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Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Hebdo

UN: Israel Killed 15 Journalists in Summer 2014, “Purposefully” Targeting Many

This article is published in Mondoweiss.

The story of the 7 January 2015 storming of the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French publication with a history of racist, anti-Muslim caricatures, has inundated the Western media.

The attack, tragically leaving at least 12 dead, has been touted as a “free speech” issue by the first government in the world to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

(This framing has distorted the fact that it was torture at Abu Ghraib and the US war on Iraq that left 100,000s of civilians dead, not cartoons, that radicalized the impoverished shooters, sons of émigrés from Algeria, a country that was a French colony until the end of a bloody war of independence in 1962.)

The subsequent taking of hostages in a Parisian kosher supermarket by an acquaintance of the shooters was an even more despicable act, leading to the deaths of at least four. Both incidents are horrific tragedies, and deserve harsh condemnation.

Yet they have exponentially overshadowed equally tragic recent attacks on journalists.

In its November 2012 attack on Gaza, “Operation Pillar of Defense,” the Israeli government admitted that it was targeting journalists. This trend was revisited only months ago in Israel’s summer 2014 assault, “Operation Protective Edge,” an incursion that left 2,310 dead—over 1,500 of whom were civilians, including at least 500 children—and 10,626 wounded.

While the Western media has scrupulously tracked the Charlie Hebdo attack and subsequent hostage crisis for the scantest of updates, and while the calamity dominates discussions on social media—and also while the Fourth Estate ceaselessly speaks of ISIS’ heinous killings of Western journalists—both the press and popular culture continue to ignore August 2014 UN documents that inculpate Israel for engaging in very similar acts of terror.

The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a Geneva-based independent non-governmental organization aimed “at strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest or in dangerous missions,” carries special consultative UN status, conducting investigations on behalf of the body.

In its 28 August report, “90 journalists killed so far in 2014: a new step is required by the UN in order to combat impunity,” it notes that:

Israel and the Occupied Territory of the State of Palestine:

in the context of the operation “Protective Edge” launched by the Israeli forces on 8 July 2014 on the Gaza Strip, 15 journalists have been killed (some of them being purposely targeted), many others have been injured because of the shelling of their homes, 16 Palestinian journalists have lost their homes as a result of Israeli bombing and shelling, 8 media outlets have been destroyed, in addition the Israeli army deliberately disturbed the broadcasting of 7 radio and TV stations and websites (l), many journalists have been arrested by the Israeli forces.

Al-Aqsa radio, Sawt Al-Quds radio, Sawat Al-Sha’eb, Filistin Il-Yom TV and website, Al-Ra’ei website

In a more detailed document from the day before, “15 journalists and media workers killed during operation “Protective Edge”: the responsible have to be held accountable,” the PEC and the UN indicate that the houses of 16 journalists that were destroyed in Israeli attacks were “often purposely targeted.”

They also reveal that, of the eight Gaza media outlets Israel destroyed, five were deliberately bombed. Israeli forces shelled three headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV, where 325 employees worked, and “deliberately disturbed the broadcasting of 7 radio and TV stations and websites, and used these stations to broadcast inciting messages against the Palestinian resistance, as they did in their previous attacks on the Gaza Strip.”

Deliberate Attacks

The PEC states that the “Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists are the most dangerous, life threatening, and the most frequent” and asserts that it “denounces the harassment against journalists and media workers as well as the smear campaign of the Israeli diplomacy against foreign journalists falsely accused to work for Hamas that leads to a sneaky form of self-censorship.”

Most of the murdered journalists were in their twenties, with ages ranging from 21 to 59. All except for one, an Italian, were Palestinian.

The majority worked for local Palestinian media networks, although two Associated Press reporters were killed, including the only foreign reporter killed.

Some were wearing vests clearly marked “Press”; others were in media vehicles with “TV” plainly printed on the hood. In one case, a 21-year-old Palestinian photojournalist was taking pictures in the Al-Jineene neighborhood in Rafah when an Israeli drone shot him.

“The large number of targets and the way in which media organizations and journalists have been attacked by” Israeli forces, the UN statement reads, “suggest that a strategy has been finalized at the highest levels of the State of Israel. Targeting non-combatants is itself a war crime that, as such, must not enjoy impunity.”

The PEC concludes calling upon the UN to investigate “the violation of the fundamental freedoms and rights of journalists and media workers, with a particular attention on the violation of the rights of women journalists” and the UN Human Rights Council’s independent, international commission of inquiry “to investigate and identify those responsible for the crimes committed against media outlet, journalists and media workers.”

“Constant Pressures” on Journalists

In a footnote to this statement, the PEC draws attention to a French-language Algerian Huffington Post article that went completely ignored by the Western media (all translations mine): “TVE [Spanish Television] Journalist Yolanda Alvarez Attacked by Israel, Spanish Journalists Protest.”

The story notes that the “Spanish press is unanimous in supporting Yolanda Alvarez, TVE correspondent in Jerusalem, victim of virulent attacks by the Israeli embassy in Madrid.” It also stated that Alvarez’ Twitter page was “full of tweets of support coming from journalists or associations of journalists that spoke of the intimidation and the threats from the Israeli embassy.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that, according “to the testimonies of other journalists and media, the Israeli embassy in Israel maintains an attitude of permanent intimidation of Spanish journalists.” RSF denounced the “constant pressures” Israel put on journalists, and asked that Israel stop using “its diplomats as agents of pressure and propaganda.”

US media networks also pressured their own journalists not to present Israel’s attack in a negative light.

NBC went so far as to pull Ayman Mohyeldin from Gaza, a veteran reporter who garnered international praise as one of the only two foreign journalists who had been in Gaza during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which Israel barred journalists from entering Gaza as it, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital.”

Institute for Policy Studies analyst Phyllis Bennis pointed out the irony that, as Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza, NBC “pulled the reporter who has done more than any other to show the human costs of the conflict there.” Because of popular pressure, Mohyeldin was eventually reinstated, yet there were numerous other incidents of the same forms of censorship and pressure occurring.

The Second-Worst Year for Journalists

In its 2014 census on jailed journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) revealed that 2014 was the second-worst year for jailed journalists since it began the annual census in 1990. Internationally, over 220 journalists are imprisoned, 60% of whom are held on anti-state charges of terrorism or subversion.

This comes in a close second to 2012, in which 232 journalists were imprisoned—although the 2014 figure may actually be higher, as the report excludes journalists being detained by nonstate actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney warned the “targeting of journalists has been increasing to alarming proportions,” indicating that journalists “are now losing the protected observer status that they had, and now they’ve become the story rather than being the witness to the story to some groups.”

Only some of the stories about these persecuted journalists are told, nonetheless. Much of the Western media is speaking of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a “Free Speech” issue, yet ignores Israel’s persistent .

Explicit violent repression of journalists is not new behavior for Israel. In 2008, Israeli forces killed 23-year-old cameraman Fadel Subhi Shana’a. In the same year, Israel arrested award-winning journalist Mohammed Omer and brutally tortured him—a common practice. In 2004, Israeli occupation forces killed 22-year-old journalist Mohammed Abu Halima.

There are countless more of such stories, of such tragedies. Yet these tragic stories are not told in the Western media. The countless nameless faces of the now forgotten journalists are only nameless and forgotten because they were ignored.

UPDATE, 27 January 2015:

Journalist Dan Cohen tweeted a picture of a poster in Gaza commemorating the journalists killed in Gaza in Israel’s Operation “Protective Edge.” (Some sources have reported that 17 journalists were killed, yet the UN report left it at 15, so I used that figure in this piece.)

 

And Boko Haram, extremist Nigerian insurgents?

When will the western coalition turn its attacks on? 

The past week has been one of horror for France. After a 3-day rampage in which terrorists killed 17 people both at the Charlie Hebdo offices and at a Jewish kosher supermarket, one fugitive still remains at large.

An estimated 3.7 million French citizens took to the streets of Paris in a solidarity march as the attack and its aftermath continues to dominate international headlines.

But thousands of miles away, another crisis went largely ignored. Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria committed a massacre of unbelievable proportions in Borno State.

Over the period of a few days, the terrorist group killed more than 2,000 people in the town of Baga, as well as 16 neighboring towns and villages, burning entire communities to the ground.

Amnesty International described it as the terror group’s “deadliest massacre” to date, and the Guardian reports that local defense groups said they gave up counting the bodies left lying on the streets.

Mikael Owunna posted this Jan. 17, 2015

Mikael “Chuks” Owunna is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer, podcast host and organizer based in Washington D.C. His work focuses on topics of race, identity, gender, sexuality and colonialism.

By every objective measure, Boko Haram’s vicious massacre in Nigeria dwarfs the tragedy in France, so far that the Nigeria bloodshed has been described as one of the worst terrorist attacks in modern history.

There’s only one problem: In all likelihood, you probably didn’t hear about it until just now.

Source: Haruna Umar/AP

Where is the international outcry for these non-Western and predominantly Muslim victims of terrorism? The terrorist attacks in Borno State and Paris unfolded over the same time frame, but the story in France generated more than 50 times more news stories worldwide.

Source: Google Trends

This silence is not accidental. There is a clear double standard when talking about Western vs. non-Western and Muslim vs. non-Muslim victims of terrorism.

Terrorists attacks on the West, and against non-Muslims in particular, are sensationalized in the media while those afflicting non-Westerners and Muslims are normalized and treated as business as usual, generating limited public interest and, in turn, limited outcry from activists and institutions that could actually affect change.

This discrepancy in coverage raises important questions about the way the media talks about terrorism — and whether the Western news outlets that so fiercely dissected the brutal Charle Hebdo massacre will ever see non-Western and Muslim victims of terrorism as “mournable.”

And the result is telling: Reports about non-Western victims of terrorism are generally overlooked or ignored unless they fit particular narrative of freedom and civilization under assault from Islamic extremism.

The last known photo of Tunisian journalists Sofiene Chourabi (right) and Nadhir Ktari (left) who were executed by the Islamic State in Libya this past weekSource: France24

Is the attention on Charlie Hebdo really about the assault on free speech? 

Not necessarily. One day after the 10 white journalists were tragically murdered at Charlie Hebdo and became martyrs for “free speech,” two Tunisian journalists, Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari, were beheaded by Islamic State militants in Libya and received almost no coverage for their sacrifice.

Additionally, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that more than half of the journalists killed in 2014 were Muslim, even though the international media dialogue of the past year focused almost exclusively on the Islamic State’s beheadings of white Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as the deaths of other white journalists like Camille Lepage.

“More than half of 61 journalists killed in 2014 were Muslims, many working in conflict-affected countries such as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia,” writes Rafia Zakaria for Al Jazeera America. “But few have received the recognition or commemoration accorded to Western journalists or a handful who worked for Western media outlets.”

If this were solely a question of who is fighting to defend “free speech,” then international media would be honoring the sacrifices of the scores more non-Western and Muslim journalists who have died in the line of duty.

Source: Global Terrorism Index

Most victims of terrorism are Muslim and non-Western, but we rarely pay them as much attention. A conservative estimate by the Combating Terrorism Center at New York’s Military Academy at West Point found that between 2006 and 2008, non-Westerners made up about 98% of al Qaida’s victims. A majority of those victims were Muslim.

An additional report this past year from the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Vision of Humanity Project found that global deaths due to terrorism have spiked over the last decade. They were concentrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria: all non-Western countries with large Muslim populations.

The report also explicitly linked the rise in terrorist attacks in these countries to the U.S.-led war on terror, but the media continues to explicitly omit or gloss over these victims of terrorism (unless their stories can be used to fuel Islamophobia).

Lassana Bathily, the Malian Muslim hero of the Jewish supermarket hostage crisisSource: Le JDM

The media still offers a skewed depiction of Muslims. 

For example, the media narrative about the French attacks gave short shrift to Ahmed Merabet, the 42-year-old Algerian Muslim security guard for Charlie Hebdo who was also killed, and focused instead on many of the white journalists and editors who died.

Moreover, the international media at times explicitly omitted the Muslim identity of Malian Muslim Lassana Bathily, who saved customers during the siege of a Jewish kosher supermarket, while reiterating that the terrorists were “Islamists.” When other outlets focused on this distinction, they treated it as a shocking revelation: A Muslim wanted to save Jews! How novel!

This is in stark contrast to the media narratives about Islam that do dominate international headlines. Western media fixated coverage last year on Malala Yousafzai, a young Muslim female activist from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban on her way to school. Many media outlets used her story to advance one-sided narratives about Islam, the oppression of Muslim women and Pakistan more broadly, while glossing over her critiques of the U.S. drone program, which did not fit these narratives.

First Lady Michelle Obama holding a “#BringBackOurGirls” sign Source: Twitter @FLOTUS

So what does this have to do with Nigeria?

Boko Haram made international headlines in 2014 for kidnapping 276 girls from a school in Chibok in Borno State. Nigerian activists launched the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign, demanding accountability from the Nigerian government.

But after two weeks of little-to-no coverage, international journalists suddenly swept in and began to describe Boko Haram as Nigeria’s “Taliban,” focusing the story on Islamic fundamentalists’ war on the education of women rather than the structural and bureaucratic shortcomings of the Nigerian government.

The real story about Boko Haram and the Chibok girls could not have been further from the truth. Firstly, the Chibok girls, like the Boko Haram militants, are Muslim, and although the Taliban and Boko Haram are both terrorist groups that invoke “Islamist” rhetoric, the history of Boko Haram could not be more different than that of the Taliban. Moreover, Boko Haram regularly targets boys in its attacks, but this was also left out of the story.

The West and its media misconstrued the narrative and appropriated the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag as a “war on women” to justify an expanded Western military presence in the region.

Months later, and despite dozens of troops from the U.S., France, Canada, Israel and the U.K. being deployed to region, none of the girls have been rescued by the military to date. If the global reaction to this weekend’s slaughter is any indication, we’ve simply moved on from Nigeria’s ongoing battle against militants in favor of more tantalizing topics.

Image still from a Boko Haram video featuring their leader, Abubakar Shekau Source: AFP/Getty Images

Why it matters.

Reports about non-Western victims of terrorism are typically restricted unless they can serve a particular agenda, and we saw that again this past week with the media’s ominous silence around Boko Haram’s massacre of thousands of victims in Borno State.

There are no neat narratives surrounding this “Islamic war on women,” and no Westerners were killed. It was simply terrorist violence on an unprecedented scale perpetrated against Nigerians, many of whom were Muslim.

We are still not sure of the full scale of the violence in Baga and neighboring towns just yet, but what we do know is staggering. Baga, a town of 10,000, is now “virtually non-existent” according to Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official from the region.

Hundreds of corpses are rotting and litter the streets. Entire towns and villages have been burnt down, and thousands of people have had to flee into Lake Chad where they face hunger, dehydration and attacks from wild animals while they await rescue on unstable sand bars. This is one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, and Boko Haram followed up on it by making a 10-year-old girl blow herself up in a market in Maiduguri this Saturday, killing at least 10 more people.

Image from France’s #JeSuisCharlie March on Sunday, January 11, 2015 Source: Peter Dejong/AP

Just as people are now standing in solidarity with the French and decrying the terrorist violence that tragically took 17 lives, we must also stand in solidarity with Nigerians and decry Boko Haram’s slaughter of 2,000. The lives of Muslim and non-Western victims of terrorism also matter, even if the mainstream media’s omission of these stories may indicate otherwise.

Russell Brand: How Bush Jr. and Blair represent Christian terrorism?

Russell Brand has said devout Christians George Bush and Tony Blair represent Christianity no more than the Charlie Hebdo terrorists represent Islam.

In a late blog on the killings in France that killed 17 people and three gunmen over three days, Brand said the “bewildered, pitiable” men who carried out the attacks “do not speak for Islam or Muhammed or Allah”.

Russell Brand Says Charlie Hebdo Killer Represent Islam ‘Like Bush And Blair Represent Christianity’

“These men of murder are the symptom of a creed that lies as far away from God as is possible to conceive and do not represent Islam anymore than George Bush, Tony Blair and Halliburton represented Christianity,” he wrote.

“Or ordinary, secular Europeans and Americans when they profited from the bombing of innocent Iraqis.”

CHARLIE HEBDO

One of the gunmen, who took hostages in a kosher grocery, pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video released after his death, while the two who attacked the satirical newspaper’s offices claimed to be from Al Qaeda, their rival Islamist extremists.

In his blog, Brand said: “How can any spiritual scripture be used as justification for mass murder?

“How can the tenet that The Prophet ought never be depicted ever override Islam’s most mundane greeting AsSalaam alaikum – “peace and mercy be upon you”? It can’t and it doesn’t.

“The young, bewildered, pitiable men that carry out these atrocities probably at the behest of older, power hungry men do not speak for Islam or Muhammad or Allah.

“This language has nothing to do with the God I believe in or the God any of the Muslims I know believe in.”

Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists: More on the Charlie Hebdo 

Erkki Tuomioja, Finland foreign minister, said lately:

“You caricature and criticize women, you are a chauvinist

You caricature and criticize Jews, you are an anti-semite

You caricature and criticize  Blacks, you are a racist

You caricature and criticize Islam, you are smack into free expression zone

As a Muslim, I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists

Posted: 13/01/2015 
Dear liberal pundit,You and I didn’t like George W Bush.

Remember his puerile declaration after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”? Yet now, in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack, you appear to have updated Dubya’s slogan: either you are with free speech… or you are against it.

Either vous êtes Charlie Hebdo… or you’re a freedom-hating fanatic.

I’m writing to you to make a simple request: please stop.

You think you’re defying the terrorists when, in reality, you’re playing into their bloodstained hands by dividing and demonising. Us and them.

The enlightened and liberal west v the backward, barbaric Muslims. The massacre in Paris on 7 January was, you keep telling us, an attack on free speech. The conservative former French president Nicolas Sarkozy agrees, calling it “a war declared on civilisation“.

So, too, does the liberal-left pin-up Jon Snow, who crassly tweeted about a “clash of civilisations” and referred to “Europe’s belief in freedom of expression”.

In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really is a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)?

It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004.

Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech.

We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn.

Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust? No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t).

Consider also the “thought experiment” offered by the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug. Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif'” – the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted?… Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”?

Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.

When you say “Je suis Charlie“, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey? Of crude caricatures of bulbous-nosed Arabs that must make Edward Said turn in his grave?

Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic. Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on “members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power”.

It’s for these reasons that I can’t “be”, don’t want to “be”, Charlie – if anything, we should want to be Ahmed, the Muslim policeman who was killed while protecting the magazine’s right to exist. As the novelist Teju Cole has observed, “It is possible to defend the right to obscene… speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech.”

And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark?

Were you not aware that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet in 2005, reportedly rejected cartoons mocking Christ because they would “provoke an outcry” and proudly declared it would “in no circumstances… publish Holocaust cartoons”?

Muslims, I guess, are expected to have thicker skins than their Christian and Jewish brethren. Context matters, too. You ask us to laugh at a cartoon of the Prophet while ignoring the vilification of Islam across the continent (have you visited Germany lately?) and the widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and public life – especially in France.

You ask Muslims to denounce a handful of extremists as an existential threat to free speech while turning a blind eye to the much bigger threat to it posed by our elected leaders.

Does it not bother you to see Barack Obama – who demanded that Yemen keep the anti-drone journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye behind bars, after he was convicted on “terrorism-related charges” in a kangaroo court – jump on the free speech ban wagon? Weren’t you sickened to see Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a country that was responsible for the killing of seven journalists in Gaza in 2014, attend the “unity rally” in Paris?

Bibi was joined by Angela Merkel, chancellor of a country where Holocaust denial is punishable by up to five years in prison, and David Cameron, who wants to ban non-violent “extremists” committed to the “overthrow of democracy” from appearing on television.

Then there are your readers. Will you have a word with them, please? According to a 2011 YouGov poll, 82% of voters backed the prosecution of protesters who set fire to poppies.

Apparently, it isn’t just Muslims who get offended.

Erkki Tuomioja, Finland foreign minister

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the Huffington Post UK and a contributing writer for the New Statesman

‎إنهم يعرفون ... ويحرفون ..!!!!‎

Cartoons of Charlie Hebdo:  No one is showing you

Sun Jan 11, 2015

ProgNetFollow this Jan 17, 2014

Below are cartoons drawn over the past several decades by Cabu, one of the most emblematic cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo (if not the most). Cabu was murdered along with his colleagues this past week. He was 75 years old.

Although no media outlet in the US will show you these images, they can all be found online with a simple Google search.

This cartoon by Cabu criticizes racial profiling, specifically discrimination by the French police against immigrants from North Africa and people of African descent.

The caption reads: “No to racist controls [identity checks].”

This cartoon by Cabu depicts and quotes the racist demagogue politician Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National party (with the eye patch).

The caption reads: “We want to be able to go out in the evening without being afraid.” The armed thugs in the background are racist skinheads and their ilk. The cartoon leaves little doubt as to who is afraid.

This cartoon by Cabu depicts young people of color looking at a Christmas display of a toy costume for a CRS, the riot control force of the French National police, which has long been accused of brutality and racism.

The critique here is about the normalization of police control and militarization and its negative impact specifically against young people of African descent.

This cartoon by Cabu meant to raise the alarm at the rise in popularity of far-right, anti-immigrant politician Marine Le Pen and her Front National party (founded by her father, the notorious right-wing racist and xenophobic politician Jean-Marie Le Pen).

The captions read on the left “Disappointed by Sarkozysm” [ie. disappointed by the policies of the Center Right politics of former French president Sarkozy] and on the right “Disappointed by Hollandism” [ie. disappointed by the policies of the Center Left politics of current French president Hollande.] Marine Le Pen is cast as the “hostess”.

A rough translation of her caption would be: “Move it you red, white & blue peckerheads!”

This cartoon by Cabu criticizes the size of the military budgets across Europe. The captions read at the top, “Those clowns that suck the blood of Europe,” and at bottom, “Let’s put the military budgets on a diet!”

This cartoon by Cabu ruthlessly criticizes the French military. The caption reads: “14 Juillet [France’s Independence Day], the killers’ holiday.”

This cartoon by Cabu does not require translation.

This cartoon by Cabu was published in 1979 in the antiwar journal of the Pacifist Union. While this specific image might not have been published in Charlie Hebdo (I don’t have access to their archives), it strikingly conveys Cabu’s lifelong antiwar and anticolonialist politics, which always fit right in at Charlie Hebdo (and were shared by the majority of the journalists and cartoonists there).

The caption reads: “France doesn’t have oil, but she has an army!”

1:53 PM PT: Much thanks to everyone who helped put this diary on the Rec List.

Mon Jan 12, 2015 at 6:07 PM PT: Charlie Hebdo just released the cover image for their next issue.  You can see it here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

In many Islamic countries, massive demonstrations lambasted the Prophet cartoon on the cover. In Niger, 7 Christian churches were burned down

Tue Jan 13, 2015 at 8:21 AM PT: One last update from a message sent to me:

“Take it from a French person who verified : bleu-bites (in the cartoon with Marine Le Pen)  simply means rookies, newbies. Un bleu has been a rookie or a new recruit in the army since the 19th century.  Bite derives from a slang word   ‘bitau’ meaning a new student, the word comes from Switzerland (Genève)  ‘bisteau’ for young apprentice.”

Note: Charlie Hebdo had No business dealing with stupid religious icons that are based mostly on fiction and not well documented. Disseminating ignorance and falsehood is not the business of learned cartoonists.

 

 

Why I am Not Charlie Hebdo? Je ne suis pas Charlie

The weekly French cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo mostly dealt with local French politics and policies.

1. It was against US invasion of Iraq in 2003. How’s your current position on this invasion?

2. It was against French military involvement against Gadhafi of Libya. How’s your current position on this Libyan morass and constant civil war? Many European politicians and security officers believe that it is Libya that will constitute the real menace to Europe’s security.

3. It was mostly pro Zionism/Israel and fired cartoonists who stood fast against retracting their opinions on wrong doing against human rights in Palestine.

‎الحرية والديمقراطية !!!‎

4. People may believe that Charlie Hebdo got carried away by these waves of Islamo-phobia and indulged caricaturing the Prophet Mohammad as a villain just to prove that it is not afraid of the threats and assassinations carried out against these publishers.

Actually, Charlie Hebdo habits were reminiscing of Hollywood movies of depicting “Arabs” as backward villains. Confusion over 350 millions Arabic speaking people with a few thousand Bedouins in a desert setting.

It is a huge stupidity of caricaturing religious icons that are mostly not well known, not based on good documentations and facts. Stick to what is known, factual and current you stupid cartoonists and steer away from disseminating dangerous discriminating opinions.

Aicha, the youngest and most learned wife of the Prophet, spent her life confronting and refuting the misrepresentations and out of context stories describing the behaviour and daily habits of Muhammad. These stories are called the hadith and the Moslems mostly love stories and behave as these stories says and recommend.

There is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.

Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity.

There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

a paper bird posted this Jan. 9, 2014

To abhor what was done to the victims is not the same as to become them.

This is true on the simplest level: I cannot occupy someone else’s selfhood, share someone else’s death.

This is also true on a moral level: I cannot appropriate the dangers they faced or the suffering they underwent, I cannot colonize their experience, and it is arrogant to make out that I can. It wouldn’t be necessary to say this, except the flood of hashtags and avatars and social-media posturing proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie overwhelms distinctions and elides the point.

“We must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day,” the New Yorker pontificates.

What the hell does that mean?

In real life, solidarity takes many forms, almost all of them hard. This kind of low-cost, risk-free, E-Z solidarity is only possible in a social-media age, where you can strike a pose and somebody sees it on their timeline for 15 seconds and then they move on and it’s forgotten except for the feeling of accomplishment it gave you.

Solidarity is hard because it isn’t about imaginary fff8 identifications, it’s about struggling across the canyon of not being someone else: it’s about recognizing, for instance, that somebody died because they were different from you, in what they did or believed or were or wore, not because they were the same.

If people who are feeling concrete loss or abstract shock or indignation take comfort in proclaiming a oneness that seems to fill the void, then it serves an emotional end. But these Cartesian credos on Facebook and Twitter — I am Charlie, therefore I am — shouldn’t be mistaken for political acts.

Among the dead at Charlie Hebdo:  Deputy chief editor Bernard Maris and cartoonists Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Stephane Charbonnier, who was also editor-in-chief, and Bernard Verlhac (aka Tignous)

Erasing differences that actually exist seems to be the purpose here: and it’s perhaps appropriate to the Charlie cartoons, which drew their force from a considered contempt for people with the temerity to be different. For the last 36 hours, everybody’s been quoting Voltaire. The same line is all over my several timelines:

From the twitter feed of @thereaIbanksy, January 7

“Those 21 words circling the globe speak louder than gunfire and represent every pen being wielded by an outstretched arm,” an Australian news site says. (Never mind that Voltaire never wrote them; one of his biographers did.)

But most people who mouth them don’t mean them. Instead, they’re subtly altering the Voltairean clarion cry: the message today is, I have to agree with what you say, in order to defend it. 

Why else the insistence that condemning the killings isn’t enough? No: we all have to endorse the cartoons, and not just that, but republish them ourselves. Thus Index on Censorship, a journal that used to oppose censorship but now is in the business of telling people what they can and cannot say, called for all newspapers to reprint the drawings: 

“We believe that only through solidarity – in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely – can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech.” But is repeating you the same as defending you? And is it really “solidarity” when, instead of engaging across our differences, I just mindlessly parrot what you say?

But no, if you don’t copy the cartoons, you’re colluding with the killers, you’re a coward. Thus the right-wing Daily Caller posted a list of craven media minions of jihad who oppose free speech by not doing as they’re ordered. Punish these censors, till they say what we tell them to!

One Student’s Epic Tweets Call Out the Biggest Hypocrites Marching for Free Speech In Paris

Millions of people took to the streets of Paris and cities across France on Sunday to rally in defense of free speech and against terrorism in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The French Interior Ministry told the Associated Press that 3.7 million marched throughout France, making the demonstrations the largest in the country’s history.

Adding to the symbolic weight of the demonstrations, more than 40 world leaders joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity. But as Reporters Without Borders points out, their policies at home are far from compatible with the solidarity for free speech on display throughout France. 

The organization said Sunday that it was “appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt (which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RWB’s press freedom index), Russia (148th), Turkey (154th) and United Arab Emirates (118th).”

“We must demonstrate our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world’s other Charlies,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

“It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo.”

They’re right.

In what can only be described as an epic series of 21 pointed tweets, London School for Economics Middle East Society co-president Daniel Wickham points out that many of the world leaders who marched Sunday through the streets of Paris are not the world’s biggest advocates for press freedom.

[<a href=”//storify.com/tometty/staunch-defenders-of-free-press-attend-solidarity” target=”_blank”>View the story “These ‘staunch defenders’ of the free press are attending today’s solidarity rally in Paris” on Storify</a>]<span id=”mce_marker” data-mce-type=”bookmark”></span&amp

 

“Politicians worldwide are enacting a slew of laws to impinge on free speech, but are the first to defend it when there’s a body count,” writes the Daily Beast‘s Luke O’Neil. “It is grandstanding for a right rarely protected unless under immediate attack.”

As journalists and human rights activists stand with Charlie Hebdo, they should remember that, across the world, not every journalist is Charlie.

Turkey is one of the harshest persecutor of journalists and its Prime minister participated in the march.

Israel assassinated 17 journalists in Gaza genocide war.

This sums it up:
– Prime Minister Rajoy of Spain, whose government just passed the Ley Mordaza, a gag law placing historic restrictions on the right to protest in Spain.
– Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia, which last year jailed a journalist for “insulting a government servant” .
– Foreign Minister Shoukry of Egypt, which as well as Al Jazeera staff has detained journalist Shawkan for around 500 days.
– King Abdullah of Jordan, which last year sentenced a Palestinian journalistlist to 15 years in prison with hard labour.
– Prime Minister Davutoglu of Turkey, which imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world.
– Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, whose forced killed 17 journalists in Gaza last year (second highest after Syria).
– Foreign Minister Lamamra of Algeria, which has detained journalist Abdessami Abdelhai for 15 months without charges.
– The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, which in 2013 held a journalist incommunicado for a month on suspicion of MB links.
– Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia, which recently jailed blogger Yassine Ayan for 3 years for “defaming the army”.
– The Prime Ministers of Georgia and Bulgaria, both of whom have a record of attacking & beating journalists.
– The Attorney General of the US, where police in Ferguson have recently detained and assaulted Washington Post reporters.
– Prime Minister Samaras of Greece, where riot police beat & injured two journalists at a protest in June last year
– Secretary-General of NATO, who are yet to be held to account for deliberately bombing and killing 16 Serbian journalists in ’99.
– President Keita of Mali, where journalists are expelled for covering human rights abuses.
– The Foreign Minister of Bahrain, 2nd biggest jailer of journos in the world per capita (they also torture them).
– Sheikh Mohamed Ben Hamad Ben Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, which jailed a man for 15 years for writing the Jasmine poem.
– Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who had several journalists jailed for insulting him in 2013.
– Prime Minister Cerar of Slovenia, which sentenced a blogger to six months in prison for “defamation” in 2013.
– Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland, where “blasphemy” is considered a criminal offense.
– Prime Minister Kopacz of Poland, which raided a magazine to seize recordings embarrassing for the ruling party.
– Prime Minister Cameron of the UK, where authorities destroyed documents obtained by The Guardian and threatened prosecution.
– Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary, the autocrat of who Amnesty says has “put an end to the free press in Hungary.”

 

 

 

 

Overcoming fear? Spread  of self-censorship? Aftermath of French weekly Charlie Hebdo attack

No one can overcome fear: We just submit to the belief that bad actions hit the neighbors.

Almost all victories were the result of submitting to fear. And that is why terror activities have been the preferred currency throughout history.

We have a blasphemy law. No electorate has approved it. No parliament has passed it. No judge supervises its application and no jury determines guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

There’s no right of appeal. And the penalty is death.

It is enforced not by a police bound by codes of conduct, but by a fear that dare not speak its name; a cowardice so total it lacks the courage to admit it is afraid.

We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – only if they are not a paramilitary force that may kill us.

The British are the world’s worst cowards. It is one thing to say you don’t approve of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons.

But the BBC, Channel 4 and many newspapers won’t run any images of Mohammad whatsoever. They would at least have acknowledged censorship if they had announced that they were frightened of attacks on their staff. They would have clung to a remnant of their honour if they had said: “We are not censoring out of respect. We loathe the murderers who enforce their taboos with Kalashnikovs. But we do not want to spend years living in hiding, as Salman Rushdie did.

Or be stabbed in the street, as Theo van Gogh was. Or hear an Islamist smash at our door with an axe and cry: “We will get our revenge,” – as Kurt Westergaard did. So we are backing away.”

Admittedly, an honest admission that terror works would shred the pretence that journalists are fearless speakers of truth to power. (Before the invasion of the US of Afghanistan and then to Iraq, the western journalist were bold because they felt secure of terrorist attacks. The done has changed as resentment skyrocketed)

But it would be a small gesture of solidarity. It would say to everyone, from Pakistani secularists murdered for opposing theocratic savagery, to British parents worried sick that their boys will join Islamic State, that radical Islam is a real fascistic force.

The Charlie Hebdo gunmen in the street.

The Charlie Hebdo gunmen in the street. Photograph: Anne Gelbard/AFP/Getty Images

Instead, most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us.

The mass murder of cartoonists and police officers at Charlie Hebdo, and the attacks on Jews, which revive so many foul memories of European fascism, will change our world – almost certainly for the worst. Unless we find the courage to overcome fear, the self-censorship will spread, and not only in the media.

Colleagues who wanted historians at a London museum to talk about the long history of depictions of Muhammad in Islamic art last week were met with panicking press officers trying to shut them up.

Historian Tom Holland, who received death threats after he challenged the creation myths of Islam, said: “I cannot think of any other area of history where debate is so nervous.” He hopes that historians will continue to say that the Koran was a manmade creation, but doubts that journalists will be keen to take their work to the public.

(All books are manmade, and all religious stories are myths, and that is regardless of what people says, and it is totally pointless to play the smart-ass disseminating the obvious)

This is not a small capitulation. In the 19th century, the textual criticism of German scholars revealed that the supposed word of God in the Bible was a mess of competing stories. It did as much damage to Christianity and Judaism as Darwinism.

Anyone hoping to repeat the exercise by taking apart the Koran and the hadiths today will be restrained by the fear that they will end up as dead as satirists who try to do the same with anti-clerical humour.

My friend and comrade Maajid Nawaz was a jihadi before he converted to liberalism and understands the totalitarian mind. He says that people still do not realise that radical Islamists do not just want to impose their taboos at gunpoint. They want to “create a civil war” so that European Muslims accept that they can only live in the caliphate; to encourage the rise of the white far-right so that ordinary coexistence becomes impossible. If they win one demand, as they are winning in Britain, then they will up the tension and move to another.

As soon as you look at demands rather than labels, the wall dividing extremists from the rest begins to crumble. Saudi Arabia is Britain’s trusted partner and ally. It receives vast quantities of armaments and in turn pumps propaganda into British mosques and universities.

As Paris looked like a war zone, it flogged the Saudi liberal Raif Badawi for insulting Islam. At least they did not kill him, you might say. But if the religious courts had found him guilty of apostasy – that is, of taking the adult decision to abandon the religion of his childhood – the sentence would have been death.

European liberals ought to have stopped, as the lash fell on Badawi’s shoulders, and wondered about their queasiness at criticising the religions of the “powerless”and “marginalised”. The Saudi Arabian monarchy is all too powerful, as are the other dictatorships of the Middle East. Power depends on where you stand and who stands below you.

The unemployed man with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian journalist. The marginal cleric may have a hard life, but if he sits in a sharia court imposing misogynist rules on British Muslim women he is to be feared.

European liberals might try to be true to their principles and ally with dissidents, liberals, leftists and free thinkers within Muslim communities. They might help ex-Muslims who fear that one day they will be murdered for apostasy. They might reflect that a Muslim man will encounter xenophobia from the right, but they will hear no rigorous criticism at university or other leftist institutions of the sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia and bloodlust of militant religion.

Self-interest ought to be a motivator. Fear of radical Islam is not only driving support for the National Front in France and Ukip here, but providing an excuse for more attacks on civil liberties, including, despite David Cameron’s pious words after Charlie Hebdo, attacks on freedom of speech.

I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see a culture shift on this necessary scale happening. I fear we must look forward to a lying and frightened future.

Note: Time to bypass religious ideology and mythical stories and let them die their slow death from lack of dissemination. Let us focus on the civil rights of people and extending opportunities for a better life.

 

Why are you “Je suis Charlie?”

In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

Featured photo - In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

Joe Raedle

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

I’ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videos to the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package.

That’s all well beyond the numerous cases of jobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism.

I’m hoping this week’s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

Central to free speech activism has always been the distinction between defending the right to disseminate Idea X and agreeing with Idea X, one which only the most simple-minded among us are incapable of comprehending.

One defends the right to express repellent ideas while being able to condemn the idea itself. There is no remote contradiction in that: the ACLU vigorously defends the right of neo-Nazis to march through a community filled with Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, but does not join the march; they instead vocally condemn the targeted ideas as grotesque while defending the right to express them.

But this week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself.

Numerous writers thus demanded: to show “solidarity” with the murdered cartoonists, one should not merely condemn the attacks and defend the right of the cartoonists to publish, but should publish and even celebrate those cartoons. “The best response to Charlie Hebdo attack,” announced Slate’s editor Jacob Weisberg, “is to escalate blasphemous satire.”

Some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were not just offensive but bigoted, such as the one mocking the African sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens (left).

Others went far beyond maligning violence by extremists acting in the name of Islam, or even merely depicting Mohammed with degrading imagery (above, right), and instead contained a stream of mockery toward Muslims generally, who in France are not remotely powerful but are largely a marginalized and targeted immigrant population. But no matter.

Their cartoons were noble and should be celebrated – not just on free speech grounds but for their content.

In a column entitled “The Blasphemy We Need,” The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat argued that “the right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order” and “that kind of blasphemy [that provokes violence] is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good.”

New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait actually proclaimed that “one cannot defend the right [to blaspheme] without defending the practice.” Vox’s Matt Yglesias had a much more nuanced view but nonetheless concluded that “to blaspheme the Prophet transforms the publication of these cartoons from a pointless act to a courageous and even necessary one, while the observation that the world would do well without such provocations becomes a form of appeasement.”

To comport with this new principle for how one shows solidarity with free speech rights and a vibrant free press, we’re publishing some blasphemous and otherwise offensive cartoons about religion and their adherents:

And here are some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff (reprinted with permission):







Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights?

Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons?

If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?

When I first began to see these demands to publish these anti-Muslim cartoons, the cynic in me thought perhaps this was really just about sanctioning some types of offensive speech against some religions and their adherents, while shielding more favored groups.

In particular, the west has spent years bombing, invading and occupying Muslim countries and killing, torturing and lawlessly imprisoning innocent Muslims, and anti-Muslim speech has been a vital driver in sustaining support for those policies.

So it’s the opposite of surprising to see large numbers of westerners celebrating anti-Muslim cartoons – not on free speech grounds but due to approval of the content.

Defending free speech is always easy when you like the content of the ideas being targeted, or aren’t part of (or actively dislike) the group being maligned.

Indeed, it is self-evident that if a writer who specialized in overtly anti-black or anti-Semitic screeds had been murdered for their ideas, there would be no widespread calls to republish their trash in “solidarity” with their free speech rights.

In fact, Douthat, Chait and Yglesias all took pains to expressly note that they were only calling for publication of such offensive ideas in the limited case where violence is threatened or perpetrated in response (by which they meant in practice, so far as I can tell: anti-Islam speech). Douthat even used italics to emphasize how limited his defense of blasphemy was: “that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended.”

One should acknowledge a valid point contained within the Douthat/Chait/Yglesias argument: when media outlets refrain from publishing material out of fear (rather than a desire to avoid publishing gratuitously offensive material), as several of the west’s leading outlets admitted doing with these cartoons, that is genuinely troubling, an actual threat to a free press.

But there are all kinds of pernicious taboos in the west that result in self-censorship or compelled suppression of political ideas, from prosecution and imprisonment to career destruction: why is violence by Muslims the most menacing one? (I’m not here talking about the question of whether media outlets should publish the cartoons because they’re newsworthy; my focus is on the demand they be published positively, with approval, as “solidarity”).

When we originally discussed publishing this article to make these points, our intention was to commission two or three cartoonists to create cartoons that mock Judaism and malign sacred figures to Jews the way Charlie Hebdo did to Muslims.

But that idea was thwarted by the fact that no mainstream western cartoonist would dare put their name on an anti-Jewish cartoon, even if done for satire purposes, because doing so would instantly and permanently destroy their career, at least.

Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim commentary (and cartoons) are a dime a dozen in western media outlets; the taboo that is at least as strong, if not more so, are anti-Jewish images and words.

Why aren’t Douthat, Chait, Yglesias and their like-minded free speech crusaders calling for publication of anti-Semitic material in solidarity, or as a means of standing up to this repression?

Yes, it’s true that outlets like The New York Times will in rare instances publish such depictions, but only to document hateful bigotry and condemn it – not to publish it in “solidarity” or because it deserves a serious and respectful airing.

With all due respect to the great cartoonist Ann Telnaes, it is simply not the case that Charlie Hebdo “were equal opportunity offenders.”

Like Bill Maher, Sam Harris and other anti-Islam obsessives, mocking Judaism, Jews and/or Israel is something they will rarely (if ever) do. If forced, they can point to rare and isolated cases where they uttered some criticism of Judaism or Jews, but the vast bulk of their attacks are reserved for Islam and Muslims, not Judaism and Jews.

Parody, free speech and secular atheism are the pretexts; anti-Muslim messaging is the primary goal and the outcome. And this messaging – this special affection for offensive anti-Islam speech – just so happens to coincide with, to feed, the militaristic foreign policy agenda of their governments and culture.

To see how true that is, consider the fact that Charlie Hebdo – the “equal opportunity” offenders and defenders of all types of offensive speech – fired one of their writers in 2009 for writing a sentence some said was anti-Semitic (the writer was then charged with a hate crime offense, and won a judgment against the magazine for unfair termination). Does that sound like “equal opportunity” offending?

Nor is it the case that threatening violence in response to offensive ideas is the exclusive province of extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam.

Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi,” depicting Jesus as gay, was repeatedly cancelled by theaters due to bomb threats.

Larry Flynt was paralyzed by an evangelical white supremacist who objected to Hustler‘s pornographic depiction of inter-racial couples.

The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats and needed massive security after they publicly criticized George Bush for the Iraq War, which finally forced them to apologize out of fear.

Violence spurred by Jewish and Christian fanaticism is legion, from abortion doctors being murdered to gay bars being bombed to a 45-year-old brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza due in part to the religious belief (common in both the U.S. and Israel) that God decreed they shall own all the land. And that’s all independent of the systematic state violence in the west sustained, at least in part, by religious sectarianism.

The New York Times‘ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America – which has never elected a non-Christian president – that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

That is a real taboo – a repressed idea – as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circlesincluding the U.S. Congress – that one barely notices it any more.

This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west.

When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images; additional research was provided by Andrew Fishman


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