The issue of home–grown terrorism, among other factors, is caused by a failure of governments to implement the republican idea of protecting citizens not only from vertical, but also horizontal power imbalances.
Most Europeans, at both elite and mass
level, have a grossly inflated idea of the extent of freedom of speech in
Europe, a direct consequence of the uncritical and self-congratulatory
discourse on the topic.
Since the touchstone of a free speech regime is in
how well it protects speech that most find revolting, its defenders have to be
willing to speak also for those whose opinions they don’t find respectable.
right to offend, which the French secular republic with its long tradition of
anti-clericalist satire holds particularly dear, is in everyday conflict with
the values of the republic’s second largest religion.
It has been exhausting having to confront the visceral divisions among us about the nature of what happened, the roles of religion, geopolitics, and racism. And the possibility that the west, thinking it ‘is Charlie’, has been spitting on their graves.
recent attacks in Paris were the latest round in a conflict of
violence, not of “values”. The primary perpetrators of this violence are western states, with Islamist terrorism representing an
The Danish cartoons were assembled to humiliate a
vulnerable minority. In subsequent debates, the idea of freedom of speech has been subverted to undermine the right of Muslims to speak up on their own behalf.
Those who hold Muslims accountable for
these acts, or demand that they apologize for them, are delusional. Beyond
Europe, Al-Qaeda has declared open war against most Arab and Muslim-majority
countries, especially those allied to the west.
European governments and civil
society can respond to terrorism by affirming and building democratic
institutions and thereby refusing the logic of war. Initially, this seemed to
be the French civic reaction.
Have we been
reduced to the 'clash of civilizations' where, in the name of security, a state
of emergency forces all to close ranks in a staged, imaginary conflict where all
possibility of dissent is erased? In memoriam.
We are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism. Journalists are defending something which is elementary to our democracy: our freedom to
breathe and to laugh.
I respect your right to show solidarity with the victims of
this horrible crime by reposting those drawings, but only if you respect my
right not to do so because I happen to find them bigoted and incendiary.
The Charlie Hebdo attack was an act of violence by deranged individuals. It should not be interpreted as a replay of the Huntingtonian clash of civilisations, somehow justifying past stigmatisation and future backslash against Muslim populations.
Charlie Hebdo was about more than its fiercely satirical cartoons. It changed the French media and legal landscape forever and was instrumental in the struggle to protect hard-hitting investigative reporting.
bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the leaders of Al-Qaeda, equated ‘acts of
slander’ to the bombing of villages and killing of innocent Muslims, evoking
similar notions of ‘defence’ and ‘vengeance’.
killings at the satirical magazine Charlie
Hebdo highlight the threat to media workers in a world where free
expression faces many violent threats. But they provide no excuse for hateful