On Charlie Hebdo, freedom of speech, terrorism, and the value of lives

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A screenshot of controversial French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo's front cover of its October 22, 2014 issue. Al-Akhbar.

By: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Thursday, January 8, 2015

An attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a controversial French satirical magazine, and the mainstream discourse immediately rehashes the same concepts and talking points about the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech, battling an ill-defined notion of terrorism, and maintaining Western values. However, the essential issue of whose lives have value continues to be disregarded.

There are a few points that need to be addressed about the public discussions after the deaths of at least 12 people in Paris yesterday.

First, and most notable for me, I take issue with the argument made by some that Charlie Hebdo's staff are “heroic” because of their past publishing cartoons and articles that attack and mock Islam. While it is true they also have a history of publishing material that mocks other religions and ideologies, I highly doubt Charlie Hebdo would have been as "courageous" in mocking Judaism with the same robustness they do in mocking Islam, for example. In fact, looking at its history, the magazine fired one of its cartoonists in 2008 over a satirical statement that it argued was ‘anti-semitic’.

There is a fine line between satire and offensive material that Charlie Hebdo willfully dances around. I think much of their material is offensive, Islamophobic (and anti-Semitic, as well as racist, sexist, and homophobic), and the argument that is "freedom of speech" is a very crude way to allow offensive material to be published. “Freedom of speech” gets thrown around quite easily during events like yesterday's, but serious public debate about the parameters and nature of “freedom of speech” are few and far between.

I see nothing heroic about a bunch of elite white writers and artists picking on the identities and beliefs of minorities. Satire is supposed to be an act that punches up to power, and not down to the weak. The argument for “freedom of speech” and freedom of the press should not, and must not, place aside the question and understanding of privileges and differing power dynamics that are at work. By acknowledging and understanding that, perhaps we can all work to refine and develop a notion of freedoms that is truly universal and conscious of its role and duties. What is common today is that freedom of speech and freedom of press is brought up to espouse Islamophobic sentiments, and maintaining power, but is ignored when facing issues of immigrant rights at home or wars fought abroad. In other words, “freedom of speech” is already restricted in many ways.

Muslim communities, immigrants, and "others" will pay dearly, and already are in France and elsewhere. French (and European) politics will sway more to the right. French support of repressive states and its military 'adventures' in North Africa and West Asia will continue.

The knee-jerking romanticizing and mythologizing of victims, particularly if the perpetrators are Black, Brown, or Muslim, that occurs after such acts allows the perpetuation of this cycle of violence. Anyone who dares to mention facts, make critical assessments, or initiate a thoughtful debate is quickly chastised, and accused of siding with “terrorists” which, in effect, silences them. Yet, it is rare for free speech advocates to come to the aid of those raising serious questions; instead, this freedom of speech is used, time and again, to vilify such individuals.

After the launch of the American “Global War on Terror” 14 years ago, the level of the debate has stagnated as a righteous binary, and absolutist statements reign supreme. Much needed nuances, contexts, and depth are quickly swept aside.

This leads to the second point.

I find it absolutely interesting how there is an almost immediate expectation that Muslims apologize and take responsibility for the horrible attack on Charlie Hebdo. This is interesting because not once is there an equal expectation in regards to Westerners (shall we shall say Christian or Jewish?) to take responsibility or apologize for the killing of Al-Jazeera's staff by US forces in Iraq (as well as a number of other Arab journalists later on during that horrendous war) or the killing of tens of Palestinian journalists by the Zionist forces over the past decade. This is never expected, nor demanded, or even ever considered by the mainstream press.

But Muslims, especially in France, have nothing to apologize for. This does not mean they shouldn't take a stance and condemn these acts of violence as individuals. Collectively, however, apologizing implies responsibility – one that is not theirs to bear.

The only responsibility "Muslims" (whatever that means) have is to confront forces of repression, whether internal or external, and that does not mean apologizing for being a Muslim. And yes, I do think, that there is a lot that individuals within Muslim communities should and can do in combating fundamentalism and narrow-thinking, but that does not mean they should be collectively punished, harassed, mocked or immediately grovel when events like yesterday’s occur.

I make the same argument for any group; just like we shouldn't attack or punish all Jews for the brutal crimes by Zionism, or all Christians because of the horrors of Colonialism, and the same holds true for Muslims. This is an important distinction that fundamentalists, of varying stripes, do not make and ‘we’ must.

In fact, I argue that the French state has the largest share to blame for:

a) Not creating a system that allows certain communities to assimilate easily into society. I'm talking politically, socially, and economically;

b) Pursuing a foreign policy that is destructive of other societies, and furthers repression;

c) Not coming to full terms, acknowledging, and apologizing for a history of military occupation and intervention in the North African and West Asian region (as well as elsewhere in the world). This is a history that continues to shape actions, ideas, and positions today, and has yet to be adequately confronted within French society;

d) Being supportive and part of the political support of states like Saudi Arabia (the beating heart of ferocious Islamic fundamentalist tenets) and Israel (the nation of Zionism, a racist and violent ideology, born out of ethnic cleansing and continued incremental genocide).

We need to understand context. We need to understand history. We need to understand power dynamics and inequalities.

Terrorism, or as I define it, political violence, and indeed most violence, do not happen in a vacuum, and without understanding the historical and contemporary strands, we will be dragged deeper into a cycle of violence, counter-violence, and destruction. We need to understand that these men who committed these acts are not “foreign entities” but most likely are a product of French society, a society that does not make integration easy for everyone.

Much of the reactions yesterday and today call for blood. It is a position that is reactionary.

And even then, it's interesting how it seems that one society's call for blood is more acceptable than another's...

And we arrive to one last point, and this is about the value of lives. I have witnessed on social media and on news agencies a flurry of articles, statements, and dismay about the lives lost in Paris. Twelve people have died, people are horrified, and rightly so.

Yet, on the same day, a car bomb exploded in Sanaa, Yemen, killing at least 38 people. At least nine people, including two children, have died in attacks in Afghanistan, and an unknown number of dead as the violence rages in Syria and Iraq.

What is true today, and has been true for a while, is that 'white' lives matter more. It garners more of an emotional reaction. It horrifies, and causes dismay, shock, and tears. Their faces and names will be etches in collective memory. Politicians will read eloquent, heart-felt eulogies.

Black and Brown misery and deaths, on the other hand, have become so normalized, so accepted, so routine. They are numbers, footnotes, and statistics. There was no personalized video message by US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in the language of the victims, that offered sadness over the killing of seven pro-Syrian regime journalists after gunmen attacked their offices in June 2012. There were and are no Twitter hashtags for the dead civilians who were killed by French airstrikes during their military adventures in Mali, North Africa, and elsewhere. No one paid attention to the (terrorist?) bombing of the Colorado Springs offices of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on January 6.

Lives are simply not equal. We must ask ourselves why? To quote the American philosopher Judith Butler, “Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives? And, finally, What makes for a grievable life?”

These are key questions that are necessary and the answers can help us move on collectively, and the answers, I think, offer more solutions that simply hunting down and killing “terrorists.”

Yazan al-Saadi is a senior staff writer for Al-Akhbar English. Follow him on Twitter: @WhySadeye

This article is jointly published with Open Democracy.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.


You seem to forget that Charlie was anti-racist, against discrimination, against the right-wing Front National etc.

Read this, if you know french
This is an early collaborator of Charlie Hebo who slammed its door like
Cavanna, Choron and and others after the take over by Philippe Val

Spend, as I did, half an hour going through historic Charlie Hebdo covers, and you will see that the majority of them are concerned with French domestic politics. Others deal with European and U.S. politics, French actors and entertainers. Yes, there are a number of religious covers, but anti-Catholic examples outnumber those that deal with Islam in any way.

And this brings me to the main point. Why is is perfectly acceptable to hold, and voice, strong opinions about sport, music, fashion, politics, art, and even (with care) race and gender, all of which are real, and actually exist- but NOT religion? In all the analysis of the last few days I have not seen this issue even raised, let alone addressed.

Fight fascism, yes- but also fight superstition, and all who would hide behind it.

You are of course right, but the writer of this article, Yazan Al Saadi, has abandoned even the slightest shadow of objectivity.
I have just seen him on Russia Today commenting on the newspaper and it's new controversial cover. He is stating that Charlie Hebdo is racist, sexist, and homophobic.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, this accusation is totally unjustified, but all means are to be used by masked bigots who want to disqualify someone who mocks religion.

Still, to vilify someone when his corpse is not even buried, dear Yazan, how does that stand with your God Almighty?

Just FYI, here's the answer of Charb, the "white person" editor in chief at Charlie, when asked about publishing (again) caricatures of Muhammad, and the fact that it looked like antiisam relentlessness.

The jourmalist: "-Pourtant, vous conviendrez que ce n’est pas la première fois que vous publiez des caricatures du prophète Mohammed. C’est pas un peu de l’acharnement ?"

Charb: -"Ceux qui disent ça ne lisent pas Charlie Hebdo. Sur 1058 numéros, il y a seulement trois couv’ sur l’islam. Toutes les semaines, on défend les sans-papiers, dont beaucoup sont des musulmans, on lutte contre le racisme et les discriminations, on est pour le droit de vote des immigrés… Et à titre perso, j’étais contre la loi contre le port du voile. Mais les médias ne parlent jamais de Charlie Hebdo pour ces prises de position, qui sont plutôt en faveur des musulmans."

You can google translate yourself, but dear writer of this article, I really think you should have read Charlie Hebdo before labeling it as islamophobic. I sincerely doubt you did.
Now, you're right on certain points, but come on, check your facts, dude.

Bravo! Yassan Al saadi,
Among all the press comments of these last days, you are the only one who told about the firing of cartoonist Siné, for mocking judaism.

I also liked and laughed at Charlie, but a longtime ago,
Charlie was already a crypto-zionist newspaper, I remember how they attacked de Gaulle for saying about Israël, after the 1967 war: "Ce petit peuple arrogant et dominateur"
on a TV speech.
I am Dutch, born and educated,worked and lived in France. I was so disgusted by
the way french police treated the Algerian, that I never asked for a french passport.

This last event among so many others (not mentioning some of the comments you received) proves how poorly minded are the french people today.
Did you noticed the the queen of England also joined the great pro Charlie mourning!
All this is shameful for me as a European

The fact that freedom of speech has already been compromised does not mean that they need to be compromised further. An analysis on power structure shouldn't overlook the power of important non-state institutions e.g. religion. Also, any political considerations, however sophisticated or sound, should never be used as excuses for censorship or self-censorship, if the left want to avoid the mistakes of the last century.

The west must apologize to the world, because they and the Al Saud regime are responsible for creating this monster.

What the people at Charlie Hebdo did was despicable, but the people who murdered them are much more closely associated with a decades old western/wahhabi alliance than with the veiled Muslim shop lady in the suburbs of Paris who pays her taxes.

Quite right,
The ones who don't agree with the article, haven't noticed Mr Nathanyahu at the demo in Paris?
the very one who ordered the murder in London in 1987 of cartoonist Naji al Ali, far superior to Charlie's cartoonists
Thanks to Nethanyahu we will never see Handala's face, which I would have liked to see far more that the caricature of Mohammed.
Apparently Israel was the one who who made school for murdering cartoonists.

As a Frenchmen and reader of Charlie Hebdo I want to point out that your statement about Charlie Hebdo could not be more wrong. "bunch of elite white writers and artists picking on the identities and beliefs of minorities". They must be laughing at you from wherever they are (most probably in some kind of paradise because if God exist he must be the one that invented sense of humor). "Elite" - so wrong check your facts please. "Picking only on minorties" - so wrong. They picked on The Pope, the higher politics of the world, the french racists and french fascists (FN in particular), the fanatics of all religions, the arm traffickers, the drug traffickers... there was a little bit for everyone in their satires. I am not sure how many Charlie Hebdo you have read to take the liberty to make these kind of statements. Also those artists did many many other things than Charlie. Cabu for example started in a TV show for kids 35 years ago (i was 5 and watching) where he learnt kids how to make a funny cartoon. Most of his albums where mocking the "beauf" the basic rich french racists stupid guy, hence standing out for the immigrant, the poor and the minorities. Your point on the "context" is interesting and believe it or not many French people are not proud of our colonial past and wish things could have been different. But men always have a choice, we have free will and there is no excuses for what happened, no justification possible whatsoever. Why pretend the victims are now the Muslims of France ? The victims are those 16 people killed by someone that cowardly hide behind the mask of Islam to perpetrate this odious and inhumane act. I do not care if Muslims condemn this act, but we NEED a dialogue to start to understand why this happening how we can stop this cycle of violence and inhumanity. And fight together against any amalgam or racists reaction from our local extremists. Aren't we all suppose to try and become the best human being possible ? Can't we try to do this together instead of against each other ? Even if I am an atheist that enjoys satirical cartoons (even of the Prophets) and if you are convinced muslim ? We ask for support, for dialogue, for a talk about a solution for the future. Will no one stand up and fight peacefully this barbary ?Our blood does not have more value than the one of the other victims of inhumanity around the world. But no less either. I would like to share this with you and your readers.


"we NEED a dialogue to start to understand why this happening how we can stop this cycle of violence and inhumanity."

isn't the premise of that post that the west wants a dialogue? isn't that a false premise? have you ever heard a western politician talking about stopping the violence beyond eradicating terrorists one at a time? there are a few journalists and intellectuals who talk about the root cause of terrorism but not the politicians

i think the only way we can start a dialogue and work toward peace is for people like us to demand it. but it seems like there are not enough people like us (politically aware and educated enough to see the problem) to accomplish that task. we are the minority. my hope is that when my son is my age, the internet will have done its' magic and allow moderate men of peace to communicate and team up on a solution more

just a few short years ago, i could not be making this post, this floridian could not be attempting to communicate to people on the other side of the planet

I have woken up again today (having commented at 21:12), and remain perturbed by the sheer dishonesty of how you have treated the subject. It's your presentation of Charlie Hebdo which is particularly dishonest, i.e. by painting them as 'elite, white writers' (we've seen they were not) who made fun of the beliefs of a minority : no, Charlie Hebdo made fun of the beliefs of many:


You are intentionally making it sound like they are ganging up on the beliefs of Muslims only, but you know this is not true. This is so clearly untrue. I don't know how to state this point any more clearly here.

We all know, in addition, that this fun-making was clearly aimed at islamists in particular, and that its very deliberate intention was as a function of freedom of speech. Other Muslims were offended as a side-effect - but Catholics were offended by the images above. Get over it. If you continue to hold a grudge agaisnt these guys, nevertheless painting them as 'elite, white' writers (which is untrue), like some kind of evil oil magnates right after they have died, really sucks, and shows perhaps the grudge you continue to hold, or at least how little you care that they're dead. If you don't care, fine: but again, see your own bias.

I know, I know, you want to make your problematisation discourse, and a mini smear-campaign against Charlie Hebdo helps you in pursuit of this end, but this first part of your article in particular is constructed in such an obviously dishonest way, it takes away from your subsequent argument. By posting the image you posted above, and then writing that Charlie Hebdo ganged up on the beliefs of minorities, by calling them "elite, white writers" you are engaging in an obvious smear-campaign, which is based on little fact. By posting that image, with that statement on ganging up on minorities, and by calling them "elite" and "white" (each point here is individually untrue, and even more so when put together in this dishonest way), the writer is trying to tap into the clichéd, into the familiar alternative (thus immediately credible) discourse against white imperialism. It doesn't fit here. I don't know how I can emphasise this any more - it doesn't fit. This is in particular what I meant earlier when I said the writer was treating the context in a dishonest way.

It's annoying to have to explain to someone how they are being dishonest in their writing and it's unlikely he/she will accept it, given that that person wrote so dishonestly in the first place. I hope some readers will see this and rethink what they have read here.

I don't get all that glorification of those cartoons. I have seen a few of them and they are vulgar, obnoxious and of course provocative but hey, what's funny about a priest with condom.... or a masturbating nun.... I'm sorry for those guys to die for such mediocre jokes.

The article looks at all the issues as opposed to the usual simple, singular reason given by the western media. Where is the discussion about the bombing of Muslim countries & how this fuels hatred & creates extremism?

It's wrong to mock religions & ethnicities because it's attacking peoples' identities. These religions are complex texts that take scholars years to master. Then some satirist or right wing extremist reduces these beliefs to simple, single issues or mockery that the uninformed use to base their opinion of a community.

Why is it okay to mock Muslims & denigrate Christianity? ... I don't see the same done to Judaism. All 3 equally believe in a vengeful / forgiving God so how is one worse than the others as the media would have us believe?

I'm an American pacifist who has likely read at least 100 articles and editorials on this subject already. To put things in perspective, this piece and one written by Glenn Greenwald today are my two favorites in reference to my own ideology. So please do not take this criticism as an attack:

On the subject of apology, isn't that one pathway to peace? Don't let it upset you if asked for an apology. Let that be an opportunity to start a discussion!

As somebody who has been trying to help Americans understand our role in this war, I can assure you that those willing to apologize are the most likely to be moderate enough to help end this bullshit.

An example of this is Obama. His early speech in Egypt was apologetic. Look how much hope that lifted! He changed from being apologetic to more hawk-like behavior and that hope for peace across the ME disappeared.

I think as more of us become willing to apologize, our chances for peace will rise. It's a start at least.

To the editorial staff: excellent publication. This is my favorite place to get a Shiite perspective to politics. Educated readers can see some bias but overall it's not an overwhelming bias. Keep up the good work.

While it is important to note again and again the difference in value between brown and black life on the one hand, and white on the other, overall I felt this author's piece was off the mark, and intentionally sidestepped the centre of what happened in Paris just so that it could continue its own (likely repetitive, i.e. propagated regardless of the context) agenda. The two gunmen killed those poor people BECAUSE they were defending a fundamental principle of Western society. Here, we care so much about what happened because we care so much about what these men were famous for standing against. It's much more than that of course, but it's difficult to make that precious articulation that exists between these mens' lives and the principle I am speaking of (freedom,freedom of speech,freedom of though, the right to self-determination etc.). I know that he already understands this, and it's an obvious point, but the writer, by intentionally sidestepping it is creating a narrative to suit his own purposes which does not feel entirely true. Frankly, it's dishonest (you can problematise the social factors around this event to infinity, your analysis will still feel false when you intentionally exclude what is central). For the majority of people, who like myself did not read Charlie Hebdo, these men were known only because of their stand for freedom of speech against Islamism; you put up a different cover, but that is not why we knew them, and not why we are upset (the cover you put up his highly ironic, but if you didn't understand that as soon as you'd read "esclaves sexuelles", I can't really help you). The presence of this principle, for which these writers were forced to martyr themselves, differentiates this context greatly from the deaths of journalists in Iraq or Palestine, in wartime contexts (and Western journalists in these wars, in Syria etc. ; why was not as much made of the deaths of even these Western journalists? - because the context was different; they were not giving the middle finger to those that opposed freedom of speech). While I understand human life = human life, again the writer is ignoring context, and it's annoying.

Let's look at how the writer twists his language to suits his (undoubtedly repetitive) agenda. "Elite, white writers" - this is a formulaic expression the writer hoped would be accepted by his reader only because of its satisfying formula i.e. these words sound emphatic together, and speak to a known discourse against white imperialism. What exactly was elite about the writers of Charlie Hebdo? These are elite writers? - what a joke. Maybe as cartoonists some of these men could have been considered 'elite', within the world of cartoonitsts - but frankly how many people deeply care about the world of cartoonists? Is it as powerful in the literary and journalistic world as the adjective 'elite would have us believe? Of course not. As far as I can tell, Charlie Hebdo is not very high brow at all. It's' a comic (if, as I white person, I do not care about brown deaths (and of course I don't), you - as judging from your distasteful description of "elite, white" dead men, do not care about white deaths either (I understand, I understand, there are already enough of us that do care, I just want you to see your own bias)). If we remove this false adjective 'elite', the sentence only reads "white writers", which is apt because by 'elite' we know that the writer actually only means 'white': so "white, white" (I did say that his formula was just for emphasis!). You dislike these writers because they were white, pretty much wealthy, and (in your mistaken opinion) racist/biased against minorities.

There's nothing wrong with the combination of being white and living in the Western World in itself by the way. The 'alternative view' understandably draws its credibility by invaraibly backing the underdog: but what is the truth ?

Laying all of the blame at the door of the French State is also a tired repetition (the "largest share" of the blame lies with the gunmen, sorry if that's too obvious for you for you to be able accept it; espousing alternative views does not equate to espousing correct views by the way), which would not be a problem if it were true. Who knows where we should draw the line between individual autonomy/responsibility and the socially determined - but I would nevertheless argue that it could be drawn when the individual starts committing murders (or perhaps even before?) under no immediate or extreme duress. From here, unless you are psychologically impaired or defending yourself, yeah you're responsible for who you kill (unfortunately I have to re-expalin this to a sociological obscurantist like the writer).

And that is not to say that I disagree with his agenda, i think he is correct in a general way (although the context he simultaneously ignores and makes this point in spoils many of them, and although it is of course patently unwise to have an agenda in general). His writing is slick, which is all the more unfuriating because it is so erroneous at times. By this slickness, by sidestepping some key elements of this context, by focusing on difficult-to-quantify societal problematisations, there is an airiness, an emptiness to his writing.

Nobody expects Muslims to apologise by the way (except maybe stupid people (and stupid people gonna stupid)).

The loss of white lives are covered much more in white-majority societies. I imagine the people killed in Yemen were covered extensively in the Yemeni media. I can not speak for what is covered in say, African or Arab media, because I have never been to either Africa or any Arabic-majority state. I do agree of course with you though that white lives clearly seem to have more value than the lives of people from other ethnicities within White-Majority socieites. yeah it's horrible. It's of course because the white-majority in these white-majority societies holds the wealth and the power in these societies. I agree that there is huge, oppressive implicit racism herein. I agree that this I don't know how this can be combatted, except perhaps by awareness-raising like this article. Unfortunately, you bandied it with apologism for murderers, which is counterproductive. You're also making it at the worst time: try telling a mother in mourning that her son was actually an asshole, and present your legitimate reasons; she will not listen to you, she will hate you.

This is a kind of article we should read more often in mainstream media. It addresses the imbalance at the foundation of our relations which form the roots of the violence that spreads all over the world.
'We' are not as free as 'we' think in the 'West'. 'We' are depicted as free by main stream voices when specific interests are trying to be pursued too often that we should take the chance to learn it quickly.
Calling the journalists and policemen's murder the 'French 9/11' is a factual and linguistic fraud. This is not to question the obvious to me: they didn't deserve to die!
However, I keep being sad while looking at the double standard apply to lives and the tragedies that occur all over the world and I hope that what happened in Paris will push 'us' to engage more in intereligious and inter-civilisations dialogues.

This is a kind of article we should read more often. It addresses the imbalances the imbibe our relationship, at every level, and our reaction. What makes more sad is the logic of double standard in the reaction 'the world community' generally have when episodes like this happen. Hearing Charlie Hebdo'journalist and policemen murder 'the French 9/11' represents a factual and linguistic fraud.

In answer of the comments above from internet warriors accusing the author of encouraging terror. Stop acting like a SPOILT child. Pathetic - bigoted and aggressive is how I describe you.
You are not superior. You do not have some HIGHER moral ground. You are lacking depth and understanding.
Muslim Lives are equal to those of Non-Muslim -Westerners or not. This 'Well I never' 'how dare you' insulted behaviour is so pathetic it makes me laugh
Reality is if a criminal acts - it is their act. Stop linking it to religion. If that continues you will encounter more and more. Sadly moderate Muslims are patiently trying to stop this cycle. But I don't see that restraint applied by so call 'far-right' movements who continue to haunt and create fertile ground for violent escalation.
In essence it is simple. If people like you can't mature -ie: right leaning westerners seeing it as a 'muslim' issue - and get off your high horse -you are sowing the seeds of hate and maybe not immediately but eventually the anarchy you seek shall grow and grow as the moderate muslims 'leave' and you are left with just fanatics who probably agree with your childish black and white views!!!

"This is interesting because not once is there an equal expectation in regards to Westerners (shall we shall say Christian or Jewish?) to take responsibility or apologize for the killing of Al-Jazeera's staff by US forces in Iraq (as well as a number of other Arab journalists later on during that horrendous war) or the killing of tens of Palestinian journalists by the Zionist forces over the past decade. This is never expected, nor demanded, or even ever considered by the mainstream press."

I agree with a lot of what you're saying but it's SUPER disingenuous to pretend as if Israel and the US haven't received any media criticism for these conflicts. Your point is good enough on its own that you don't need to exaggerate like this.

I disagree with this article because it incites hatred towards particular groups / races but it also provides an extremely biased point of view that justifies violence. With all respect for Muslims, no one is blaming Muslims as a group for the attacks. We are blaming terrorists who may or may not be Muslim. They may be atheists for that matter speaking Arabic. Terrorists kill hundreds of Muslims weekly in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so would you be apologetic for that? There is absolutely no justifications for the heinous crimes of coward pigs and scumbags attacking civilians with machine guns. Human life is valued in the west and that's why people come to western countries, not the other way around. No one is forcing them to come! No one is forcing you to accept someone's values either. In fact, if you disagree with the blasphemous cartoons, PLEASE don't buy the magazine and don't support it and don't even read it! It's called freedom of expression, a concept which seems to be absent in many non-western countries. With regards to the unfortunate cases where Blacks were killed by the cops, if someone punches a cop or comes at a cop with a weapon so as to endanger a highly valued life, don't expect a fair treatment at all. In fact, expect to be shot on the spot like a dog in a legal act of self-defence! It's that simple.

Please, stop saying that muslims are asked to apologize ! This is simply not true.

What some of the french citizens ask is that muslim communities should not keep silent and must feel free to express their disgust that such crimes are committed in the name of their god.
It's really surprising to me that so many voices are heard when an offending cartoon about islam is published while so little are heard when murders occurs in the name of the same religion. Both are offending, don't you think ? (And maybe we should agree that murders are way more chocking...).
If we need comparison, I can guarantee you that when the front national (french far right side) express their racists thesis in the name of the people of France, you've got thousands of french protesters in the street.

Regarding your other points :
a) assimilation - well, if you have any ideas about how to accomplish that, do not hesitate to share. That's what several gouvernement have been trying to do so far, with low result. And it doesn't not seem to be more easy in other countries.
c) apologies - I don't get it: french people must apologize for what their gouvernement have done 40 years ago, but muslims has no reason to apologize for what violent so-called muslims are doing todays? I think that nobody should apologize for what they haven't done or haven't agreed
d) foreign policies - you are perfectly right. Unfortunately, supporting countries with plenty of fuel seems more lucrative that supporting democracy revolutions as those of the arab spring. It's a shame. Let's work together on that.

Eh Eh! was it not Mr Fabius and Hollande who participated in training financing and arming these guys in other to get rid of Bashar al Assad,
and followed them all the way So these poor Kouachi brothers where were well trained to do this job apparently not knowing for whom they were working, they were ignorant engh to think they were working in Syria for a good cause
How come the the Tv was so quickly there to film?

Answer to "Anonymous" :

Yes of course the Muslims have been asked to apologize. One example hereunder, publicly, a journalist asked a Muslim female (and he makes her weep...) :

Attentat à "Charlie Hebdo" : Rokhaya Diallo en larmes face aux accusations d'Ivan Rioufol
Le journaliste a demandé à Rokhaya Diallo de se désolidariser de l'attentat, en tant que musulmane.

I could not disagree more with your article. The undertone of it is beyond arrogant, and simply repulsive. Twelve, possibly more, innocent people have died. That is the essential issue.

Satire is defined as “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. It is true that there is a fine line between satire and offense. But there is a gigantic gap between civilisation and barbarism. People from all across the political spectrum have always adored the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. They have done so because they were able to put things in perspective, especially when their own ideology was being targeted. In the end, it is a drawing and it is a drawing meant to ridicule. If people would lose their ability to laugh at themselves, it would become a frightening world.

There doesn’t have to be anything heroic about the ‘bunch of elite white writers’ that were murdered this week. But there is one thing that is certain: they were innocent people performing their jobs. People with friends, families, hobbies. They no longer have the ability to reply to your article. They have been taken away not only their ideas, their humour, but they have been taken away their lives. Charlie Hebdo cartoons have in the past ridiculed the pope, the French president, the European leaders, and many more. Hardly what I would call “the weak”. Never, though, were employees of Charlie Hebdo executed by Christians, French people or European citizens.

“What is common today is that freedom of speech and freedom of press is brought up to espouse Islamophobic sentiments”, you write. Perhaps, one could argue, there is a reason why the Islam is targeted by cartoonists. Perhaps there is a reason why the whole world is mourning, while you are trying to play the victim with quotes like “Muslim communities will pay dearly”. The only victim here is civilisation, and those twelve or more innocent people who died for no good reason. The plea that you make is sickening.

You say the French state has the largest share to blame for. The mayor of Rotterdam, Muslim himself, yesterday said the following: if you don’t like it here, as a Muslim, nobody is stopping you from returning to your countries of origin. I am certain that you are aware of the freedom of speech and the freedom of press in most Islamic countries around the world.

May the innocent people who have died this week, for doing absolutely nothing wrong, rest in peace.

I think the article hits on broadly the right points- and it's not about condoning terrorist acts, it's about juxtaposing political violence and reactions to political violence in different scenarios.

I also think that these attacks weren't purely motivated to be attacks on western ideals of free speech. That's just one level of it. I think that underlying the attacks is a vicious attempt to shock and frighten. We may not be frightened, but we evidently are shocked, and in doing so a part of the perpetrators objectives (destabilising the system) are achieved.

So let's get away from the front lines of battle. All lives are grievable, de facto. Intellectually, I don't think anything needs to 'make' a life grievable. I hope we'd all agree on that. Consequently, whilst we naturally have visceral, emotive reactions to Wednesdays atrocities (which is ok) because they seem so similar and relatable and close to home, let's not let that emotion eclipse the heroism of victims (many brown/black) around the world. Let's move away from attacks on western ideals, let's move towards solidarity with all victims of terror.

In my opinion asking to look at the deeper issues surrounding this attack on Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in no way implies encouragement for their actions. To consider whether or not the cartoons were offensive is not to suggest that the cartoonists should be killed. Whether satire should kick down or up is a valid question. I think all too often lives are not treated equally and this is shown by Western governments siding with deeply repressive states. Historically Westerners have colonised much of the world and the present situation in Palestine is a direct result of UK policy. Guantanamo Bay is a symbol of the West's brutality and repression of freedom after all many of those still detained were cleared long ago. I grief for France, the cartoonists and families but I grief far more for the two thousand people murdered in Gaza. That America is outraged that Palestine should seek justice at the International Court for their murder is also indicative. If the West truly had free speech we would have more of these kind of articles.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Thank you Yazan al-Saadi for articulating so well what I've been thinking these past days.

The twelve individuals who were murdered in Paris were named, had thoughts and condolences sent out to their friends and families by non-muslims and muslims. Strangers seemed to grieve for these twelve as if they were their own flesh and blood.

But what of the vast numbers of Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Pakistanis, Syrians, Yemenis... murdered through the endless War of Terror. We don't know their names. They are barely given a second thought, let alone any expression of sympathy by those who now grieve for the twelve French journalists. These nameless murdered are deemed to either have deserved it or were collateral damage.

European media has labelled the Parisian murders as barbaric. It was a criminal act certainly, but barbaric? Pulping food and forcing it through the anus of someone you hold prisoner for no other reason but your own sadistic pleasure is barbaric, as well as the other acts of torture, rape and murder carried out in the name of "Protecting Western Values" that we have quickly and quietly moved on from.

In an ideal world no one should be murdered, whether they are journalists sitting in the relative comfort of their offices, or children in schools, people attending weddings, hiding from attacks in hospitals or anywhere else.

You MUST know and understand that even if the journalist do not talk about it many many people of the "western" countries are outraged by all the death in the countries you mention, are outraged by the barbaric act that you describe, do not support the War on Terror (at least not the way it is done - the only winnable war on terror goes through dialogue, compassion, eduction and understanding) and are doing their best to fight to put a stop to this barbary. It is a lie to say that those acts are perpetrated to "Protect the Western Values" as much as it is a lie to say that the attack against Paris was done to "avenge Islam and the Prophet honor". The act against Charlie Hebdo is barbaric on our eyes. It is not a simple crime in our eyes because it attacked the essence of our values. Now if you want to justify or excuse it because of the War on Terror then there will never be a solution, only War after War after War. Isn't it time that we initiate a dialogue people to people, between humans, not through the lying prism of media and political games. Don't we want the same thing ? A decent life, security for our families, become the best man possible, and have a little bit of fun if possible before we die ? Who will stand up for simple people like us if not ourselves. We are being lied to in all the media in the west and in the middle east. Here we do not understand so well what is going in the Middle East countries, the media are doing such a poor job explaining. Over there you do not understand us either. So we need to talk, find a way to initiate a dialogue, create bridges, platform for communication from human to human. There is no "Western Civilization" vs. "Islamic Civilization". We are all part of the "Civilization" and we all need to fight the Beast everywhere it shows up, together and as peacefully as possible.

Noone has asked Muslims to apologise. What we should do is reach out to Muslims who think these acts are praiseworthy. The attackers have taken the name of our Nabi Muhammad SAW and our religion. They have committed an attack on Islam by doing this. We need to address this attack.

Who asked anyone to apologize? Please name someone who has asked for a Muslim apology. Just one. I have not heard anyone blame this travesty on Muslims in general, nor asked any Muslim to apologize! So, if there is one, please let me know so that I can tell them that the are just as ignorant as the killers.

Attentat à "Charlie Hebdo" : Rokhaya Diallo en larmes face aux accusations d'Ivan Rioufol
Le journaliste a demandé à Rokhaya Diallo de se désolidariser de l'attentat, en tant que musulmane.


Yes of course, @Anonymous, some journalists have asked publicly the Muslims to apologize !

#Notinmyname, culpabilisant?

D'autres ont également dénoncé le massacre, tout en évitant le fameux hashtag, déjà critiqué à l'époque par des musulmans et non-musulmans. Le principal argument apporté est "qu'on ne peut demander à une communauté de s'excuser d'actes dont elle ne porte pas la responsabilité, sauf à verser dans la culpabilisation et l'islamophobie", comme l'explique le sociologue Marwan Mohammed, interrogé par L'Express. http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/l-attaque-contre-charlie-hebdo-...

While I agree with your point on the value of lives, I find it truly disgusting that you have an undertone of not only accepting but ENCOURAGING the terrorist attacks in the Charlie Hebdo office.
You need to reflect more on what it truly means to be free in the west, if those men didn't like those satirical comics then so what? why did they have to kill INNOCENT humans?How dare terrorists try to dictate and control what is written in France?? I strongly disagree with your article and you most likely have questionable morals. Westerners have fought for hundreds of years for the freedom of speech. That's why the west is so great... because citizens like the amazing Charlie Hebdo writers can satirize and make fun of WHOEVER, WHATEVER PERSON, GOVERNMENT AND RELIGION THEY WANT FREE OF PERSECUTION. what is so HARD to understand about that? The muslim religion is keeping it's followers like sheep. Just like Charbonnier said in 2012 "I would rather die standing than live on my knees" which is exactly what he did. To me, and many others that's the most heroic thing.

The 2 killer are French, grow up in France, and lived there, in country with a lot of resources. don't look and blame Muslims in middle east. France is responsible for those 2 people killer and you know their family came to France as a result of colonization in the recent years. Its the same culture give and support to the killing of civilian by french troops in Somalia to free their security agent in 2013. They did far bad than this its the same culture yet justifying and discriminating the same citizens.

Your comment contradicts the whole point of this article. I can't even deal

This is a majestically written article. Really cuts to the core(s) of the issue. Wish there was more of this in the mainstream Western press.

Such will never be an opinion of the mainstream because the mainstream knows better.

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