[update below] [2nd update below]
I’m getting ready to leave for Paris in a few hours and have lots of stuff to do, so this will be short and to the point. I’ve been riveted to the events in Paris of the past three days, along with several hundred million other people, and have had numerous exchanges on the subject via social media. One theme I’ve been seeing, mainly from English-speakers—academics, journalists, sundry political activists, and the like—is that Charlie Hebdo is a bigoted, racist publication and, in its cartoons on Islam, has, as one academic blogger put it, “targeted a weak and despised minority.” As one who lives in France and has read Charlie Hebdo off and on over the years, I can categorically assert that CH is not bigoted or racist and has not singled out Islam for special treatment. Those who insist that it is and has done these things have most certainly never picked up a copy of CH in their lives, or, if they have—assuming they have the requisite fluency in the French language—maybe done so only once or twice and just to look at its cover cartoon. In other words, they don’t know WTF they’re talking about. The fact is, CH is on the left, targets all religions—but not their believers—in equal measure, and aims its main fire at politicians, and particularly the right (and, above all, the Front National). CH comes out once a week, i.e. 52 times a year. A handful of its issues—less than a dozen—over the past decade have had cover cartoons mocking radical Islamism (not Islam or Muslims). A drop in the bucket in terms of what CH has published. And most of these cartoons have been pretty good actually. Witty and on target. A few in the inside pages—which could only be seen if one purchased the issue, as CH puts almost nothing on its website—were in poor taste (and the cover cartoon from last October on the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram—which was situated in the context of the then French debate on family allowances—was definitely in very poor taste), but, taken as a whole, could in no way be taken as denigrating to Muslims qua Muslims. And then there’s the actual content of CH’s columns and articles, which absolutely no CH detractor mentions (as they have most certainly never read any). I will defy anyone to find any of these—published at any point over the years—that could in any way be considered racist or Islamophobic.
That’s it. I just needed to get this out. I’ll develop it at further length in the coming days—as I have much more to say on the subject—when I’m back in Paris. For my various posts on CH over the past three years—in which I elaborate upon some of what I’ve written above—see the links in the preceding post.
UPDATE: See the “Déclaration de solidarité avec «Charlie Hebdo»,” initiated on January 7th by intellectuals hailing from the Arab/Muslim world, launched as a petition in Le Monde, then published in Mediapart (January 13th), and that has been signed by several hundred.
2nd UPDATE: Sociologists Jean-François Mignot and Céline Goffette, in a Le Monde op-ed (Feburary 24th), have, following an examination of the past ten years of Charlie Hebdo covers, confirmed my above assertion that Charlie Hebdo has not been obsessed with Islam.