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.

 

Fear and apprehension among German Muslims after the Berlin attack

Disavowing the attacker

Following the truck attack on a busy Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in the heart of former West Berlin on December 19, German Muslims have sought to dissociate themselves from the presumed attacker. The suspected jihadist, Anis Amri, remains at large at the time of writing.

Muslims gathered on the square where the attack had occurred, wearing t-shirts with the inscription “Muslims for peace”, and holding up signs such as “I am a Muslim, not a terrorist”.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/anschlag-in-berlin-muslime-demonstrieren-gegen-terror-a-1126876.html )) A choir, composed of long-standing German residents and recently arrived refugees, came out to sing Christmas songs.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/anschlag-in-berlin-wir-sind-hier-weil-wir-alle-menschen-sind-1.3305340 ))

In the aftermath of the attack, anxieties among refugees are running particularly high: speaking to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, many express fears about a worsening security situation and a growing incidence of terrorist attacks. They worry about tighter immigration policies and above all about greater suspicion and distrust that couls make building a life in Germany more difficult.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-12/anschlag-weihnachtsmarkt-berlin-fluechtlinge-reaktionen/komplettansicht ))

Responses of Muslim bodies and representatives

Representatives of the country’s largest Muslim associations have strongly condemned the attack and sought to show their presence during official ceremonies of mourning.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2016/12/20/religionsvertreter-verurteilen-berliner-anschlag/ )) An Imam participated in the oecumenical service at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a war-damaged church at Breitscheidplatz rechristened as a monument to peace. The service was also attended by leading politicians, including Chancellor Merkel.(( http://islam.de/28268 ))

At the same time, Muslim associations’ capacities remain circumscribed due to their internal divisions and their limited ability to represent Muslim believers in a convincing fashion. In contrast to a host of Christian and Jewish institutions, they are also not recognised as ‘religious communities’ (Religionsgemeinschaften) or as ‘corporate bodies of public law’ (Körperschaften öffentlichen Rechts) and thus have a distinctly inferior legal status in the country – a fact which hampers their financial and social capacities as well as their political clout.(( https://en.qantara.de/content/islam-in-germany-a-poor-second ))

The complex politics of Islamic associational life

Consequently, Germany’s Muslim community may struggle to develop a coherent and powerful public response to the Berlin attack. Already in January 2015, when a vigil with a large number of high-ranking participants from politics and society was organised in front of the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the attack on Charlie Hebdo, bitter infighting broke out among Germany’s disparate Muslim associations.

At the time, representatives of the DİTİB, VIKZ, and IRD umbrella bodies, each of which runs substantial numbers of mosques, had a public fallout with their rival Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD). They accused Mazyek of using the vigil to distinguish himself and to derive political capital for himself and the ZMD to the detriment of the other associations. ((http://www.fr-online.de/terror/zentralrat-der-muslime-muslime-sauer-auf-mazyek,29500876,29557370.html ))

Germany at a crossroads

One might be tempted to hope that in the aftermath of the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market attack – the first substantial jihadist incident on German soil – the country’s Muslim associations could be propelled to overcome some of their long-standing hostilities and move to a more unified position.

Yet it is equally if not more plausible to expect tensions between these antagonistic players to increase in the coming weeks and months. Muslim representatives and institutions seem poised to be sucked into a divisive spiral of politicisation in which they are required to prove their loyalty to the German state.

The onset of this dynamic could already be observed in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU, Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU, swiftly demanded a fundamental recalibration of Germany’s immigration and integration policies.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article160483611/So-rechtfertigt-Seehofer-seine-Zuwanderungsaussage.html )) A high-ranking AfD politician commented on Twitter that the fatalities of the attack were “Merkel’s dead”, i.e. a consequence of her lax immigration policies.(( https://www.welt.de/regionales/bayern/article160485594/Polizei-prueft-Tweet-von-AfD-Mann-Pretzell.html ))

Invoking unity

The bulk of the political responses to the events of December 19 has been more measured so far. Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller (SPD), called upon the three monotheistic religions to continue to live together in peace. He asserted that “Jews, Christians and Muslims belong to this city” and must “not let themselves be pitted against one another”.(( http://islam.de/28268 ))

CDU politicians as well as a range of civil society actors harshly criticised Horst Seehofer for his glib calls for repressive measures and his populist ‘law and order’ approach.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/annegret-kramp-karrenbauer-weist-horst-seehofer-nach-berlin-anschlag-zurecht-a-1127140.html ))

Cautionary tale from the other side of the Rhine

In this respect, the political climate in Germany is still far from attaining the poisonous levels reached in France after the November 2015 terrorist attacks. Yet it is worth remembering that after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre, France lived through something of a moment of national unity in which millions of citizens and leaders peaceably took to the streets, collectively defying the terrorist challenge.((http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hollande-idUSKBN0L91VN20150205 ))

Nearly two years and two major attacks later, this sense of unity appears to have dissipated completely. This highlights the challenges that Germany will face in the months and years ahead. The truck assault of December 19 may inspire the sense of cohesion that many observers are hoping for. Yet this cohesion remains fragile and vulnerable to further attacks.

Burkini Ban: Algerian businessman pays women’s fines

Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist, has stepped up to the plate to pay the penalty for any Muslim woman who is fined in France for wearing the burkini, a full-length swimsuit that covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet.
“I decided to pay for all the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law,” Nekkaz said.
The burkini ban at some French beaches is the most recent move by Parisian politicians to prohibit religious attire in public.
After the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks, Nekkaz said a few politicians took advantage of the fear of Islam, which spread within the population, to try to reduce the number of freedoms in France, which he called an “unacceptable, inadmissible and intolerable move.”
Across Europe, similar bans are taking form, as the tide shifts toward more regulations in favor of restricting the traditional Islamic attire.
“And I don’t accept that these great countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands and now Germany, take advantage of this fear of Islam to reduce the number of personal freedoms,” Nekkaz said.

Terrorism: Valls and Urvoas definitively exclude detention centers

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2016/06/15/terrorisme-valls-urvoas-centres-retention-_n_10474368.html

 

June 15, 2016

French authorities have ruled out creating Guantanamo Bay-style detention centers for suspected Islamic radicals, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday. The announcement comes as the nation contends with a growing domestic terror problem, particularly in the wake of a fatal stabbing of two Paris-area police officers Monday night.

 

“Our first weapon is criminal law, and it is the legitimacy of the rule of law: to pursue, detain and put out of harm’s way all those who engage in these [jihadist] networks,” Valls said. “[It is] dangerous to confuse measures of surveillance with those of confinement,” he added.

 

Valls’ statement comes just two days after a French police officer and his partner, who also worked for law enforcement, were stabbed to death at their home west of Paris. They are survived by their 3-year-old son. The perpetrator of the murders had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group terrorist organization.

 

France had been considering the idea of creating detention centers — dubbed “French Guantanamos” — for people who are suspected of being potential terrorists or are being monitored by intelligence officials. More than 10,000 people throughout the country are categorized as “Fiche S,” or a potential security threat. Their offenses range from banditry all the way to terrorism, and not all are being actively monitored by intelligence officials.

 

The system has faced criticism, particularly after coordinated terror attacks in November killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in Paris. Those attacks came just three months after a foiled attack on a high-speed train and 10 months after a pair of ISIS-inspired brothers stormed the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.

A system of detention for suspected Islamic radicals already exists in several French prisons. A few dozen of the most radical prisoners are determined by using a set of questions, and they are then confined with each other with the goal of preventing their philosophies from spreading. That system has faced much scrutiny as well, with critics arguing that it only facilitates communication among would-be jihadists.

 

Paris terror attacks: We Muslims must hunt down these monsters who make a mockery of our religion

Twelve years ago, I converted to Islam to marry a Tunisian. It was a purely formal conversion. I remained fundamentally agnostic until 20 months ago, I experienced a spiritual revelation, started to believe in God and to practise my religion of adoption.

We must take the lead in fighting and hunting down extremists, not just beside, but ahead of, our Christian, and Jewish brothers and sisters.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year, I felt it was my duty as a concerned Muslim citizen to express my outrage at having my religion hijacked by mindless thugs.

With several French Muslim theologians and intellectuals, we launched the “Khlass le silence!” (“Enough with the silence!”) movement, which called on French Muslims to take the lead in the struggle against the monsters who make a sordid mockery of our religion.

Despite the emotion felt throughout France and the French Muslim community, our appeal fell largely on deaf ears.

Less than a month later I teamed up with Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic leader of Malaysia’s opposition; the Palestinian-Austrian theologian Adnan Ibrahim; and a number of other authoritative Muslim figures from all around the world.

In pictures: A night of carnage in France’s capital

Together, we argued that while our natural instinct as Muslims to distance ourselves from the jihadists, saying that the latter have “nothing to do with Islam”, was understandable, it was dubious intellectually and altogether irresponsible to keep our reaction at that.

The last serious attempt at launching a movement of Islamic reform, led by the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh at the turn of the 20th century, ended up in failure and gave way to the creation of the Muslim brotherhood.

To overcome the state of denial described above and the moral decadence that is affecting many of us, nothing less than a new movement of Islamic reform is needed.

Despite some welcome marks of support, our calls continued to go unheeded. Our initiative was attacked or ridiculed by many in the French Muslim community and we were soon branded apostates by Islamic State (my picture appeared along with death threats in their French language propaganda magazine Dar al Islam).

Not a single Muslim leader came to our defence in France when that happened, and barely a thousand of our fellow Muslims manifested their support for our initiative.

On this ignominious day, the time has come for me to repeat with a greater sense of urgency still what my cosignatories and I said earlier this year:

“My dear Muslim brothers and sisters, it is time to make our voices heard: we must rise up massively and tell the barbarians who ordered, executed or condoned the acts of mass murder just committed in Paris that from now on we will take the lead in fighting and hunting them down, not just beside, but ahead of, our Christian, Jewish, or agnostic brothers and sisters.

“We must do so because Muslims are the extremists’ first victims and because we have mustered the courage to take our responsibilities and launch a massive, global movement for Islamic reform.

“If we do not, we must accept that these monsters represent Islam (and us) in the face of the entire world. With obvious consequences in many an forthcoming European election. The choice is ours.”

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.’”

Responses: Fundamentalism among Muslims

Sociologist Ruud Koopmans conducted a research on Muslims and concluded that 44% of the Muslims can be labelled as fundamentalist. Although most of them have a peaceful mindset, their ideas could be a breeding ground for terror, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks. A lot of readers reacted with enthusiasm to the article about Koopmans research. They felt ‘supported’ in their already existing ideas. There is however also some critique on the article and the research. Some of them referred to a different view on the same research, where Koopman argues that Islam nót the problem. Researcher Martijn de Koning criticized the research in itself, arguing that Koopman uses a certain (wide) definition of ‘fundamentalism’.

German anti-Islam group marches in Britain

Pegida, a populist anti-Islam movement – in Germany. It only held its first march against the “Islamisation of the West” in the German city of Dresden last October; now, it seems, it is ready to spread its message internationally. Branches have been set up in several other countries, including France and Spain, and the Newcastle demonstration next Saturday will be its first in Britain. If it is successful, more marches are planned, for Birmingham and London, as well as Bathgate in Scotland.

It is a remarkably ambitious expansion plan for a group that has proved so shambolic at home. Its spokesmen initially insisted that it had no links to the far-Right, a position that was rather undermined when a picture emerged of its leader, Lutz Bachmann, sporting a Hitler moustache. Yet, for all the chaos, Pegida has clearly touched a nerve. Its weekly marches in Dresden have been attended by as many as 25,000 Germans, and were particularly well-attended in the aftermath of last month’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Organisers expect only a tiny fraction of that figure at the march in Newcastle. Matthew Pope, its UK spokesman, said he hoped 1,000 supporters would show up. Even so, it will be a crucial test for Pegida, to see if it can tap into local disenchantment to build a broad-based movement in Britain to mirror the mass marches in Germany.

But why Newcastle? The number of Muslims in the city nearly doubled in the decade after 2001, but they still only account for around six percent of the overall population, a much lower concentration than in other northern cities such as Bolton and Manchester. The official line – put about by Pope, a 29-year-old born-again Christian from Cambridgeshire – is that the city was deliberately chosen because it is not a regular haunt of the far-Right, so that Pegida would not be tarnished by association.

However, Newcastle United fans have urged far-right activists to stay away from their city, amid growing tensions over the anti-Islamic movement Pegida’s first rally in Britain. NUFC Fans United supporters group made it clear that far-right protesters were not welcome in Newcastle, saying the city was “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit”. In a statement, they warned: “There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

In France, an increase in conversions to Islam in 2015

The Great Mosque of Paris has recorded 40 conversions to Islam in January 2015, compared to 22 in January 2014.  Conversions to Islam have thus doubled, and increased mosque attendance has been reported in Strasbourg, Aubervilliers and Lyon, where conversions have increased from 20% to 30%. (Photo: Pangea Today)
The Great Mosque of Paris has recorded 40 conversions to Islam in January 2015, compared to 22 in January 2014. Conversions to Islam have thus doubled, and increased mosque attendance has been reported in Strasbourg, Aubervilliers and Lyon, where conversions have increased from 20% to 30%. (Photo: Pangea Today)

The Great Mosque of Paris has recorded 40 conversions to Islam in January 2015, compared to 22 in January 2014. Conversions to Islam have thus doubled, and increased mosque attendance has been reported in Strasbourg, Aubervilliers and Lyon, where conversions have increased from 20% to 30%.

The media has reported that since the Charlie Hebdo attacks there has been an increase in sales of Qur’an.

The results may appear strange considering the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks and the tense climate following the Averroès high school controversy, where a former teacher accused students of harboring Islamist tendencies.

“The school’s director plays a double game with our secular Republic: from one angle he shows its credentials to the media…and also continues to profit as a result of its contract with the state, and from another angle, perniciously disseminates an interpretation of Islam which is none other than Islamism, that’s to say, a dangerous mix of religion and politics,” said former teacher Soufiane Zitouni.

One of the recent converts explained his decision to convert: “It makes me want to convert to Islam and show the world what it’s not.” The phenomenon of conversion is all the more notable because it is present on several socio-professional levels. Imams who were interviewed on the radio stated that recent converts include doctors, professors, police officers, and even school directors.