Friday, 9 January 2015

Some notes on the Charlie Hebdo Attack

Some notes from the coverage of the murder of Charlie Hebdo staff.

Condemnation of the attack (see also here) many Muslim Organisations, for example :

Grand Mosque of Paris :
"We strongly condemn these kind of acts and we expect the authorities to take the most appropriate measures. Our community is stunned by what just happened. It’s a whole section of our democracy that is seriously affected. This is a deafening declaration of war. Times have changed, and we are now entering a new era of confrontation."

Tariq Ramadan :
"Charlie Hebdo: NO! NO! NO! Contrary to what was apparently said by the killers in the bombing of Charlie Hebdo's headquarters, it is not the Prophet who was avenged, it is our religion, our values and Islamic principles that have been betrayed and tainted. My condemnation is absolute and my anger is profound (healthy and a thousand times justified) against this horror!!!..."

An article by Jonathan Freedland :
"There can surely be no doubt now – as to what we’re up against. It is a murderous cult. And, at the risk of mind-reading, it seems bent on fusing itself with Islam, claiming to act in the name, and on the authority, of that faith...

It follows that our responsibility is to thwart that effort. For Muslims, that has meant spelling out that these killers speak only for themselves. Note the speed with which a delegation of 20 imams visited the Charlie Hebdo offices, branding the gunmen “criminals, barbarians, satans” and, crucially, “not Muslims”.Of course they should not have to do it. The finger-wagging demand that Muslims condemn acts of terror committed by jihadist cultists is odious: it tacitly assumes that Muslims support such horror unless they explicitly say otherwise...So no one else should demand it. But when it comes, as it did so rapidly and spontaneously this week, it speaks with an extra power.

If the challenge, then, is to frustrate the killers’ desire to fuse themselves with Islam, then that puts a burden on ..[non-Muslims also] have to take great care that nothing they do, especially in response to this threat, treats the Muslim majority and the jihadist cult as if they were one group..."
Freedland also commented on the chorus of voices insisting that papers like the Guardian should republish Charlie Hebdo cartoons:
"Behind this argument is an assumption that Islam is a unique case. Yet for that to be true, a paper like the Guardian would be running images every day that it knew trampled on the sensibilities of, say, women or Jews or people of colour or myriad others – holding back only when it came to Muslims and what matters to them. But that’s not how it is. Mostly we do our best, not always successfully, to avoid causing that kind of pain.

And this is the key point. It is not only violent jihadists who resent representations of the prophet: such pictures trouble many millions of peaceful Muslims too. To print one now would be to take a stand against the former by offending the latter.

And that makes no sense. Not when our every move must now be aimed at confounding the killers’ wish to make this a holy war, pitting Muslims against everyone else. It is no such thing. Theirs is a dirty little war, a handful of wicked fanatics against the rest of us. And they must lose."

A visit by 20 Imams to the Charlie Hebdo offices after the attack:
"..On Thursday a delegation of about 20 imams from France’s Muslim federations visited the Charlie Hebdo offices...These men are criminals, barbarians, satans. For me, they are not Muslims,” the imam of the Paris suburb of Drancy, said, addressing the media. “Their hatred, their barbarism, has nothing to do with Islam. We are all French, we are all humans. We must live in respect, tolerance and solidarity.”"

Some comments from Rabbi Michael Lerner:
"And when the horrific [Charlie Hebdo attack] resulted in justifiable outrage around the world, did you ever wonder why there wasn't an equal outrage at the tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed by the American intervention in Iraq or the over a million civilians killed by the U.S. in Vietnam, or why President Obama refused to bring to justice the CIA torturers of mostly Muslim prisoners

So don't be surprised if people around the world, while condemning the despicable acts of the murderers in Paris and grieving for their families and friends, remain a bit cynical about the media-circus surrounding this particular outrage while the Western media quickly forgets the equally despicable acts of systematic murder and torture that Western countries have been involved in...I could easily imagine (and regret) how some Islamist fundamentalists will already be making these points about the ethical inconsistencies of Western societies with their pomposity about human rights that never seem to constrain the self-described "enlightened democracies" from violating those rights when it is they who perceive themselves as under attack."

An article in the Telegraph by Michael Deacon:
"Here's a theory...[Terrorists] merely pretend to be offended by cartoons, in order to give themselves a pretext to commit murder. Murder so horrifying, on a pretext so unWestern, that non-Muslims – blinded by grief and rage – turn on Muslims. Blame them. Persecute them. Burn their book, attack their mosques, threaten them in the street, demand their expulsion from Western societies. Actions that, in turn, scare Western Muslims, isolate them, alienate them. And thus drive some of them to support – and even become – terrorists"

Deacon adds that:
"I don't think the terrorists "win" if we fail to reproduce cartoons. I think the terrorists "win" if we leap up, gulp down their bait – and hate Muslims."

Having read all the above, and much else, BFTF's own thought are that this attack would have happened even if Charlie Hebdo had not existed. Whichever group did this decided they wanted to attack FIRST and decided what to attack SECOND. If not Charlie Hebdo, it would have been another publication, or a police station, or the parliament, or a company HQ or a church, or a synagogue.. Focussing on what Charlie Hebdo did or did not do is missing the point entirely. Further proof of this is how the attackers had no problem in killing civilians in a kosher supermarket.

Update 10th Jan
Touched by the story of how a Muslim saved many lives in the Kosher Supermarket that was attacked:
"When the Islamist gunman broke into the store, Lassana Bathily, a 24-year-old Muslim from the African country of Mali, told customers to hide in the store's basement freezer. Closing the freezer's doors, he told the customers to wait calmly inside while he keeps a lookout. After police raided the supermarket and killed gunman Amedy Coulibaly, the hostages emerged safely from the freezer."


  1. I agree with the Deacon article, it made most sense to me. I don't entirely agree with Rabbi Lerner - there is still a great deal of western opposition to Blair and Bush actions in Iraq. I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before this week and have no idea whether it is funny or racist or whatever. But there are laws to deal with racist publications and murder is always indefensible. I hope you are not recieving any backlash from bigots and racists yourself. (@countstuff)

  2. Thank you for comments. I am not receiving (not to expect to receive) any backlash. And that is because the backlash is always directed at the vulnerable - the old, women, youngsters. But I fear for my kids chances of getting a job with this kind of media pressure on the Muslim community.