Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Je suis toujours Charlie Hebdo

                    Etienne Laurent/European Pressphoto Agency
Charlie Hebdo is still in the news. (I wrote about it here and here)
I never much believed that the "solidarity" shown in the wake of the murder of the 12 cartoonists (for the crime of being satirists) and of four Jews (for the crime of being Jews) would last long.
And indeed that was the case.  In unseemly haste, the "Je suis Charlie" trope was countered, egregiously, with "Je ne suis pas Charlie".
In short, there's the split between the Charlies who believe in free speech even if it offends, and the non-Charlies who believe that if it offends Islamists, we shouldn't do it, to show "tolerance" -- not just a heckler's veto, in other words, but the murderer's veto.
Moi? Je suis a Charlie.
Then the PEN gala boycott, which is covered Jennifer Schuessler's piece in today's International New York Times. 
Schuessler tries to tread a neutral line, but fails to mention Salman Rushdie's put-down of the boycotters as "pussies" and "six writers in search of character".
Schuessler quotes the extraordinary claim from a French "centre-left historian and demographer", Emmanuel Todd, that
The real threat to France, he said, isn’t Muslims but “this crazy new religion I call ‘radical secularism.’ ”
Eh?  Secularists are people who believe in two basic propositions:
The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.
Todd may add the ad hominem "radical" to "secularism", but what does this really mean, other than that so-called "radicals" are simply those who press these two admirable propositions rather more robustly than your average non-"radical" secularist?
On the other side, we have five million French Muslims, the majority of whom believe that France should be under Sharia law, with its supremacy of Islam over all other religions, and including the stoning of adulterers, the killing of apostates, the murder of blasphemers and all that nasty stuff.  Whose more enthusiastic co-religionists set about doing just that, killing infidels, jews and blasphemers.  And nearly a third of whom (nearly 2 million), back Islamic State (beheaders of aid workers, cruficiers of Christians, burners of apostates.... and on and on....)
And to Todd it's the secularists who are more of a threat?  Heaven help us!
As to the PEN gala boycotters and the signers of a letter to PEN bemoaning the PEN courage award to Charlie Hebdo, their main point seems to be that Hebdo, in lampooning Islam, was "hitting down", on the marginalised and non-enpowered, Nick Cohen (a middle-class leftie), has this to say:
Most glaringly they have failed to understand power. It is not fixed but fluid. It depends on where you stand. The unemployed terrorist with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian cartoonist cowering underneath his desk. The marginal cleric may well face racism and hatred – as my most liberal British Muslim friends do – but when he sits in a Sharia court imposing misogynist rules on Muslim women in the West, he is no longer a victim or potential victim but a man to be feared.
That link I got from Harry's Place, "PEN, Charlie Hebdo and those who like farts".
I just heard on BBC World Service Radio that the PEN award to Charlie Hebdo has gone ahead and been presented.  Good.  A victory for the good guys.