Monday, January 19, 2015

I am no longer Charlie.

I  believe the French government  should have censored the new issue of Charlie Hebdo. 
 Instead, with predictable French arrogance the new, post-massacre issue of Charlie Hebdo was defiantly putting two fingers up to the Muslim communities of the world by insisting on yet another cartoon of Mohammed thereby provoking  hundreds of thousands of Muslims to take to the streets to demonstrate their frustration and anger at what they feel is blasphemy of the highest order. To allow the new cartoons  to appear was  highly irresponsible and it was  an incitement to violence: several people have died in the demonstrations that ensued and the Christian communities of a country like the Niger,where they have previously been left in peace have now been attacked and their churches set on fire.

And yes, actually, I am in favour of freedom of expression, democracy and all the other normal values! (which the French seem to think they monopolize by their insistance on the ‘Republican Values’ of Liberté,Fraternité, Egalité  as if the monarchies of Scandinavia, Holland , Belgium  and the UK  were not equally democratic !)
Yes, I believe in freedom of expression. Nevertheless, does  the ‘freedom of expression’ of a handful of privileged western cartoonists to draw whatever they like justify causing the worldwide sincere anguish of  Muslims?  We may not understand them, we may think they are  exaggerating and have no sense of humour but the fact remains  that even moderate muslims are offended.  Does it not exacerbate and inflame  an already very volatile  and difficult world- wide situation? Will it not turn even moderate Muslims into extremists? And does it justify the jeopardizing of the safety of thousands of Christians who live in Muslim communities and who are becoming the innocent targets of their misguided  zeal?
 Charlie Hebdo argues that they  stand  not only for freedom of speech but also for freedom of religion and that they would defend the right of a Muslim - or anyone else to believe in whatever they liked. This is too sophisticated an argument and to irrelevant to the large majority of Muslims; many of whom are illiterate and  most of whom don't even know what is written or drawn in the magazine: they have only been told  second or third hand by their Imam that it contains an insult to their faith and that it is their duty as a good Muslim to defend their religion.
There is already censorship in place in all democratic countries which promote ‘Freedom of Expression’, including in France. For instance it is against the law to be a ‘holocaust denier’ and to promote Nazism. It  seems to be  particularly the Jewish sensibilities that enjoy the protection of the establishment and of the liberal masses. Although an orthodox Jew appears in a trio in a cartoon with a Christian and a Muslim in the latest issue I do not believe that Charlie Hebdo has attacked and lampooned Judaism in the same way that is has lampooned Islam and Christianity- especially Catholicism. Judaism is something of a Holy Cow. Now; the Christians are pretty robust, they are used to it. But the Muslims are clearly not able to see the funny side of a cartoon of Mohammed. So therfore; for goodness’s sake, or indeed  for God’s sake let’s stop drawing cartoons of Mohammed!


Blogger David said...

I'm against the more insulting cartoons, but I don't see why the Prophet should be immune from the satirical-peaceful images. Did he himself say anything about no pictorial representation? Everyone needs to go back to what he was about in the first place.

Karen Armstrong's short history is excellent on all this.

And, ahem, you're reproducing a couple of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons yourself, and one of the them is not right (the blows of the whip would not have been the Prophet's invention). The other pictures three religions, and two of them have not generally killed in the name of blasphemy. The earlier one about love being stronger than hate, with a cartoonist kissing an imam, was I thought absolutely fine.

But I also realise our western perspective does not take into account the finer shades of the religion we offend.

12:49 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Indeed David; our perspectives are not capable of understanding these shades: but why don't we just bow to the stark reality, which that these images -even the peaceful ones- ARE insulting, even if we don't understand why! I really believe that it is in the interest of world peace to outlaw ALL cartoons of Mohammed and I believe they should be discussing that right now in Brussels! That would not be backing down or being cowardly- it would simply being pragmatic and responsible. It would not mean that we are betraying our ideals of democracy or freedom - let's get a grip; we are not talking about something really fundamental such as women's right to vote for instance!

3:10 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

and P.S. David:yes, of course in an ideal world everyone should be going back to the sources; and yes; Karen Armstrong is probably excellent on this; but the fact is that several millions of Muslims are NOT going to go back to the sources and will NOT back down on this- therefore let's be practical!

3:31 PM  
Blogger David said...

One positive move - a respected imam has issued a fatwa against 'Islamic' terrorists. There needs to be much more of this. Charlie Hebdo shouldn't be the issue now.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Tabor said...

I have been faithfully reading all of your blog this year...starting from the beginning as is my anal retentive nature and I just got caught up this afternoon. I am so enjoying your exotic life, your perspective from the distance of the continent of Africa, your artistic spirit and your stubborn nature. I lived outside my country for a number of years in the third world of Asia, and perhaps, this is one of the attractions I find in your posts. I recently visited one of our national museums which had a very nice exhibit of the mud men from Mali! Thanks to your blog I actually grasped the significance.

8:10 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Tabor,
thrilled and flattered to hear that you have plowed through the whole lot! It is always good to hear that people look in and follow my ramblings- it makes me feel less alone, especially during the last few years when the Malian crisis have meant that hotel guest are scarce...Warm greetings from Djenné!

2:19 PM  
Blogger DB Stewart said...

Interesting discussion. I've always believed more in building bridges instead. Can't help it.

9:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home