Charlie Hebdo publishes provocative Islam cartoon

Charlie Hebdo  published a provocative front cover in reaction to the vehicle-ramming attack in Barcelona last Thursday, sarcastically calling Islam a “religion of peace.”

The magazine’s artwork shows a white van in the background with two cross-eyed, bloodied bodies lying motionless on the floor. The words read, “Islam, the religion of eternal peace.” Most of those implicated in the Barcelona vehicle-ramming attack and a second attack in the Catalonian town of Cambrils were Moroccan-born Muslims.

The magazine’s editor, Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, justified the decision in an editorial, saying that the publication was sending a message that the French elite were too scared to communicate.

“The debates and questions about the role of religion, and in particular the role of Islam, in these attacks have completely disappeared,” he wrote.

Critics said the art risked exacerbating Islamophobia, and alienating more moderate Muslims who are not involved in extremist activity. A former Socialist minister, Stéphane Le Foll, said the cover was “extremely dangerous” because of the message it sent to others about all forms of Islam.

“When you’re a journalist you need to exercise restraint because making these associations can be used by other people,” he said in a tweet.

 

Mosques release own cartoons in reaction to Muhammad-cartoons

The Organization of Moroccan mosques in the Netherlands is planning to release a Wilders-cartoon. This in a reaction to the leader of political party PVV, who is known for his harsh anti-Islam standpoints and who himself is planning to show the controversial Muhammad cartoons on television. Spokesperson Aissa Zanzen says that a normal dialogue with Wilders is impossible and the best way to react to his action is with some humour.

Foto: ANP
Foto: ANP

Whose group sponsored provocative Mohammad cartoon contest?

Pamela Geller’s group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, sponsored the contest and billed it as an exercise in free speech, which it said is under attack by radical Islamists like those who attacked French magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.

“Geller has promulgated some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories found on the extreme right, including claims that President Obama is the love child of Malcolm X, that Obama was once involved with a ‘crack whore,’ that his birth certificate is a forgery, that his late mother posed nude for pornographic photos, and that he was a Muslim in his youth who never renounced Islam,” the center says in a profile of Geller on its website.

Such rhetoric has landed the Initiative on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups as an active anti-Muslim group.

Book by Charlie Hebdo editor published posthumously

In a short book by Charlie Hebdo editor Charb – whose real name is Stéphane Charbonnier – expressed concern that the fight against racism is being replaced by a struggle against “Islamophobia,” which he argued defends Islam more than it does Muslims.

 

He also defended Charlie Hebdo, which stirred outrage in much of the Muslim world after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on numerous different occasions.

“One day, for a laugh, I will have to publish all the threats I received at Charlie Hebdo,” Charb wrote.

 

In the book, which is titled “Letter to the Islamophobia swindlers who play into the hands of racists,” Charb asked why Islamophobia, which technically means “fear of Islam,” is being used to denounce hatred of Muslims and wondered why “Muslimophobia” is not used instead, or simply “racism.”

 

He argued that “a lot of those who campaign against Islamophobia don’t actually do it to defend Muslims as individuals, but to defend Prophet Mohammed’s religion.”

 

He blamed the media for helping popularize the term, because “any scandal that contains the word ‘Islam’ in its title sells.”

 

“A terrorist is scary, but if you add that he’s an Islamist, everyone wets themselves,” he wrote.

 

Charb also questioned organized religion, and particularly some of its followers.

“To be afraid of Islam is without a doubt moronic, absurd and many other things as well, but it’s not an offense,” he wrote. “The problem isn’t the Qur’an, nor the Bible, [two] badly written, incoherent and soporific novels, but the believer who reads the Qur’an or the Bible like one reads an instruction manual on how to assemble an Ikea shelf.”

 

He defended Charlie Hebdo‘s controversial depictions of the Prophet over the years, which have been criticized as Islamophobic.

 

“By what twisted logic is humor less compatible with Islam than with any other religion? … If we let it be understood that we can laugh at everything except certain aspects of Islam because Muslims are much more susceptible than the rest of the population, isn’t that discrimination?”

 

“It’s time to end this disgusting paternalism of the white, bourgeois, intellectual ‘left’ who seek to exist among the ‘unfortunate, under-educated poor,’” he wrote.

 

He also chillingly wrote about a list published by the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Inspire magazine in 2013, which identified 11 people wanted “dead or alive” for committing “crimes against Islam”.

 

“I find my name, badly spelled but accompanied by a photo where you can recognize my alarmed face” — a picture he said was taken when the newspaper’s offices were burnt down in 2011 shortly after a special edition was published under the banner “Charia Hebdo.”

“The skillful montage is titled ‘YES WE CAN’ and below you can read: ‘a bullet a day keeps the infidel away.’”

Tolerance index climbs following Charlie Hebdo and Hyperchacher attacks

The January 2015 attacks have without a doubt had an impact on racism in French society, according to a study conducted in March and released April 9 by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), but it is more positive. The “longitudinal tolerance index” developed in 2008 by Vincent Tiberj, PhD in political science. The indicator shows that since November 2014 tolerance for black people has increased 4 points, with Muslims and North Africans increasing 1.5 points– the margin of error being 1.6 points. As a result one “can only conclude that France has not experienced a large increase in anti-Muslim sentiment.”

The situation is paradoxical. Support for non-European foreigners’ right to vote increased 6 points from 2013 to 2014 and was shared by 43% of Frenchmen. The belief that immigration is a source of cultural enrichment increased 4 points and the rejection of the belief in race increased 8 points compared to 2009.

One aspect of the study evaluated “increasingly serious tension toward Muslims.” The belief that North Africans “form a separate group” decreased in 2014 (38%, 8 points less than in 2013), with a similar statistic for Asians (37%, down 4 points). Black people are perceived as more integrated (25% say they are not) as are homosexuals (18%). However 48% of Frenchmen believe that Muslims “form a separate group,” and 72% believe that “France must remain a Christian country.” Curiously, 1 in 2 Frenchmen believe that it is necessary to support the Muslim faith, but 93% are against women wearing the headscarf (up 5 points since 2010).

The situation remains tense: 86% of those surveyed believed racism is widespread (2 points more than in 2013), even if 43% of Frenchmen believe they “are not racist at all” (an increase for the first time since 2010). However 72% believe that there are too many immigrants. The most intolerant are older people, those from rural areas, the most right-wing voters, and the least educated.

Third Muslim child questioned by police for “condoning terrorism”

A ten year-old child was stopped by gendarmes for not having supported the journalists of Charlie Hebdo killed by the Kouachi brothers. She is the third child to be questioned for “condoning terrorism.” The child had said, “I agree with the terrorists for killing the journalists because they made fun of our religion.” Accompanied by her parents she was questioned for 30 minutes by policemen and a child psychiatrist.

“It’s always worrying when we have this kind of remark,” explained Georges Gutierrez in Nice Matin, the prosecutor of the Republic of Grasse. The French court has decided to close the case. The prosecutor said that after the meeting the child no longer held the same belief and that she had been unable to explain what compelled her to say such remarks.

French comedian to go on trial for supporting terrorism

French comedian Dieudonné Mbala to stand trial for allegedly condoning terrorism via Facebook. (Photo: The Telegraph UK)
French comedian Dieudonné Mbala to stand trial for allegedly condoning terrorism via Facebook. (Photo: The Telegraph UK)

French comedian Dieudonné Mbala has been charged with condoning terrorism following a Facebook comment in which he expressed support for Ahmedy Coulibaly, the gunman who took hostages at a kosher supermarket and killed five people.

While in court Dieudonné stated: “of course I condemn the attacks without any restrain and without any ambiguity.”

He angered French officials after posting a statement online which read: “Je suis Charlie Coulibaly,” after thousands marched in Paris under the slogan “Je suis Charlie” in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Dieudonné was arrested January 14.

Following Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s request that authorities investigate the comedian’s remarks, Dieudonné responded that he was being “treated as a public enemy when all he wanted to do was make a joke.”

Many see his arrest as a violation of free speech and an example of the government’s double standard.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland said “The case has raised new questions about French values of freedom, equality and fraternity.” Dieudonné could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. In addition to the recent allegations he already faces already other charges after being convicted for inciting anti-Semitism.

“He is currently involved in several trials here, on charges ranging from slander, to incitement of racial hatred, to condoning terrorism. In all cases, he denies the charges,” an Al Jazeera correspondent said.

Luz: “The majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo”

Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine's offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)
Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine’s offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)

Luz, the illustrator who escaped the January 7 attack at the Charlie Hebdo office, conducted a video interview with Vice. He recounts what he saw that day and discusses the magazine’s controversial headline.

“I was really lucky. It was my anniversary on January 7 and I stayed in bed with my wife for a long time. As a result, I was stupidly late to the meeting. When I arrived at Charlie, I saw people who stopped me and whole told me ‘Don’t go in there, there are two armed men who just entered the building.’”

Luz saw the two terrorists leave and reenter the building several minutes later. “I began to see traces of bloody footsteps. I understood after: it was the blood of my friends. I saw there were people on the ground. I saw a friend face down on the ground.” He continues between sobs: “They needed belts to stop the bleeding. I realized I didn’t have a belt. So now I wear belts.”

Since the attack there has been controversy surrounding the representation of Muhammad. Several demonstrations against the magazine have occurred in the Muslim world. “I think that the majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo,” says Luz. “I think that people who assume the right to say that the entire Muslim community was offended are people who take Muslims to be idiots.” He adds that it’s “sad” that newspapers such as The New York Times decided not to publish the cover.

How Many French Muslims? Public’s Estimation Incorrect

Following the attacks in Paris that killed seventeen people in three days, Le Monde published an article responding to the “distrust that has spread in public opinion for several weeks.” Using information gathered during an Ipsos study, Le Monde found that the French tended to overestimate the number of Muslims they believed to be living in France, believing the percentage to be 23% when it’s actually 8%.

While France forbids collecting data about religious affiliation, there are differing estimations about the number of Muslims in France. Certain polls say there are around 3 million, not including minors and the elderly. France’s Minister of the Interior recently stated that there are between 4 and 5 million Muslims living in France. In comparison, there are believed to be 11.5 million Catholics. He also stated that there are around 4,500 converts to Islam each year.

According to Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and the Observatory Against Islamophobia, anti-Muslim acts have multiplied, with over 50 occurring since the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks.

France Security: Chechens arrested amid high alert

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack police in France have arrested five Chechens suspected of possessing explosives. Terrorism officials were not aware of the suspects prior to their arrest, although they were known to organized crime units.

Four men have also been charged with supporting Amedy Coulibaly and are due to appear in Paris court. Seventeen people were killed in three days of terror attacks in Paris.

The Chechens were apprehended during raids in Beziers and Saint-Jean-de-Vedas near Montpellier. Hidden explosives were found during the search and investigators are attempting to determine if they were planning an attack. Yvon Calvet said people “shouldn’t jump to conclusions” about the arrests. Chechnya has witnessed large demonstrations against the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo of the Prophet Muhammad.