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Je Suis Charlie

7 January 2015

2:18 PM

7 January 2015

2:18 PM

It is important, today especially, to remember that this is nothing new. We have been here before. On the 11th of July, 1991, Hitoshi Igarachi was murdered in his office at the University of Tsukuba. His crime? He had translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese. That was all. Eight days previously Ettore Capriola, the novel’s Italian translator, had been fortunate to survive an attempted assassination in Milan. And in October 1993 William Nygaard, the Norweigan publisher of Salman Rushdie’s novel, was shot three times. Mercifully and remarkably, he survived.

In fact, it had begun before that. On Valentine’s Day 1989 when the Iranian Ayatollah issued his fatwa against Rushdie. That was a test too many people failed back then. We have learned a lot since then but in many ways we have also learned nothing at all.

In 2012, Rushdie wondered if any publisher would have the courage to endorse The Satanic Verses if it were written then. To ask the question was to sense the depressing answer. They would not. Too risky, too provocative, too inflammatory. Too insensitive. Too dangerous. Sorry, mate, but we just can’t do it. Besides, you should have known what you were doing. Weren’t you, in some vague sense, asking for all this trouble?

No. No. Thrice No. Rushdie did not ask for trouble. Trouble was thrust upon him and everyone else associated with the publication of his novel.

It is worth dwelling on this today precisely because it reminds us that this morning’s Parisian horrors cannot be blamed on George W Bush or Tony Blair or neoconservatives or anyone else. The motivation for this barbarism long pre-dates their time in office.

Doubtless some will still, even now, find a way to blame the victims. Doubtless some will do anything they can to avoid looking reality squarely in the face. Doubtless some will pretend that reality can be wished away or that responsibility can be transferred to someone, anyone, other than the perpetrators.


Shame on those people. Shame. 

Doubtless, too, there will be the usual calls on all Muslims everywhere to condemn these attacks as though they bear some inchoate communal responsibility for the barbarous actions of their co-religionists. This too will be drearily predictable and familiar and, most of all, desperately unfair. Their Islam has nothing to do with this even if it is also true that other subscribers to the faith do not share their views. The platitudinous suggestion Islam is a religion of peace is evidently, abundantly, true for the vast majority of Muslims while being utterly untrue for some. And so what? Where does that leave us? Only in a state of dread that’s matched only by its inadequacy.

To say these people are motivated by a perverted form of Islam is, in the end, pointless. Because it’s not perverted for them. Quite the contrary, in fact. They are the purest of the pure, the godliest of the godly. It is the real Islam as far as they are concerned. This will happen again.

Two conflicts rage here: one between civilisation and barbarism, the other between modernity and a kind of fanaticism we’ve known in our own past. As it happens, tomorrow is the 318th anniversary of the execution of Thomas Aikenhead in Edinburgh, the last man – though really little more than a boy – to be executed for blasphemy in this country. The Church of Scotland urged his execution the better to confront “the abounding of impiety and profanity in this land”

But understanding or otherwise appreciating the manner in which today’s Islamist terror is in some respects little different from the Covenanting horrors of our own history is, in its way, an invitation to pessimism. We might wish for modernity to conquer Islamist barbarism in like fashion to which it was uprooted in the west and yet such hopes seem destined to be disappointed, not least since Islamist terror is direct repudiation of modernity.

Which in turns leaves us with little room for hope, little reason to expect that this story will change. It is a war, of sorts, in which we trust that reason can somehow – eventually – conquer a rejection of reason. This seems a forlorn hope today.

But what else can we do? Only, perhaps, this. We can hold the line. We can make our stand, a stand for liberalism and reason and liberty and we can hope – however flickeringly – that this will, in time, be enough to prevail.

Je suis Charlie? In truth, I don’t know about that. I hope so. But, really, I don’t know if enough of us are Charlie Hebdo just as I know too few of us were prepared, 25 years ago, to say I am Salman. But there is no longer either the time or room to hide. If you were not Charlie Hebdo yesterday it is time, today, that you were.

That’s our faith. Here we stand. For otherwise what – and who – are we?


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Show comments
  • Oliver

    Great piece, ta

  • justsomeone

    France’s joke of a President should have held up a copy of the magazine with the picture of Mohammed and said “this is what the Jihadists murdered them for, we will not surrender, we will not capitulate!”. Had he done so, thousands, even tens of thousands would have come to the march holding up pictures of Mohammed.
    Then the march would have meant something and it would have shown that the Jihadists will not win, that they murdered the journalists in vain.
    As it was, the massive demonstration was a demonstration of massive weakness. The Jihadists must have been rolling in laughter watching the scenes on tv, two million people and not a picture of Mohammed in sight.

  • DGStuart

    How do you square your oft stated desire for mass immigration with your opposition to home grown Islam inspired terror? Does it not seem reasonable to suppose that unending limitless immigration would bring a significant number of Muslims into the country and thus create a proportionally larger constituency for a hegemony base on the loudest and most literally doctrinal of them to hold sway in asserting their ‘culture’?

  • hereward

    A cop out article from another scribbler . There is no compromise situation that can be achieved with Islam . This pernicious cult has no place in a tolerant secular country such as Britain . The answer is obvious but who is going to say it ?
    Plenty more killings and whitewash on the way . Shameron will wear his serious face at the Paris March of solidarity tomorrow . Makes you proud doesn’t it ? LOL .

  • Dogsnob

    Quite some time since I’ve been treated to your views on this subject Doc.
    Your former trenchant stand appears to have withered somewhat, to a state of hand-wringing anxiety and an inglorious acceptance that you may indeed have been, that useful idiot.
    But hey, let’s rally, ‘we can hold the line’.
    Yeah right, we can all walk around with our Staedtler Noris held defiantly aloft and wait for the next atrocity.

  • spencer234

    Good article.

    Couple of points:

    1) Homicidal religious nutcases are not confined to Islam. Witness the murders of abortion doctors or the somewhat routine killing of Palestinians by Israelis.

    2) There is no doubt that Blair and Bush are in fact responsible for providing a far higher number of dispossessed young Muslim men to brainwash.

    3) The Saudis are the funders of the barbarian ISIS and indeed the most foul and totalitarian version of Islam that is Wahabbism. But whenever a vile attack like this occurs, whenever they behead someone for political reasons, or kill a homosexual, the Western media dares not probe. Surely this time, the protection of these very powerful people, mates with the Bushes and Blair, must be scrutinised?

    But let’s not forget how responsible our own government is – for enacting the blanket hate speech laws, arresting people who offend Muslims (not Christians though), and allowing the immigration of tens of thousands who utterly reject Western culture and values.

    And then the media – “Je Suis Charlie”. Well no, you’re not. Noone’s even had the guts to reproduce the satire; the reason why so few are targeted is because so very few stood up for freedom in the first place. So many journalists are now just in it for the money – not the story, not uncovering corruption – but even they could find that their views are not acceptable if they don’t stand up now because they happen to be a woman or a gay man or a Christian or anything else.

    The terrorists and their funders want to drive a wedge between us and moderate Muslims so a few more will head their way. They want to see our governments allowed to use this to crack down on our freedoms – which they find so offensive. And the neocons will no doubt use it as an excuse to go after Assad in Syria, even though he’s the only one trying to contain these nutcases.

    If you really are Charlie, then stand up for freedom and forget the hate and fear that this is intended to make you feel.

    • Barba Rossa

      Excellent post….certainly better than Massies Tosh.

      Another important point..the Germans …Merkle will have her hands full trying to contain Germany for Germans.

    • C. Gee

      Your views on Israel and their airing in this context disqualify your opinions on freedom, cowardice, Western values, satire, foreign policy, hate, fear, journalism from consideration.
      You have merely opened the man-hole to the sewer whence come ponn

      • C. Gee

        …pongs of Barba Rossa.

      • spencer234

        Ho ho ho! You must be Israeli? Probably explains why you feel the need to be so personally abusive. But then again, even Israelis don’t deny that the settlers are nutty and use religion to justify their violence against Palestinians. So you must be one of the religious extremists.

        Funny how we’re not allowed to criticise Israel without being accused of being from the sewer though. Real believer in free speech, aren’t you? The irony is delicious.

        • C. Gee

          Why do you assume that I am of israeli nationality? I was not personally abusive as I know nothing about you, only your nasty opinions on Israel. Your deductive abilities as to my personal facts are as crippled by your anti-Israel bias as are your opinions. I do believe in free speech – which includes “accusing” you of nasty effluent opinions. My saying you have nasty opinions in no way inhibits your ability to spout them. I feel that I must, for the record, let it be known that at least one person has noticed that you suffer from moral gangrene.

          • spencer234

            “I was not personally abusive”. So says the troll who writes

            “You have merely opened the man-hole to the sewer whence come ponn” and “you suffer from moral gangrene”.

            So you don’t believe in free speech at all (at least when your darling Israel is criticised) and you don’t even know when you’re being abusive. Hilarious.

    • Sean L

      But if it were purely a matter of freedom why not publish racially offensive images which, unlike such images as the French cartoonists produced, are actually illegal? Otherwise it’s not about freedom so much as baiting the Muslims on a point of principle in relation to publishing imagery specifically offensive to them. And what purpose does that serve? Agreed, the terrorists seek to further alienate ordinary Muslims. But publshing gratuitously offensive imagery only furthers that end. To publish material that serves no end other than to offend people’s sense of the sacred is an abuse of freedom. The same could be said of their obscene images of the Pope. It’s a French tradition. But absolutely no reason why others should emulate it. Rather than such futile counterproductive posturing we’d be far better off enforcing our own laws so that Muslims are brought to book for publshing seditious and inflammatory material which they currently disseminate with impunity while indigenous people are nicked for publicly quoting the words of Winston Churchill or merely declaring: “This is England, this is”. So much for freedom
      . .

  • Barba Rossa

    The 14 or so dead French…did not of course deserve to die who so ever killed may well be a plot between America and Israel…after all stranger things have happened.

    We do know that the curse Netanyahu warned France against voting for a Palestinian State, we should be used to Zionist War Crimes by now… A few dead French is hardly a big consideration when Yahu is upset.

    We us Brits managed to help kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis…no problem or mourning Je suis couldn’t give a toss about that.

    • Tim Morrison

      Two wrongs don’t make a right, they just multiply harm. This is not a Zionist or American plot. This is a tragedy. This is a time to mourn.

      • Barba Rossa

        One wonders then Tim if when we killed a million did u think the same?

        • Tim Morrison

          “we” – that’s the kind of idea of corporate responsibility, identity, malarkey that creates this mess – that enables people thousands of miles away from a conflict to think they are doing something remarkable by murdering people doing their shopping.

          I am no more responsible for what happens in Palestine than what happens on the moon. I campaign and yes, mourn but I am not one of the murderers, nor have I voted for them – but that is not particularly relevant.

          • Sean L

            Well clearly you do feel *some* form of ‘collective’ or ‘corporate’ responsibility otherwise whence the need to express a view at all? We’re social beings, we have group identities, allegainces. Perhaps your underlying point has never been better put than by Nietszche: “Madness is the exception in the individual but the rule in groups.” Amen to that. . .

            • spencer234

              Such a good quote.

  • Mungo Williams

    I seem to remember Sir Geoffrey Howe being quite unsupportive about Rushdie. Step forward Sir Geoffrey and tell us where you stand today!

  • Sean L

    “To say these people are motivated by a perverted form of 1slam is, in the end, pointless. Because it’s not perverted for them. Quite the contrary, in fact. They are the purest of the pure, the godliest of the godly. It is the real 1slam as far as they are concerned.”

    But you could say the same of *any* kind of extreme nationalist or religious group, from the IRA to the N@zis, the Zionists to the Tamil Tigers. But the religion of the 1slam1c extremists actually has Its origin in war and conquest. In effect it is the *form* of Arab imperialism. And the terrorists take their lead from the same holy text as their co-religionists, according to their own words anyway.

    No doubt most Musl1ms are peaceful. I’ve stayed myself in Islam1c countries and have never known such hospitality. There are also emphatically peaceful forms of 1slam, Sufism for instance.

    But the non-Musl1m types such as yourself whose first impulse is to exonerate 1slam and Musl1ms generally have no qualms about imputing collective guilt to Western collectives such as Britain, the US or historically, Germany.

    But on what basis is there more continuity between a pacifist or Quaker German say and a N@zi than between a Musl1m who merely imbibes a text and one who conceives of himself as enacting it? Ditto an 18th century Britsh slaver and a northern mill worker? Just to take two typical examples from the school text book of historical sins which we’re held collectively guilty of without qualification. (Tony Blair ‘apologised for slavery’, though as a matter of fact 1slamic colonisation and slavery long precedes European.)

    Arguably the Ummah is *more* of a unity in many repects, that’s surely its strength. Else what is it? A mere aggregation of individuals with no collective identity? But then the concept of ‘Muslim’ is nothing, because that’s what it ulitmately stands for, membership of a community with shared allegiances. Inded that’s *all* it stands for, the collective being *entirely ideal* whereas national allegiances have by definition geographic, legal even racial and ethnic connotations.1slam on the other hand is supranational and non-racial.

    if collective guilt doesn’t apply to them how can it to the far more ideologically diverse British and Americans? In terms purely of *their ideas* there is far more that unites Musl1ms than Germans say. And that’s all we’re talking of here. Again it’s not a question of demonising Musl1ms as such. But then you’ll also have to desist from judging other collective entities who are bound by nothing more than their shared birthplace. Indeed Germans are typically judged for not doing more to resist the rise of Nazism rather than being totally exculpated for it.

    On your reasoning here neither can we be held collectively responsible for the acts of our democratically elected governments, because your argument is purely about numbers, “the vast majority*. But the vast majority don’t vote for any particular government. Of course we *do* feel collective responsibility but that only shows how erroneous is your concept of collective identity in the first place. And why should you apply a diferent standard to Musl1ms than anyone else?

  • Barba Rossa

    A dozen dead in France…A million dead in Iraq…no doubt what they have in common is outside influences…who benefits….no doubt Zionism benefits.

    • C. Gee

      “Zionism” is benefitting by the mass exodus of French Jews to Israel.
      Your elliptical musings are opaque.

      • Barba Rossa

        Then they are not really “Jews “. They are Zios a political motivation, certainly nothing to do with Judahism

        • Tim Morrison

          Perhaps, if you defined your terms …

        • C. Gee

          The picture becomes clearer. Who are real Jews? Who are you to have this ontological percipience?

  • Israel Marrano

    Song “Je suis Charlie too!” (Open source)
    Lyric by Israel Marrano.

    Je suis Charlie too!
    my name is a JEW
    We are just a few.
    But don’t forget
    Cherchez le JEWS.

    What?, What?, What

    JEW, JEW, JEW,
    JEW, JEW, JEW.
    Charlie Ha’do was
    made by the
    JEW, JEW, JEW,
    JEW, JEW, JEW.

    Je suis a Lybia too.
    Je suis 9/11 too.
    Je suis Charlie too.
    and guest what dude?

    What?, What?, What?

    Je suis KIEV TOOOO!!!!!!!

    JEW, JEW, JEW,
    JEW, JEW, JEW.
    Charlie Ha’do was
    made by the
    JEW, JEW, JEW,
    JEW, JEW, JEW.

  • justsomeone

    Surely anyone who says “je suis charlie” should put the text on one of Charlie’s infamous caricatures that the Islamic terrorists objected to so much, otherwise you demonstrate you most decidedly are not Charlie, not even for a brief moment. The article should have pointed this out.

  • Jess

    Thank god I’m an atheist. All religion should be abolished.

    • justsomeone

      Should Islam be abolished then?
      Right now, Christianity isn’t causing you any problems, neither are any other religions. There are two levels of stupidity to your comment. One, that you don’t name the religion that’s upsetting you. Two, that you think one can abolish religion. Meanwhile, get used to the new rule of political correctness, “thou shall not say Mohammed without describing him as a Prophet”.
      Here’s something you can do: abolish political correctness, at least as it applies to Islam.

      • gelert

        And peace be upon him, blah, blah.

  • Augustus

    Islam is a religion of peace(?)

    In Paris, and anywhere in the world where Islam gets itself a foothold, there are also jihadists. Are these some kind of traumatized individuals? I wonder what the relatives of the twelve Parisians killed think about that one. The terrorists weren’t Buddhists but Muslims. Not all Muslims may be fanatical terrorists, but all Islamic terrorists certainly are Muslims.

  • newname

    Why is it “evidently true” that “Islam is a religion of peace”? What is evidently true is that most Muslims don’t commit violent acts, but we don’t know whether this is because of the fact that they live in Britain where violence is not acceptable, or because they are not personally (like most people) violent by nature, or for some other reason. In fact most evidence suggests that Muslims are non-violent in spite of their religion, rather than because of it.

  • jmjm208

    Dhimitude is alive and well in this country. A few months ago idiot coppers in Taunton nicked a street preacher (Michael Overd) for correctly stating that Mo was a paedophile.

    • gelert

      Bristol Plod nicked someone for reading the Bible in public. London Plod refused to do anything about anti-“Zionist” marchers shouting, “Death to the Jews” during the last Gaza conflict.

  • komment

    The protocols governing the respect or disrespect for religions or faiths should be applied equitably across all religions and faiths. No one faith should be considered special or immune.

  • Sara Faria

    great piece, especially the point about this being an old phenomenon – however don’t agree that “Islamist terror is direct repudiation of modernity.” they embrace all sorts of aspects of modernity – it’s much more complicated than that

  • treacle

    The French magazine baited the Muslim community for month after month with offensive and inflamatory cartoons until some Muslim fanatics came and murdered them. The magazine was entirely within its rights to do this, and the fanatics were entirely wrong to react as they did. But the magazine was unwise to goad the fanatics. Nothing has been gained by their doing so. By the same token, a Protestant loyalist would be entirely within their rights to go into a Catholic area of Belfast night after night, and wave the Union flag and sing Protestant songs. But it would be unwise. Nothing would be gained by their doing so. I am not saying that the magazine were in any way responsible for what happened. The killers were 100% responsible. But it would have been better if the magazine hadn’t printed the offensive material.

    • newname

      It’s the “buts” that give you away. Words and pictures, however “goading” or “unwise” can never be the excuse for murder. No need for a “but”.
      But – and here’s my but – without the people who are prepared to take the risks, do things that others think are “unwise” or “inflammatory” – we would probably be living under a fascist dictatorship.

      • treacle

        No, there is no excuse for murder. I say that in my post. The killers are 100% responsible. Whatever the provocation, they were wrong to react. The magazine was in its rights to provoke them. But it would be better if it had not done so. True, we would then be living in a world of fear, of self-imposed censorship. But we already are living in such a world: the rest of the press take care not to incur the ire of the fanatics, and I would not blame them for that. As it is, 12 people have died. For what? I cannot see that anything has been gained by the loss of life. France is not a freer or more open country than it was last week.

        • Sean L

          Yes that should be recognised amid the outrage. These things are considered sacred. Just because we’ve abandoned the sacred doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect those who haven’t. We already censor racial abuse. I don’t see it has all that different in principle where religion is concerned. It serves no end other than to undermine the very notion of the sacred, which is what incites the violence in the first place because the Muslims recognise that once such blasphemy becomes acceptable they forfeit their sacredness to some degree, just as Christians have already. I don’t think you have to be an apologist for Islamic extremism to recognise that. I’m certainly not. It’s merely the truth.

    • gelert

      They have “goaded” Christians and Jews, as happens in the UK, but unlike the UK, they have also goaded Muslims. Do you think Muslims should have a special exemption ?

      • treacle

        Yes, they have goaded everyone, and were entitled to do so. No group should be legally exempted from being verbally attacked or ridiculed. But goading Muslims carries special risks, and if one wants to instigate a campaign of mockery of Muslims, as the magazine did, then it is wise to weigh up the risks and benefits of doing so. Charlie Hebdo didn’t use its freedom to expose corruption or wrongdoing, but merely to insult. Nothing was gained by publishing the cartoons. And twelve lives were lost.

        • gelert

          As will many more be lost before the Islamic invasion of Europe is repelled, as it was before.

        • Tim Morrison

          So if people challenge bullies then it is their fault that the bullies attack them.

          A wife who is attacked by her violent husband should not have resisted?

          The people who resort to violence are to blame. There is no justification.

          • treacle

            Please read my post above. I said “The killers were 100% responsible.”

            • Tim Morrison

              I did – but your distinction does not make sense. If the murderers are totally responsible then the victims are not. There are no buts. As soon, as you cloud that you start to blame the people without guns for being shot.

              • treacle

                Suppose that day after day I march through the Catholic areas of Belfast singing anti-Catholic songs and waving the Union flag. Eventually someone will beat me up or kill me. The person who beats me up or kills me will be 100% responsible for the violence: they will have broken the law, whereas I will not have done. But provoking them in the first place will still have been a stupid and unnecessary thing to do.

    • C. Gee

      Self-censorship? By a professional satirist? Is silent acquiescence to a new, unwritten blasphemy law “better”or “wiser”?

      • treacle

        It’s not good. But it’s better than being killed. If you were the editor of, say, Private Eye, what would you do? I suggest you would do what every newspaper and magazine editor does, which is to avoid causing needless offence to trigger-happy Islamists.

        • C. Gee

          They are trigger happy by definition and anything can be trumped up as a provocation or pretext to shoot.
          I think causing offense – open disgust at their ideology, conduct, customs, and culture – is needful.
          Do you want their religion and law to be a no-go area?

          • treacle

            No. But it’s wiser not to provoke them further when, as in this case, they have made threats against your life. I keep on wondering what the wives and children of the murdered cartoonists must have felt. I bet they wished their husbands/fathers would just lay off the Muslim-baiting for a bit.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    You are a publication. And a very good one I must admit, but still a publication and that’s why it’s common sense to be careful.

  • Conway

    Two conflicts rage here: one between civilisation and barbarism, the other between modernity and a kind of fanaticism we’ve known in our own past.” We have grown up; we have had our Reformation. The conflict is between Western values and a benighted ideology that thinks women are second class citizens, homosexuals should be stoned along with apostates, and the kuffar, who are lower than cattle, should be beheaded.

  • Doh

    Vous n’etes pas Charlie.
    Vous etes une apologiste.

  • e2toe4

    That’s hit the nail bang on the head…nothing much to add, nothing worth adding any way.

  • IC-1101

    “Doubtless, too, there will be the usual calls on all Muslims everywhere to condemn these attacks as though they bear some inchoate communal responsibility for the barbarous actions of their co-religionists. ”

    They do bear some inchoate communal responsibility, though, particularly those practising Sharia Law, which practices forms of collectivism and communalism. The loyals and duties of every Muslim flow to Allah. Shariah has some individual responsibilities, yes, but mostly within the commune.

    This is different from Western and particularly North American interpretations of Christianity, which champion individual responsibility and prosperity, but also holds altruism (unforced) in the highest light as a product of the social flexibility such liberties possess.

    If this were a one-off occurrence, sure, but it’s not. Muslim communities in France, Germany and the UK are communal and tribal in nature. They *want* to be seen as in solidarity with one another, this is why the pray together, why Sharia Law is a divine law (everyone is under God as one, no exception), and why man-made law — where the sole intention is to maintain the individuality of man — is broken and disassembled.

  • sentinelle

    que ceux que nos libertés dérangent quittent le pays des droits de l’homme.
    (c’est ça ou rien)

  • Pierino Forno

    Thank you for this article. Reason cannot win unless supported by courage. Being reasonable is not enough.

  • Bakunin Yol

    Eu sou Charles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! . Viva a Liberdade!!!!! Viva a Humanidade!!!!! (From Brasil)

  • smilingvulture

    might have to rewrite blog

    MORE – FRANCE: 1 of the gunmen are involved in a former cell called (FR) “La Filière Irakienne” (Iraqi network) that sent fighters to Iraq.
    8:16pm – 7 Jan 15

    • smilingvulture

      Jon Snow

      We avenge the Paris horror with more tanks at our peril:The abuse of indigenous muslims in the Iraq and Afghan wars have done us no favours

  • Ivan Ewan

    I am Charlie and this is Mo:

    ………c(‘ 😉 ~[ “And now my aeorta has been severed…”] Sunan Abu Dawud 4498
    o—– /~~|——o