“Most comics feed prejudice and fear and blinkered vision, but the best ones, the best ones… illuminate them, make them clearer to see, easier to deal with.” – Trevor Griffiths, 1979 (Comedy by Andrew Scott)
Well, when the issue came up of the Danish cartoons [of Muhammad] I observed that the test I apply to something to see whether it truly is satire derives from H. L. Mencken’s definition of good journalism: It should ‘afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.’ The trouble with a lot of so-called ‘satire’ directed against religiously motivated extremists is that it’s not clear who it’s afflicting, or who it’s comforting. This is in no way to condone the shooting of the journalists, which is evil, pure and simple, but our society makes a fetish of ‘the right to free speech’ without ever questioning what sort of responsibilities are implied by this right. – Will Self ; VICE
Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe?
And that it is natural that war which is constantly exported from the West to the rest of the world, could ultimately be exported back to western cities?
Is it not possible that Muslims are angered by something much more subtle and profound than Charlie Hebdo’s tasteless art? – War begets war: It’s not about Islam; it never was ; Middle East Eye
Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic. – In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism ; The Hooded Utilitarian
Le PIR exprime toutes ses condoléances aux familles endeuillées et dénonce de façon ferme et définitive le massacre épouvantable qui vient d’être commis à Charlie Hebdo. Un attentat odieux qui s’inscrit dans un contexte d’islamophobie extrême mais que rien ne saurait justifier, quels qu’en soient les motifs, les commanditaires et les exécutants. Par ailleurs le PIR dénonce les apprentis sorciers qui d’ores et déjà cherchent à instrumentaliser cette tragédie dans le sens de plus de répression et de violence contre les musulmans ou pour faire avancer leur agenda dans le cadre d’une stratégie de la tension de sinistre mémoire. – Carnage meurtrier à Charlie Hebdo, notre condamnation est totale ; parti des indigènes de la république
The second is that there is already an enormous pressure, in this context, to defend Charlie Hebdo as a forceful exponent of “Western values,” or in some cases even as a brilliantly radical bastion of left-wing anti-clericalism.
Now, I think there’s a critical difference between solidarity with the journalists who were attacked, refusing to concede anything to the idea that journalists are somehow “legitimate targets,” and solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication. – On Charlie Hebdo ; Richard Seymour
What can be said or done to counter the outpouring of craven solidarity with nothing but an abstract notion of “free speech”? This outpouring insults real people who have differences and needs, but seek to live together. It also closes down a discussion that builds on a true public knowledge, exposing all that is done in our names. #JeSuisCharlieHebdo is patently antithetical to collective and common life, alienating entire groups of people who never saw their lives represented in this rag. And it is therefore contradictory to abdicate power, as happens at these moments, to the states which have proven time and again to be incapable of facilitating this shared life. – #JeSuisCharlieHebdo? ; AL JAVIEERA
Charlie Hebdo “mocked everyone, not just Muslims,” many will insist. One hopes, however, that satirists train their sights on the rich and powerful, the pompous and privileged. Punching up, in other words. The Muslim community in France is not those things, but in the rush to declare themselves allies, many people outside the country are happily sharing and republishing material that would normally be deemed, at best, in rather poor taste. Wednesday’s tragedy does not retroactively excuse the newspaper’s regular targeting of a religious minority, just as that newspaper’s provocative output does not excuse the murder of its journalists. – How should we react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre? ; o.canada.com
A piece from Akkas Al-Ali – writer and doctorial candidate:
Whenever anything like this happens, I wonder if the next Muslim woman to be attacked on a street in London or to have her hijab pulled off while nobody does anything will be my mother. And whenever anything like this happens, I find myself repeating inwardly – because she’d never listen to me anyway – “Don’t go out. Don’t wear the hijab. Not right now. Maybe in a couple of weeks. You can have the shopping delivered.” And, sometimes, when I’m walking along a street in Exeter while she’s somewhere in London, I find myself stopping and wondering, “Is she ok? Has anything happened? What’s she doing now?”
Because, you see, this is what it boils down to: the effect all this liberal spiel about protecting certain rights and values has on me and the people I know and love. You can think of “Muslims must…” in the third person until you realise that, even as a lapsed Muslim, “Muslims must…” includes you and not some spectral figure who can be summoned up by talking heads and politicians; that you are the personification of “Muslims must…” and you are required to declare your liberal credentials without trying to show how these events fit into a wider matrix of power and abjection and how violence isn’t the preserve of any one group of people and how that group isn’t monolithic. Not just to strangers online who accuse you of supporting this or that atrocity just because you have a certain name or a certain colour, but to people who actually know you, who you grew up with, who you went to school or university with, who you work with, who you’ve broken bread with: “So can you explain…”; “So why haven’t other Muslims…”
But what values is this Muslim being asked to avow? That someone has the inviolable right to vilify and offend him – not that spectral, multi-purpose Muslim you read about in the papers, but him and the people he knows and loves – in a way that negates his being? Does anyone have the right to do that? And why should this be defended? Are we actually saying that people have the right to be racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic or ableist whether in jest or in seriousness?
I refuse to believe in the liberal fiction of “the right to offend” because, often, the act of offending is really an attempt to negate, to wear down, to divert, to disarm, to accuse, to berate, to hate, to destroy. I refuse to make this dirty avowal because there are more positions than just with/against or us/them.