We must talk about Islam: A faith that affects everyone should be susceptible to critique by all

Aug 5, 2015

By Jeffrey Tayler

Eight months after it suffered one of the worst terrorist attacks in French history, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo continues to provoke wrongheaded, confused and even cowardly analysis that disregards the facts and betrays a failure to understand – or a refusal to recognize — the stakes we in the West all have in what the publication stands for: freedom of expression.

Lest we forget those facts: on Jan. 7, the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi burst into the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, and, shouting “Allahu akbar!” systematically gunned down staff members and others present.  After doing so, they announced“We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!  We have killed Charlie Hebdo!”  Their motive: the cartoonists had satirized, on many occasions, the Prophet Muhammad, whose depiction Islam forbids.  Put succinctly: inspired by their religion, the Kouachi brothers murdered cartoonists for drawing cartoons.  They murdered for Islam.

Now for the latest broadside against reason (and the magazine’s few, grief-stricken survivors) — a documentary produced by journalist Max Blumenthal and a British videographer, James Kleinfeld, called “Je ne suis pas Charlie.”  The title is meant to refute the popular slogan (Je suis Charlie, or I am Charlie) adopted by the almost 4 million French citizens, who, to defend free speech, marched peacefully across France a few days after the massacre.  (Disclosure: I have friends among Charlie Hebdo’s staff.)

“Je ne suis pas Charlie” purportedly aims to explain why not all French citizens – and in particular, many in the country’s Muslim minority – approve of the slogan.  But the documentary does something else: it delivers a strongly biased narrative of events in France after the crime that exculpates Islam, de facto inculpates the victims in their own deaths, and will surely comfort and encourage future potential assassins contemplating the execution of similar atrocities.  As Blumenthal and Kleinfeld have it, the Kouachi brothers’ crime also occurred as the inevitable, if regrettable, outcome of France’s colonial history and the marginalized status of the country’s Muslim community.


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