Skip to main content

Charlie Hebdo and French Government Islamophobia

By Dr. Reza Pankhurst

September 27, 2012

After the reaction to the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims”, it was only a matter of time before the next deliberate provocation added fuel to the fire. The French magazine Charlie Hebdo duly obliged, last week publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad on September 19 in what was considered by many Muslims worldwide as a further gratuitous affront to Islam. The magazine has previously engaged in incitement, when last year it printed offensive cartoons ridiculing Islam while then announcing that its edition would be guest-edited by the Prophet Mohammad, leading to its office being firebombed in November 2011.
In this instance, the French government responded quickly, understanding that in the context of protests against foreign embassies across the World French interests abroad could be threatened. A number of French embassies across the Middle East were duly closed over the last weekend, and the French Prime Minister also expressed his “disapproval of any excess”, while stating that “the freedom of speech makes up one of the fundamental principles of [the French] republic”. This response echoed the position of American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she expressed her personal disapproval of the anti-Islam film that has caused the initial wave of protests, while confirming the right for it to be made, published and promoted in the United States.
These events cannot be taken out of the political context of the last ten years, where Muslims across the World have been subjected to the so-called “war on terror”, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan  where the killing of innocent civilians by NATO troops is still a regular occurrence,  the illegal imprisonment and torture of thousands in facilities such as Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay, and the extra-judicial killings carried out in several Muslim countries by CIA Predator drones. At the same time Western governments like the United States, France, and Britain gave political support and sometimes collaborated in illegal rendition and torture with an assortment of dictators across the Middle-East  and beyond, such as Moammar al-Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak while they were in place, a factconveniently forgotten by Western politicians and certain media outlets in their collective amnesia when addressing the new Middle East. People in the region feel vulnerable, and along with being the victims of political violence they have also witnessed news of Quran burnings whether by the American military or right wing pastors, the denigration of the Quran at Guantanamo bay, along with a growing amount of media production in terms of films and cartoons deliberating insulting the sanctified elements of their religion.
In France specifically, baiting Islam and Muslims is something of a national pastime for politicians, with their banning of the Niqab (face-covering) the most prominent example of the restriction of their proclaimed freedoms when it applies to Islam. This came after the banning of the wearing of Islamic head-coverings in French schools, forcing Muslim students in France to either compromise their education or Islamic principles.
It is far-fetched for French media like Charlie Hebdo to claim it is a bastion of absolute free speech when it previously condemned one of its own cartoonists, Maurice Sinet, for writing a biting article about Nicholas Sarkozy’s son which appeared to denigrate him for marrying a Jewish heiress for money.  Sinet was subsequently sacked for refusing to apologize. So much for principles when domestic political sensitivities are involved – and yet showing sensitivity to a billion or so Muslims around the World is apparently an affront to their secularism.
It is the French government that has the most to answer for in creating this climate of hypocrisy and hatred, where Islam and Muslims appear to be regularly targeted under the banner of an illusionary “freedom”, and Muslims are then banned from protesting in response.  When the French Prime Minister states that the magazine’s cartoons are “expressed within the confines of the law and under the control of the courts”, it can be pointed out that the French senate passed a bill earlier this year which bans denial of genocide recognised by French law, a clear indication of the willingness to restrict expression for political reasons. Ironically, the political target in this case is the Turkish government, and the event referred to is the killing of Armenians in 1915-16 during the final few years of the Ottoman State, the last formal representation of the Islamic political model of the Caliphate.
French interaction with the Ottoman State and the freedom to insult Islamic sensibilities has its own peculiar history. Towards the end of the 19th century, the French government banned the dramatization of a play entitled “Mahomet” in deference to the representations made by the Ambassador of the Ottoman Caliphate. Fearful of pushing the Ottoman Caliphate further into the arms of the German empire, France’s continental neighbor and competitor, principles quickly gave way to realpolitik. And in this event, one of the reasons behind the frustrations of Muslims who have taken to the streets can be understood. If today there was such a political entity which represented the Islamic viewpoint regarding these issues, Muslims worldwide could look to it to take firm stances in their interests, and it can be dealt with at a state level as history attests. In the absence of such a government, people take to the streets to express their anger, a sight that is likely to become more visible in the new Middle East without the same Western backed dictators such as Hosni Mubarak around anymore to keep them in check.
Dr. Reza Pankhurst is a political scientist and historian, specializing in the Middle East and Islamic movements. He received his doctorate from the London School of Economics. He was a political prisoner of the previous Mubarak regime in Egypt, spending almost 4 years in jail between 2002 and 2006. His forthcoming book is entitled “The Inevitable Caliphate?” (Hurst/ Columbia University Press 2012) and is available at Amazon and other retailers.


Popular posts from this blog

An advice to Muslims working in the financial sector

Assalam wa alaikum wa rahmatullah wabarakatahu, Dear Brothers & Sisters, We are saddened to see Muslims today even those who practise many of the rules of Islam are working in jobs which involve haram in the financial sector. They are working in positions which involve usurious (Riba) transactions, insurance, the stock market and the like. Even though many of the clear evidences regarding the severity of the sin of Riba are known, some have justified their job to themselves thinking that they are safe as long as they are not engaged in the actual action of taking or giving Riba. Brothers & Sisters, You should know that the majority of jobs in the financial sector, even the IT jobs in this area are haram (prohibited) as they involve the processing of prohibited contracts. If you work in this sector, do not justify your job to yourself because of the fear of losing your position or having to change your career, fear Allah as he should be feared and consider His law regard

Q&A: Age of separating children in the beds?

Question: Please explain the hukm regarding separation of children in their beds. At what age is separation an obligation upon the parents? Also can a parent sleep in the same bed as their child? Answer: 1- With regards to separating children in their beds, it is clear that the separation which is obligatory is when they reach the age of 7 and not since their birth. This is due to the hadith reported by Daarqutni and al-Hakim from the Messenger (saw) who said: When your children reach the age of 7 then separate their beds and when they reach 10 beat them if they do not pray their salah.’ This is also due to what has been narrated by al-Bazzar on the authority of Abi Rafi’ with the following wording: ‘We found in a sheet near the Messenger of Allah (saw) when he died on which the following was written: Separate the beds of the slave boys and girls and brothers and sisters of 7 years of age.’ The two hadiths are texts on the separation of children when they reach the age of 7. As for the

Q&A: Shari' rule on songs, music, singing & instruments?

The following is a draft translation from the book مسائل فقهية مختارة (Selected fiqhi [jurprudential] issues) by the Mujtahid, Sheikh Abu Iyas Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Uweida (May Allah protect him) . Please refer to the original Arabic for exact meanings. Question: What is the Shari’ ruling in singing or listening to songs?  What is the hukm of using musical instruments and is its trade allowed? I request you to answer in detail with the evidences? Answer: The Imams ( Mujtahids ) and the jurists have differed on the issue of singing and they have varying opinions such as haraam (prohibited), Makruh (disliked) and Mubah (permissible), the ones who have prohibited it are from the ones who hold the opinion of prohibition of singing as a trade or profession, and a similar opinion has been transmitted from Imam Shafi’i, and from the ones who disliked it is Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who disliked the issue and categorised its performance under disliked acts, a similar opinion has been tran