Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Guardian Smears Charlie Hebdo – again.

with 6 comments


Guardian and its like have never pardoned French secularist satire.

After the Charlie Hebdo/hypercacher slaughter The Guardian could just not wait to spit on the corpses of the dead.

Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, (now something to do with the Labour Party) stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’.

This is their angle during the present week:

How did Charlie Hebdo get it so wrong?

In blaming all followers of Islam for terrorism, the French magazine is finding its catharsis in bigotry.

The editorial then laid the blame squarely on two factors – the complicity of the average, unaffiliated Muslim, and the erosion of secularism by a conspiracy of silence. Terrorism was fomented, it said, and people died because society could not voice discomfort at the many little “iceberg tips” of religious expression that had cumulatively eroded laïcité – the secularism written into the French constitution. Terrorism happened, in short, because freedom of speech was curbed.

The editorial gives credence and sanction to the view that there is no such thing as an innocent Muslim. That even those who do not themselves commit terrorism, somehow by just existing and practising, are part of a continuum that climaxes with two men blowing themselves up in Brussels airport.

I assume Malik is not a French speaker, or she would have read that the  Editorial – in the original – was signed by Riss, somebody not held in universally high regard in secularist left quarters.

That is to say, it’s more what English speaking journalists  would call an “Op-Ed”, an opinion piece,  than an authoritative statement of the weekly’s views.

It is also translated into what one can only call an “approximate” English; a task in any case facing difficulties for Riss’s highly colloquial style. (1)

The English title reads, How did we end up here?

The French reads: Qu’est-ce que je fous là ? – which most would agree is somewhat different to the former.

Riss asks, after the Brussels attacks,

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what’s going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He’s a teacher, so it’s not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

I assume the Guardian has no French speaking journalists, or at least those that follow French politics.

Ramadan, who “puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate” has hit the French news recently (19th of March) because of this:

Tariq Ramadan reconnait avoir rejoint l’Union mondiale des savants musulmans (UMSM)*.  Une organisation sur la liste des organisations terroristes des Emirats Arabes Unis. L’Union mondiale des savants musulmans est dirigé par le sulfureux théologien des Frères Musulmans : Youssef Al Qaradawi.

L’homme, recherché par Interpol, est un « savant » antisémite, homophobe, auteur d’une fatwa autorisant à mener des attentats suicide. Une fatwa que l’on retrouve sur plusieurs sites du Hamas. Youssef Al Qaradawi a aussi réclamé la destruction de mausolées chiites et  justifié l’assassinat de personnalités comme Mouammar Kadhafi  et Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan has admitted having joined the International Union of Muslim Scholars. This organisation is on the Arab Emirates List of terrorist organisations. It is run by the Muslim Brotherhood theologian Youssef Al Qaradawi.

This man, wanted by Interpol, is a ‘scholar’, who is anti semitic and homophobic. Qaradawi is the author of a Fatwa authorising suicide bombings – found on many Hamas sites. He has also called for the destruction of Shiite Mausoleums and justified the killings of Gadafi and Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan fait enfin son « coming out ».

The controversy over whether one should debate with this figure – in view of the above facts about his racist far-right links, has been stormy.

This appeared a couple of days ago:

Le Monde: « Accepter le débat avec Tariq Ramadan ne signifie pas être d’accord avec lui »

As for blaming the ‘average Muslim’ for genocidal terrorism I find no evidence in Riss’ article.

What he does do, and in a highly questionable way, is to place the spread of cultural Islam – with all its intolerance and attempts to impose its ‘law’ on everyday life, alongside the fact of the killings.

“From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. ”

The device of citing anecdotes about bakeries and the Burka in the context of murder is more than doubtful:.

It is precisely the kind of ranting which prevents secularist opposition to the religious imposition of veiling  (a declaration of ‘purity’ against the ‘impure’) getting a hearing.

But that is Riss, and a good reason why his thoughts are not treated with seriousness that the Guardian and like-minded mates  claim for it.

Another Guardian article by their ‘religious correspondent Harriet Sherwood (Charlie Hebdo criticised for linking all Muslims to Brussels bombings) lists their manufactured outrage.

As Sarah Brown  says,

I was looking again at the possibilities I started out with and thought I should make clear that I don’t think this is ‘an attack on all Muslims as potential fifth columnists’. Some have been saying it as good as paints all Muslims as terrorists and that’s clearly not the case.

To repeat, Riss puts alongside these observations, he does not link them in a causal chain.

Mailk concludes,

The magazine characterises its mission as war with a “silencing” establishment, and sees only one way to prevail: more freedom of expression, more secularism. But its thesis needs to be challenged. Is this silenced, hesitant, subdued France that Hebdo describes the country in which a minister called women in hijab “negroes who accept slavery”? If that is too timid, what would it propose: banning hijabs, banning beards?

To employ Hebdo’s own concluding rhetorical device, let us ask “the world’s oldest and most important question”: how the hell did we end up here? Imagine being that liberal, energised by the moral certainty of your secularism, sustained by belief in the supremacy of your values and righteous indignation. Mightn’t you ask yourself: how the hell did I end up here, advocating bigotry and prejudice?

Perhaps Malik might care to make some observations about the bigotry and prejudice of the scholarly  organisation the eminent Oxford Professor, Tariq Ramadan has recently joined?

But, no, silence.

The Guardian one notes does not exactly open its pages to defenders of Charlie Hebdo either.

 (1) This is today’s example of the ‘English’ version of the Editorial:

This week’s big debate was about the reality of Salah Abdeslam’s perpetuity. About his eventual sentence. Whether ‘life’ was going to mean life. A wind of panic swept over some of us when we realised that the possibility of a life sentence (that most perpetual of perpetuities) was not quite ‘real’ because, in the normal course of things, after a few decades of imprisonment, there was a chance that he might be released.


Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

6 Responses

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  1. So – let’s get this straight: if “Riss” – a Charlie Hebdo staffer – writes an editorial in Charlie Hebdo, it is just an “op-ed”, because he signed it. Any discomfiting features of that rather innuendo-stuffed editorial can be dismissed as just one man’s personal opinion, which in no way reflects the “weekly’s views” – leaving aside the question of whether a weekly can have views independently of those who write it. However, if Nesrine Malik (a freelance writer, not a Guardian staffer) has the temerity to criticise Riss’s piece in a column under the rubric “opinion” in the Guardian, then this is an open and shut case of “Guardian Smears Charlie Hebdo – again”.

    For those of us who take freethought really seriously, nothing is in principle beyond criticism. That includes Charlie Hebdo.


    April 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm

  2. The smear is to say that Charlie Hebdo finds “its catharsis in bigotry ” – which, you may have noticed, is part of the headline of the article.

    This stand is a slightly more virulent form of the ‘report’ from the Guardian’s religious correspondent
    Harriet Sherwood.

    Her idea of representing the views of those who back Charlie is to cite Toby Young, “some on Twitter said the editorial was thoughtful and even brilliant. Toby Young, the journalist and writer, described it as “powerful”. ”


    She like Malik above, fails to deal with the bigotry of Ramadan who has allied with totalitarian Islamists, or indeed with those who volunteer to fight for the genociders.

    In these conditions I hardly think that Nesrine Malik’s comments, about secularists “advocating bigotry and prejudice?”, or said Harriet’s, deserve much tender concern.

    Nevertheless being a big-hearted chap I do go some way to destructed Riss’s completely false logic.

    But, I should have mentioned this before, assuming that it was well known, Riss was there at the massacre on the 7th of January 2015.

    He was wounded in the shoulder.

    It does make you bear this in mind when discussing his writings.

    Andrew Coates

    April 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

  3. “I assume Malik is not a French speaker, or he would have read that the Editorial ”

    Malik is a she, not a he, as far as i’m aware, not a transgender either.

    Galloway for Mayor!
    Grassroots Out!


    April 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm

  4. “Nothing is in principle beyond criticism. That includes Charlie Hebdo.”

    Of course. But this is one of those unimpeachable principles under which more questionable practice can shelter.

    Why’s there been such very close scrutiny of Charlie Hebdo by British liberals since 7 January 2015? Why’s it so important to be ever-vigilant for the slightest hint of Islamophobia from that particular foreign publication? Since nothing is in principle beyond their catholic criticism, why do Charlie Hebdo’s critics never seem to take a break and look for racism in Le Monde, Die Zeit, or El País?

  5. It is odd.

    Charlie was well known as a gauchist weekly from back in the 1970s.

    I read it first when the last issue appeared in 1981 (though Cabu was reprinted in leftist stuff I’d seen well before), then its brief-lived successor Zéro, and then, when it reappeared in the 1990s. But the cartoonists Cabu and Wolinski, to cite the best known, were always there, from the Huma to the Canard enchaîné.

    The Weekly was a small scale, lefty thing, loathed by Catholic right and the far-right, but in fact not widely taken notice of.

    Since the massacres we’ve had a whole range of experts on Charlie, expressing morally cretinous opinions, completely off beam. Some of the worst rubbish has come from the Guardian and the English speaking ‘left’ and liberals.

    Perhaps – I do not read Die Zeit, only Spiegel, Taz and a few other German sites – they do not look at them with such eagle eyes because le Monde and El País have serious debates, not this kind of comment.

    Andrew Coates

    April 7, 2016 at 12:06 pm

  6. The main reason anxious Islamophobia-inquisitors don’t scrutinise any of those publications, though, is because they’ve not suffered a massacre anyone needs to try and retrospectively justify.

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