July 30, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Tariq Ali on Charlie Hebdo killings

2 min read

charlie_700-100539987-primary.idgeCharlie Hebdo had made no secret of the fact that it intended to carry on provoking believing Muslims by targeting the Prophet. Most Muslims were angry about this, but ignored the insult. The paper had reprinted the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons of Muhammad in 2005 – the ones that depicted him as a Pakistani immigrant. The Danish newspaper admitted that it would never publish anything similar depicting Moses or the Jews (perhaps it had already done so: it certainly published articles supporting the Third Reich), but Charlie Hebdo sees itself as having a mission to defend republican secular values against all religions. It has occasionally attacked Catholicism, but it’s hardly ever taken on Judaism (though Israel’s numerous assaults on Palestinians have offered many opportunities) and has concentrated its mockery on Islam. French secularism today seems to encompass anything as long as it’s not Islamic. Denunciations of Islam have been relentless in France, with Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Soumission (the word Islam means ‘submission’), the latest salvo. It predicts the country being ruled by a president from a group he calls the Muslim Fraternity. Charlie Hebdo, we should not forget, ran a cover lampooning Houellebecq on the day it was attacked. Defending its right to publish, regardless of consequences, is one thing, but sacralising a satirical paper that regularly targets those who are victims of a rampant Islamophobia is almost as foolish as justifying the acts of terror against it. Each feeds on the other.

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