The latest with Charlie Hebdo came the day it was due to publish its latest weekly edition skewering Islamic Shariah law. The name Charlie was replaced with Charia, Prophet Mohammad listed as guest Editor-In-Chief, captioned with "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter" and dedicated to the Arab Spring.
This time, no-one was going to wait to lose a lawsuit, so in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday November 2, the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed, and their website was hacked. Apparently, there was a photo of Mecca and "No God But Allah" along with messages in Turkish and English. But as of today, there are just the words "it works!", on the screen. Whatever that's supposed to mean.
There are, of course, those dhimmis who condemn Charlie Hebdo for provoking Muslims, like Romina Ruiz-Goiriena of France24 in her Huffington Post article.
By definition, satire is based on the premise that however serious the subject, it can achieve a greater effect if a society's follies are held to ridicule. The greater purpose is constructive criticism. However, the Charia Hebdo number did everything to scorn the Arab Spring abroad and nothing to contest French clichés and institutional racism against Muslims.
The issue was not thought-provoking; it simply contributed to burgeoning anti-Muslim sentiment. What it should have been doing was pushing the conversation forward to confront the seemingly dormant but rampant institutional bigotry. After all, is that not the point of having a free press tradition in the first place?
An extremely angry editor, Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), said that
"The arsonist didn't read this magazine -- no one knows what's in this magazine except for the ones who will buy it this morning. People acted violently over a magazine where they don't even know the content. This is what is most deviant and dumb."But Muslims who commit these kinds of violent acts don't think before reacting. They just lash out because it's the only thing they know, and people are intimidated enough to give them reason to continue acting out. Granted, many in the Muslim community have condemned the violence, but there's something fundamentally wrong when your adherents find no other recourse but to resort to threats and violent pursuits.
Back in 2006 Jacques Chirac was highly critical of Charlie Hebdo for the Mo-Toons publication, which he claimed was "overt provocation" adding,
"Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided."
The current government, however, values freedom of speech and fully supports the magazine. Interior Minister Claude Gueant said
"The freedom of the press is a sacred freedom for French people. Everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this attack."
The mayor of Paris said it best,
"We may not agree with this week's edition of Charlie Hebdo, but we are in a society that needs freedom of expression, and any violence that undermines this freedom... is absolutely unacceptable."
If we continue to allow violence or the threat of violence to dictate how we conduct our lives, we might as well lock ourselves up and throw away the key.