of Muslim sectarian Violence. Your oriental reductions ignorance and bigotry only serve to diminish you. And your patchy I’ll though out argument.

      2)Catholics and Jews are law abiding therefore they got on.

      Once again your ignorance is matched only by your bigotary.

      I) No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish , forgotten that ?
      ii) anti Jewish pogroms, expulsion of Jews from UK, turning back refugees from Nazi Germany.
      iii) the entire British history of anti catholic violebce and oppression after the reformation?

      Have you forgotten all this, or were you just blisfully ignorant

      One of the problems with racism is that it is often not dependent of the actions of the object but rather the actions of the subject , which are almost invariably produced as a result of privilege power and associated structures to maintain and propogate racism , bigotry and nowadays islamaphobia.

      The Catholic, The Jew and nowadays The Muslim could be a model citizen, but that’s irrelevant , because he is largely an imagined creature, who shares certain charecteristics that make him responsible for his suffering and marginalisation. Eg The Papist who has loyalty to Rome and not King Henry , The Usurus Jew who exploits poor Christian peasants, and of course the violent, backward Muslim who hates ‘us’ but loves our freedoms.

      You sir are a bigot, the kind and quality who hounded who murderd who burnt to death witches, women, Catholics and Jews at the stake , and the sheep within would do the same to the The Muslim if only society gave you the moral courage.

      3) Western Freedom vs Muslim Barbarity a driver for immigration.

      Again you miss the point by a country mile, or are you merely intelligent enough only to regurgitate Nazi propoganda?

      The main driver for modern muslim immigration post WWII has always been economic, not legal. In fact post WWII your racisy chums like Enoch Powell spent alot of time recruiting from impoverished muslim colonies. The same way English colonialism decimated Ireland Eire Ulster so that your ignorant and racist person was forced to come here, the same caused peace loving Indians to come here too.

      4) Victimhood

      Pervsive Oppression is often structural , as it benifits and privledges a group against another. Therefore one must attack with regular disdain and ferocity the underlying assumptions that create and maintain these structures, its a pity you mistake attacking with the axe of righteous fury the base of the racist tree you sit atop, a victimhood mentality.

      It only goes to show how deep the hatred has penetrated your heart and how shallow the cavity that holds your brain.

      5) Shariah vs Modern Law/State/Liberty

      This is a huge topic but suffice to say Shariah is regarded as more of a robust system by many Muslims, and some non Muslims for the Islamic world than the modern European American system. As shariah is organic there , to its inhabitants , of its inhabitabants and for its inhabitants. This modern law/state and world is alien. Hence the Resistance to its acceptance and its assumption of superiority. The modern law /state bends and moulds your subjectivity to it’s changing will , to the latest power dynamic devoid of a moral impulse, hence it seeks to control and dictate from afar your absolute loyalty. Yet shariah as a product of an autonomous and largely self sustaining community of antiquity , created societies that were set up for the individual , who’s purpose was to live the moral and good life, when it worked it worked wel . Better at represent ing the popular will that the system we have today.

      If you had lived or known of how shairah operated, with your xenophobic mindset I bet you’d be with Anjum Choudary and I’d be telling you to calm your tits.

      6) Is Islam peace loving or Barbaric?

      Muslims, aim to live in a way to please Allah and to gain his favour. The religion its shariah, and its thrust is a moral one its impulse to create structures and see the world as unity, with both the physical and metaphysical subdued to the Almighty under a legal moral frame work. Expressed through its shariah. The good Muslims is a GOOD muslim, a good person who does good for goods sake and to gain the pleasure, and ajr reward of Allah.

      A child could tell you that, yet for you an image a monster has been created , a narrative and system by which your elites can distract you from their oppression, and you distract your slef from your own inadequacy by displacing it onto others.

      You are lost, you are full of hatred, bile and supremacism. Yet you walk a well trodden path laid out for you, and used in the recent and distant past against those law abiding , papists, Jews, gauls, goths, etc. It may be to late for me as a muslim to save myself in the tinderbox of xenaphobia that is europe but the real question for you is , can you save yourself from yourself or you destined to goosestep and nazi salute yourself into the darkest deepest depths of hell.

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