Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hurry, more democracy everywhere against barbarism

Demonstrators hold a sign reading 'Hurry, more democracy everywhere against barbarism' as they gather at Place de la Nation during the unity rally 'Marche Republicaine' on January 11, 2015 in Paris in tribute to the 17 victims of a three-day killing spree by homegrown Islamists.

This is a far better slogan than "Je suis Charlie".

Friday, January 16, 2015

Charlie quotes and links

Assholes deserve to be shunned, not murdered with cruel delight. But being murdered doesn't make their behaviour any more reasonable. It doesn't make them heroes to emulate
- Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo: Assholes can't be heroes
Maurice Sinet, 80, who works under the pen name Sine, faces charges of "inciting racial hatred" for a column he wrote last July in the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. ...

"L'affaire Sine" followed the engagement of Mr Sarkozy, 22, to Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the Jewish heiress of an electronic goods chain. Commenting on an unfounded rumour that the president's son planned to convert to Judaism, Sine quipped: "He'll go a long way in life, that little lad."

A high-profile political commentator slammed the column as linking prejudice about Jews and social success. Charlie Hebdo's editor, Philippe Val, asked Sinet to apologise but he refused, exclaiming: "I'd rather cut my balls off."

Mr Val's decision to fire Sine was backed by a group of eminent intellectuals, including the philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy, but parts of the libertarian Left defended him, citing the right to free speech
- French cartoonist Sine on trial on charges of anti-Semitism over Sarkozy jibe (Jan 2009)
And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark?
- As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists
Olivier Cyran, who worked for Charlie from 1992 to 2001:
Doubtless I had neither the patience nor the strength of heart to follow week after week the heartbreaking change that has occurred in your team after the turn of September 11, 2001. I did not part with Charlie Hebdo when suicide planes hit your editorial, but the Islamophobic neurosis that has gradually taken hold of your pages from that day has affected me personally because I remember the good times I had spent in this newspaper during the 1990s. The devastating laugh "Charlie" I had loved now sounded in my ears like the laughter of the fool or a pig who wallows in his shit . So far I have not criticised your racist newspaper. But since today you proclaim loudly your pure anti racism and without reproach, the time has perhaps come to seriously consider the matter
- "Charlie Hebdo " not racist ? If you say so ... (Dec., 2013

My comment: Evelyn Beatrice Hall (misattributed to Voltaire) ("I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it") said it better than George Brandis ("People have the right to be bigots in a free country") but both were right.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Charlie, limited

The focus has been on free speech, which is, of course, very relevant. But like the author below I think there should be more focus on our relative indifference to the massacres in the "less developed" world. eg. Egypt (military overthrow of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, followed by fresh massacres), Syria (200,000 + dead, 3.5 million refugees). In particular Obama's hands off policies in Syria have led to the creation of a monster (Daesh aka IS or ISIL) within a monster (Assad's Syria). Evil forces, also including Putin, have moved in to fill the vacuum left by the retreat of the USA. Daesh / Islamism can only be defeated at its source. See my earlier blog, Weep for Charlie ... but also pay more attention to Syrian cartoonist, Raed Fares
I do not forget the front cover of Charlie Hebdo issue N°1099, in which it trivialized the massacre of more than a thousand Egyptians by a brutal military dictatorship which has the approval of the USA and of France, carrying a cartoon with a text declaring “Slaughter in Egypt. The Koran is shit: it doesn't stop bullets.” The cartoon showed a Muslim man riddled with bullets that had passed through a copy of the Koran, with which he had been trying to protect himself. Perhaps some find this funny. In their time too, the English colonists in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, thought it funny to have photographs of themselves taken, with wide smiles and rifle in hand, a foot on the corpses of the still-warm and bleeding bodies of the native people they had hunted.

Rather than funny, that cartoon to me seems violent and colonialist, an abuse of the fictitious and manipulated western freedom of the press. How would people react if I were to design a magazine cover bearing the following text: “Slaughter in Paris. Charlie Hebdo is shit: it doesn’t stop bullets” and made a cartoon of the deceased and gunned-down Jean Cabut holding a copy of the magazine in his hands? Clearly that would be outrageous: the life of a Frenchman is sacred. The life of an Egyptian (or Palestinian, Iraqi, a Syrian, etc.) is “humoristic” material. For that reason I am not Charlie, because for me, the life of each one of those Egyptians massacred is as sacred as is any of those caricaturists assassinated today.
- José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
7 January, 2015
Full article here

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weep for Charlie ... but also pay more attention to Syrian cartoonist, Raed Fares

I can certainly identify with the grief, anger and further preparation against home grown terrorist attacks in the "civilised" west. But I also think this needs to be compared with the so little understanding and commitment of what needs to be done in Syria. The problem of fundamentalist inspired terrorism can only be solved at its source. It's the old story of do we fish the babies out of the water or make the effort to stop those who are throwing the babies in further upstream (from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist)

The Daesh (aka ISIS, ISIL) is the monster created within the monster of Assad's Syria.
The Syrian cartoonist, Raed Fares, survived a Daesh assassination attempt in January 2014... the would-be assassins fired at Fares 46 times. Twenty-seven bullets struck the wall behind him; 17 hit his car. Only two struck him. They shattered seven bones in his shoulder and ribs and punctured his right lung.

Assad's brutality in the face of the Arab Spring inspired Syrian revolution has created 200,000 plus deaths and 3.5 million refugees. Today we witness so much grief and preparation for terrorism at "home". By contrast there is little understanding and commitment of what needs to be done in Syria.

"Obama's Rwanda" (Raed Fares)

This NYT article about Raed Fares, Radio-Free Syria, is very good. It includes one section about Obama's failure in Syria:
“Three years ago, America could have saved thousands of lives,” Bayyoush went on. To them, what they needed seemed simple in hindsight: antiaircraft missiles, airstrikes against Assad, a no-fly zone. All of these options would have offered potential solutions. Their model for U.S. intervention was Libya, where airstrikes in support of the opposition helped to depose Qaddafi. Later the country descended into civil war. Fares acknowledged that Libya was hardly a success story, yet at least, he said, the United States had intervened to protect the Libyan people. In Syria, Assad was free to systematically imprison and kill the moderate leaders the United States was now looking for. “One by one, they were disappeared,” he said.

“Can I speak?” said Hamada, who is with the Fifth Regiment of the Free Syrian Army. “I told the Americans I met in Jordan: ‘If you help us, there will be no extremism in Syria at all. If you’re too late, there will be a time when neither you nor we will have any control.' ” According to a senior retired U.S. military leader, who asked not to be named because he is no longer in the service, the delay in backing the Free Syrian Army led to the death of moderate military leaders. “If we had helped those people earlier, it could’ve gone differently,” he said. “A lot of the good leaders are dead now. They’ve been caught between rocks and hard places and ground into dust.”

The recent strikes against ISIS in Syria frustrated the Free Syrian Army commanders on two counts. First, unlike that of the United States, the F.S.A.'s primary foe was the regime. “The regime has launched chemical attacks and many more massacres than ISIS has,” Bayyoush said. Second, they had been warning the United States against the growth of ISIS for more than a year. “A year and a half ago, ISIS started activating cells,” Hamada said. “If America had helped us in the beginning, there would be no ISIS.” But the growth of ISIS wasn’t simply America’s fault. The Free Syrian Army bore its own responsibility. “These extremist groups formed because we were weak within the Free Syrian Army,” he said
Some more Raed Fares cartoons, they are all located in one place here, Liberated Kafranbel:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: How to Answer the Paris Terror Attack

Recent interview on ABC with Hirsi Ali here

How to Answer the Paris Terror Attack
The West must stand up for freedom—and acknowledge the link between Islamists’ political ideology and their religious beliefs

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

After the horrific massacre Wednesday at the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, perhaps the West will finally put away its legion of useless tropes trying to deny the relationship between violence and radical Islam.

This was not an attack by a mentally deranged, lone-wolf gunman. This was not an “un-Islamic” attack by a bunch of thugs—the perpetrators could be heard shouting that they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad. Nor was it spontaneous. It was planned to inflict maximum damage, during a staff meeting, with automatic weapons and a getaway plan. It was designed to sow terror, and in that it has worked.

The West is duly terrified. But it should not be surprised.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from such a grisly episode, it is that what we believe about Islam truly doesn’t matter. This type of violence, jihad, is what they, the Islamists, believe.

There are numerous calls to violent jihad in the Quran. But the Quran is hardly alone. In too much of Islam, jihad is a thoroughly modern concept. The 20th-century jihad “bible,” and an animating work for many Islamist groups today, is “The Quranic Concept of War,” a book written in the mid-1970s by Pakistani Gen. S.K. Malik. He argues that because God, Allah, himself authored every word of the Quran, the rules of war contained in the Quran are of a higher caliber than the rules developed by mere mortals.

In Malik’s analysis of Quranic strategy, the human soul—and not any physical battlefield—is the center of conflict. The key to victory, taught by Allah through the military campaigns of the Prophet Muhammad, is to strike at the soul of your enemy. And the best way to strike at your enemy’s soul is through terror. Terror, Malik writes, is “the point where the means and the end meet.” Terror, he adds, “is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose.”

Those responsible for the slaughter in Paris, just like the man who killed the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004, are seeking to impose terror. And every time we give in to their vision of justified religious violence, we are giving them exactly what they want.

In Islam, it is a grave sin to visually depict or in any way slander the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are free to believe this, but why should such a prohibition be forced on nonbelievers? In the U.S., Mormons didn’t seek to impose the death penalty on those who wrote and produced “The Book of Mormon,” a satirical Broadway sendup of their faith. Islam, with 1,400 years of history and some 1.6 billion adherents, should be able to withstand a few cartoons by a French satirical magazine. But of course deadly responses to cartoons depicting Muhammad are nothing new in the age of jihad.

Moreover, despite what the Quran may teach, not all sins can be considered equal. The West must insist that Muslims, particularly members of the Muslim diaspora, answer this question: What is more offensive to a believer—the murder, torture, enslavement and acts of war and terrorism being committed today in the name of Muhammad, or the production of drawings and films and books designed to mock the extremists and their vision of what Muhammad represents?

To answer the late Gen. Malik, our soul in the West lies in our belief in freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. The freedom to express our concerns, the freedom to worship who we want, or not to worship at all—such freedoms are the soul of our civilization. And that is precisely where the Islamists have attacked us. Again.

How we respond to this attack is of great consequence. If we take the position that we are dealing with a handful of murderous thugs with no connection to what they so vocally claim, then we are not answering them. We have to acknowledge that today’s Islamists are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam. We can no longer pretend that it is possible to divorce actions from the ideals that inspire them.

This would be a departure for the West, which too often has responded to jihadist violence with appeasement. We appease the Muslim heads of government who lobby us to censor our press, our universities, our history books, our school curricula. They appeal and we oblige. We appease leaders of Muslim organizations in our societies. They ask us not to link acts of violence to the religion of Islam because they tell us that theirs is a religion of peace, and we oblige.

What do we get in return? Kalashnikovs in the heart of Paris. The more we oblige, the more we self-censor, the more we appease, the bolder the enemy gets.

There can only be one answer to this hideous act of jihad against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It is the obligation of the Western media and Western leaders, religious and lay, to protect the most basic rights of freedom of expression, whether in satire on any other form. The West must not appease, it must not be silenced. We must send a united message to the terrorists: Your violence cannot destroy our soul.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, is the author of “Infidel” (2007). Her latest book, “Heretic: The Case for a Muslim Reformation,” will be published in April by HarperCollins

Thursday, January 08, 2015

response to Charlie Hebdo attack

Holding up pencils in a free speech demonstration in Barcelona

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine, published every Wednesday, that was founded in 1969 though it stopped publishing between 1981 and 1992. Known best for its illustrations and provocative imagery, the magazine aims to mock all forms of authority, from politicians to religion to the military. Its ideological roots are left-wing and atheist — with religion in all its forms a constant target.

In 2006, the paper reprinted images of the Prophet Mohamed that had appeared in a Danish magazine a year before. The next year, it published a picture of Mohamed crying, with the tagline “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.” The Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, among other similar religious bodies, filed slander charges at the time, but a French court cleared the paper.

The magazine’s offices were set on fire by a molotov cocktail in November 2011 after it published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohamed saying “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing.” The firebomb forced the publication to relocate to their current offices in the 11th borough of Paris. Editorial staff were often threatened: The magazine’s director, Stephane Charbonnier (better known to readers under his illustration pen name of Charb), had a personal bodyguard. A French man was arrested in 2012 after he called on a jihadist site to have Mr. Charbonnier decapitated. Mr. Charbonnier was among those killed Wednesday.
Stephane Charbonnier after the 2011 bombing. “It is perhaps a bit pompous to say so but I prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees.”