Dismantling nine mistaken assumptions about the Paris atrocities

January 8, 2015 at 11:54 pm (anti-fascism, France, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, murder, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged, relativism, secularism)

Reblogged from Left Foot Forward:

Charlie Hebdo2

Tehmina Kazi of British Muslims for Secular Democracy looks at nine mistaken assumptions doing the rounds following the murders that took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo:

False Assumption One

‘Charlie Hebdo magazine was needlessly provocative’

Manufacturers of outrage and assorted agitators do not need any kind of ‘provocation’ for their actions. When Jyllands-Posten published the Danish cartoons in September 2005, protests in Muslim-majority countries did not start until four months later.

Mona Eltahawy’s interview with Jytte Klausen, the Danish-born author of the Yale Press’s forthcoming book, Cartoons That Shook the World, recognised that lag. According to Yale Press’s Web site, she argues that Muslim reaction to the cartoons was not spontaneous but, rather, that it was orchestrated “first by those with vested interests in elections in Denmark and Egypt”, and later by “extremists seeking to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya, and Nigeria”.

Further, Quilliam Foundation director and Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz re-tweeted a ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon on 12 January 2014. Most of the people who called for his de-selection – and helped to whip up the resultant furore – conveniently ignored his original mention of the cartoons on the BBC’s Big Questions programme earlier. The broadcast itself attracted barely a whisper on social media.

False Assumption Two

‘The Left should defend all expressions of Islam at all costs’

Professor Karima Bennoune said it best in her article, ‘Why Bill Maher and Ben Affleck are both wrong‘: “We do not need either stereotypical generalizations or minimising responses to fundamentalism, however well-intentioned.

What we need is a principled, anti-racist critique of Muslim fundamentalism that pulls no punches, but that also distinguishes between Islam (the diverse religious tradition) and Islamism (an extreme right-wing political ideology). We need support, understanding and to have our existence recognised.”

False Assumption Three

‘The French hate Muslims, don’t they?’

From the Pew Global Attitudes survey 2014, which interviewed 7,022 citizens in seven European countries, 72 per cent of French citizens polled said they had a favourable opinion of Muslims in their country. This was higher than Italy, Greece, Poland, Spain, Germany, and even the UK.

False Assumption Four

‘Not in Our Name campaigns are helpful’

As well-intentioned as these undoubtedly are, the ‘Not in my name’ campaigns spearheaded by Muslims send out a problematic subliminal message to non-Muslims: that Muslims are unwilling to sort out the problems in their own back yard.

No-one is expecting us to eradicate all gender segregation in public events overnight, or to change the minds of all homophobic preachers in a few months, or to re-introduce music lessons in all Muslim-majority schools that have cancelled them. No-one is saying that we have to devote several years of our lives and careers doing this (as I have).

However, we are expected to make some effort to condemn obscurantism from all quarters, or as much as we are able to within our own circles of influence. Given that the Qu’ran takes such a strong line on humans challenging injustice wherever we find it, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

False Assumption Five

‘Religious minorities have less to gain from democratic freedoms than the majority’

The same legislation that promotes freedom of expression also protects freedom of religion – and from religion. Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion (unless state interference with these is shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim).

In a non-legal context, the culture of rights and freedoms we have in the UK leads to strong civil society projects that monitor anti-Muslim attacks, such as Tell MAMA.

False Assumption Six

‘Condemnation is sufficient’

Sombre press releases and widely-shared Facebook updates are better than nothing, but many of their authors have inadvertently contributed to the problem in the past.


By endorsing blasphemy laws, treating the words of Zakir Naik and Junaid Jamshed as gospel, or turning a blind eye when feminist or progressive Muslim activists (like Sara Khan of Inspire) are viciously attacked for their work on Twitter.

False Assumption Seven

‘It is always someone else’s fault’

Then there are those who won’t even condemn acts of violence and terrorism, but automatically paint the attacks as false-flag operations, with a cast of extras to rival ‘Titanic’. In my experience, attempting to reason with these people is a waste of time and energy. Better to leave them to their echo chambers.

False Assumption Eight

‘Beliefs deserve more protection than people’

Under the Equality Act 2010, beliefs are only protected insofar as they apply to the rights of individuals. For instance, it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against you because of your religion or belief (or because you have no religion or belief):

  • in any aspect of employment
  • when providing goods, facilities and services
  • when providing education
  • in using or disposing of premises, or
  • when exercising public functions.

False Assumption Nine

‘The way forward is to treat each event as a passing accident of horror’

Laissez-faire approaches like these have led us to the predicament we are in. These acts are neither passing nor accidental; they are part of one long atrocity continuum, compounded by mainstream society’s cowardice and unwillingness to champion unpopular causes.

Instead, campaigning groups that happily take on the far-right should challenge the Muslim right-wing with equal ferocity, rather than giving their behaviour a free pass.

* Tehmina Kazi has been director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy since May 2009, and has worked on a number of human rights and citizenship projects


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    A couple of thoughts.

    First, I think Sunny Hundal makes a good point when he suggests that these atrocities are as much recruiting sergeants as they are anything else.

    Second, I wonder if describing the perpetrators as “Islamists” and their POV is “Islamism” is really helpful – it’s too close to “Islam” to be easy to use. What about “ultra-Wahhabists”? AFAIK all Muslim terrorists are followers of the Wahhabi strand of Islam, and you can’t get much more “ultra” than mass murder…

  2. damon said,

    Just on false presumption number one.
    But a lot of Muslims do think that it was needlessly provocative.

    Just look at the news clip of Matt Frei of Channel 4 News talking to Muslims in the Barbes area of Paris the other day.
    They are all offended by Charlie Hebdo they say.

  3. Pinkie said,

    “They are all offended by Charlie Hebdo they say.”

    So be offended, it’s part of being alive.

    • damon said,

      Whilst I would agree, you still have a problem though.
      And one that leads to the alienated culture of the suburban housing estates. David Aaronovitch says they should go and live elsewhere if they feel like that. A remarkable turnaround from a man who has always attacked people who used that ”love it or leave it” kind of language.
      Has the bublble of sanctimonious liberalism finally popped?

  4. Babs said,

    Trots have tremendous Jihad Envy. When I was a hapless swp twonk our organiser was forever raving about the brilliance of the fillum La Haine and how it was all about the joyous unity of da urban yoof kicking off with extreme violence against The System.

    You can sense it in the contextualisation of Damon and any other number of right-on commentators particularly as it was a one of each main bme group (white, arab, Jewish ).

    Except in reality, with the prevalence of the Quenelle and it’s espousal by that french comedian I’m happy not to know the name of, it is embedded is endemic and relentless anti semitism.

    There are an awful lot of people, to summarise, who, if they found themselves in the midst of an attack by jihadists, would try to a) persuade them, brother, that they were actually On. Their. Siiiiiiiide. In fighting injustice (Alan parker fist raise), b) think that through enough reasoned arguing about how the communists were committed to equal rights, would be able to persuade the jihadists that actually they are in fact fighting for world socialism c)are convinced that on some level, everyone who isnt white Anglo saxon protestant is instantly great mates with everyone else who is bme, and so the vitriolic hatred of Jews, etc, isn’t really real, as they just need enough persuasion that the real enemy is Walmart, etc.

    This informs why they insist on making excuses for racism when expressed by designated oppressed minorities where they wouldn’t dream of allowing the same if it was from some fuck from UKIP.

    That, and the awareness that no one is prepared to actually fight for leftie causes, as they can barely bring themselves to even vote for them.

  5. Babs said,

    Btw. Add soupy one toyour blog roll. http://soupyone.wordpress.com/.

  6. damon said,

    Babs, I was struggling with the meaning of ”contextualisation” there, but l think you’ve got me wrong anyway. A very typical mistake among overly ideological people. It’s too often assumed that someone saying something you don’t agree with, must fit into one of your already worked out and dismissed little boxes of the foolish or just mistaken.
    It used to happen all the time on Harry’s Place where I was accused of being racist, homophobic, antisemitic and every other backward prejudice.
    That wasn’t because I was any of those things, but because of the way people on that site viewed anyone who disagreed with them. The problem was their collective fundamentalism I thought. Just yesterday, one of them on another websit, asked me if I had been handing out sweets to celebrate the massacre in Paris.

    That doesn’t mean I always disagree with them. Their analysis of Joe Sacco’s cartoon in the Guardian is quite a good one I think. But criticise the bombing of Gaza last summer and you’ll be called a Hamas supporter – and worse. That’s just how it goes.

    As I said already, I think that Kenan Malik made a good case on his website.

    That makes the case for supporting Charlie Hebdo, just not in such a partisan way as some of the more neo-con type people make. It’s more measured and I would go along with that.

    Something that I don’t understand is how you are supposed to have this argument without coming across as a know it all, overbearing bully.
    See Sunny Hundal’s Liberal Conspiracy site for a bit more on that.

    I’m in a small Muslim town in Sri Lanka right now, and it’s such a friendly place, but I wouldn’t dream of trying to justify the French magazine to the people here.
    The conversation just couldn’t happen. Religion is much more than just something they chose to believe in. For all the communities in this country.
    Even the Christians. They take it far more seriously than we do in the West, because it’s the main part of their identity.

  7. Andrew Coates said,

    The world is changing Damon: nothing can stand in the way of being aware of different religions, values, and indeed catechism.

    I am deeply offended by religious bigots spouting their drivel, as many of us are.

    But neither Coatesism nor Deninism go and murder people because of this.

  8. Andrew Coates said,

    That is ‘atheism’ not catechism , opps stupid spell checker.

  9. 3 weeks later | bertramonline.com said,

    […] Dismantling nine mistaken assumptions about the Paris atrocities […]

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