Category Archives: Culture

OIC Calls Charlie Hebdo Survival Cover An Extreme Act

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) calls the Charlie Hebdo survival edition front cover an “extreme act of provocation”, and calls for limits on free speech.

The Prophet stands with “All is forgiven” above him, and a tear rolling down his cheek, while holding a banner that reads “Je suis Charlie.” Caroline Fourest described it as a sweet cartoon that put Mohammed beyond the crimes of the killers. Indeed, it is about reconciliation that whatever our views on religion or satire, we are united against violence. Except Sky News cut short Caroline’s interview when she dared to try and show that cover. Her point that this solidarity was undermined by refusing to show was well demonstrated.

The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission has gone much further:

However, the Commission has noted with deep regret that the first edition of Charlie Hebdo after the attack, deliberately carried the most disrespectful and provocative caricature offensive to all Muslims, thus betraying the sense of abhorrence against the attack, as well as the sympathy towards the families of those killed during the incident. [my emphasis]

Portraying the prophet crying calling for reconciliation is “disrespectful and provocative.” Sympathy for those killed by fanatics should not be conditional on the survivors now doing what the fanatics want. That would be a huge mistake saying: kill us, and we survivors will do as you ask.

Indeed IPHRC go on to claim:

“Manifest stereotyping and ridiculing the most revered personality of a pristine religion is nothing but an extreme form of racial discrimination.”

If you ever thought “Islam is not a race” was an argument at nobody, well here it is warranted. Ideas are not living people, and revered religious icons are an idea worthy of exploration by all forms of art and humour.

It bears repeating this article for the OIC is based on this one front cover. Because with the car bomb in the past and assassination in the Charlie Hebdo press office this month, they should have stopped depicting the prophet.


If anyone is tempted to repeat the killing the IPHRC stresses you are being provoked to violence:

The Commission urges Muslims around the world to continue to exercise restraints in their reaction to this extreme act of malicious provocation and hatred based on ill-founded presumption of the right to insult and defame the faith, values and cultures of others in the name of freedom of expression. [emphasis my own]

An extreme act is killing people, not drawing someone crying, that might lead others to reply in kind. A proportionate response would be satirising and drawing the Charlie Hebdo staff. If we must disagree would rather you used words and cartoons. Guns are for fundamentalists to settle an argument because bullets have a way not of being the last word, but ending the next.

The OIC try to argue that the front cover breaches international human rights law:

The Commission hopes that in line with the guidelines of UNHRC Resolution 16/18, the international community would rise to speak up against this utterly irresponsible and disrespectful act. IPHRC fully supports the freedom of expression and the need to discuss all ideas and issues in an open, well informed and frank manner including criticism on sacred beliefs. However, insults and negative stereotypes have never produced any positive results. On the contrary, its negative impact on targeted communities is well known to the world in general and Europe in particular.

The irony – this was a cover with a message of forgiveness and solidarity. That violence and discrimination were never to be accepted. We are one people, to reduce the rights of another is to threaten mine. This is solidarity.

Looking at the UNHRC Resolution 16/18 reveals:

2. Expresses its concern that incidents of religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of individuals on the basis of religion or belief, continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, as set forth in the present resolution, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents;

3. Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means; [emphasis my own]

A cartoon of the prophet crying under the slogan “All Is Forgiven” falls well short of that. Rather, claiming it is an “extreme act of malicious provocation and hatred” with it being the “most disrespectful and provocative caricature offensive to all Muslims” really is trying to raise tensions that could lead to religious hatred and division.

People are being told to be outraged at tears and forgiveness. This is how divisions are sown, hatred cultivated and violence condoned as normal. Remember that solidarity you felt with the murdered and the grieving.

Stand for peace, stand with those crying till a sea change is caused by the compassionate and merciful united in grief and strong in solidarity that we will not be divided by those using religion to make us any less than the equal citizens we are.


The OIC is looking at European and French law, to launch legal proceedings against Charlie Hebdo for their survival front cover. [The Independent]

It is an improvement at least.

Thanks to Jane Grover for OIC links.

Update 19/1/2015:

Good link giving background to the creation of the resolution mentioned above, and the OIC involvement, mentioned here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Charlie Hebdo – A Liberal Reply To Mehdi Hasan On Free Speech

Dear Mehdi Hasan,

We once discussed over my cup of coffee and your muffin secularism and free speech. In that spirit, I hope to discuss your article directed to a liberal pundit “As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists.

You do not have to like Charlie Hebdo – you can find it offensive, distasteful, disturbing and the wrong way to do satire in the 21 st Century. The freedom for you to express that and make the case should not for an instant suggest that you believe the cartoonists were responsible for their own demise or that their murder was deserved.

I am glad you mention the “Us and them” divide. As I explained to you, one reason I do not like religion is fundamentalists use it easily to make that very divide. That it is not just a case of believer V non-believer but within a faith you are either for or against God – with their claim that fanatical devotion is the path of the faithful. I reject that false binary approach as reflective of true religion. The truth of religion is for the conscience of the believer alone, not theirs to use as a yardstick or milestone on others.

Notice I am not calling you a fundamentalist. Am I a free speech fundamentalist when I argued on the Huffington Post that Anjem Choudary deserved free speech, that free speech made clear extremist views and where his fundamentalism differs from most muslims in Britain like yourself? I wanted Robert Spencer here in the UK so he could be challenged, and questions put to him. When you go to work in Washington I hope you get the chance to grill him for his promotion of genocide deniers over Srebrenica. Free speech shows us what people think and say – denying does not make their ideas go away.

You write about Brian Klug’s thought experiment:

Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif’” – the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted? . . . Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”

It reminded me of Sam Harris saying if someone went into a mosque with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed would that person be lucky to experience the religion of peace? It is rather a cheap trick to try and play, using supposed emotions and prejudices to give the answer. The thought experiment itself tries to reinforce that “them and us” narrative you warn earlier against. This is the trick of the charlatan magician not worthy of you or Sam to employ.

The danger is not in allowing distasteful views being expressed but thinking that by suppressing them  they will disappear. To suggest that the people marching in Paris do not know this is quite breathtaking. Muslims and Jews were the victims of these terrorists, as were Liberals, leftists and atheists. Their aim was to create a “us and them” divide – their victims should do the opposite. The march was about solidarity not just free speech. Not that you comment on this aspect of what the protest meant for many people.

Anyway, you mention a particular cartoon of Christiane Taubira, a black politician, as a monkey. Which I am grateful for because this is where the misunderstanding of Charlie Hebdo comes in. The context and satire is aimed at lampooning the far right by parodying them to leave no doubt supporting Le Pen means supporting racism. Lack of knowledge of French politics makes all this lost in translation. As this site mentions:

A pro-gay cartoon




The font chosen (serif) is reminiscent of traditional right-wing political posters. Left-wing and communist posters in France usually use a sans-serif font. This is the first hint that the cartoon is mocking a right-wing element.

The blue and red flame logo on the bottom-left is the logo of the Front National, a far-right political party in France.

The person depicted is Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, drawn as a monkey. This is referencing various occasions of far-right activists depicting Taubira as a monkey (online sharing of photoshops, sound imitations, calling out, etc.).

The title is a play on words of Marine Le Pen’s slogan “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy blue Union).


The cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebook-shared a photoshop of Justice Taubira, drawn as a monkey, and then said on French television the she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government” [Le Monde] (she was later sentenced to 9 months of prison). The cartoon is styled as a political poster, calling on all far-right “Marine” racists to unify, under this racist imagery they have chosen. Ultimately, the cartoon is criticising the the far-right’s appeal to racism to gain supporters.

Understanding the context shows the cartoon is more than a black politician depicted as a monkey. It is showing that supporting Le Pen is to endorse racism. A very different context to how the tweet portrays that you link in the NewStatesman. Insinuating that the dead cartoonists are racists is a sign of ignorance of the very principles of Charlie Hebdo and the French anti-racist, anti-colonial left they identified with.

You mention cartoonist Sine being fired for alleged anti-semitic remarks. You fail to mention the remark was on:

“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.” [Daily Telegraph]

Sine won 40,000 in Euros for wrongful dismissal over the incident. Or that despite legal challenge he was never found guilty of anti-semitism. Rather useful points to mention, unless you are mud spreading as wide as you can to show why you despise the magazine. Without understanding it. Bit like an atheist telling you what Islam is I suspect.

As a liberal pundit you suggest I would turn a blind eye to anti-muslim sentiment. I never have and never will. Before Charlie Hebdo I wrote “Islamism and Anti-Muslim Hate – We Must Tackle Both.” It is not the liberal pundits but the conservative religious right that are the concern when it comes to ant-muslim bigotry. You know this is a concern of us “liberals” when you retweeted my post drawing that attention to a jihadist parody account Dawkins had endorsed.

Was I incensed at the lip service to freedom of expression by some heads of state that arrest journalists, and outspoken atheists like me, being at the Paris march? Darn straight I was:

Or how do I feel about anyone that would burn a poppy? As I wrote I could not give a damn what such people think.

As a liberal pundit you have asked me to justify myself as such. I would never ask you to justify yourself as a Muslim. I would ask you as a human being.

That approach is the start of breaking down a divide. Maybe it takes more than one cup of coffee and a muffin to see that.

Kind regards, and best wishes for working stateside.

John Sargeant

Liberal Pundit

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Charlie Hebdo: “Let’s convey the message that we are alive! And that we’re not leaving out our criticism of religion.”

The first editorial meeting of Charlie Hebdo since the outrages attack on their press office which killed ten members of staff. Translation via Slate, from the original article in French here by Isabelle Hanne of Libération.

The article below is on a Creative Commons licence to be shared by all.

Charlie Hebdo’s editorial meeting will have lasted more than three hours in all. In addition to layout, subjects, and deadlines, they must also talk this Friday morning about the dead, the injured, tributes, funerals. The conference room where Libération usually holds its daily meeting is occupied on this occasion by the satirical newspaper’s survivors. The room, lit from one side by a large, round window, is at once overheated and open to the four winds to let cigarette smoke float out.

On the large round table are computers loaned to the group by Le Monde. Sitting around the table are Willem, Luz, Coco, Babouse, Sigolène Vinson, Antonio Fischetti, Zineb El Rhazoui, Laurent Léger … In all, more than 25 people, with gray faces and swollen eyes, the hardcore, close friends or occasional collaborators, are there to prepare the next edition of Charlie Hebdo. It must come out next Wednesday, with 1 million copies to be printed, about 20 times their usual circulation.

“I could see everyone at the hospital,” begins Gérard Biard, the editor-in-chief of Charlie. “Riss’ right shoulder was injured, but the nerve wasn’t hit. He was clearly in a lot of pain. The first thing that he said was that he wasn’t sure that we could continue to publish the newspaper.” Fabrice Nicolino, struck multiple times in the attack, “is doing better,” even if he “is of course suffering a lot.” Patrick Pelloux, an emergency room doctor and columnist for Charlie, explains the jaw injury of another victim, Philippe Lançon, also a journalist for Libération. Simon Fieschi, Charlie’s Webmaster, according to Pelloux, has been “put in an induced coma.” A young woman breaks down. “You don’t have to feel guilty,” Biard comforts her. Everyone hangs their head in silence. The woman who’s crying is journalist Sigolène Vinson, who was at the editorial meeting at the moment of the attack on Wednesday but was spared by the attackers.

Biard moves on to the dead. How to organize the funeral services? And the national tribute? With what sort of music? Still no flags? “We shouldn’t use a symbol that they would have hated,” notes someone sitting at the table. “They killed people who drew little cartoon men. Not flags. We must remember the simplicity of these people, of their work. Our friends are dead, but we’re not going to put them on display.” Everyone agrees.

A journalist explains that a crowdfunding campaign, spontaneously created on the Internet by strangers, has already collected 98,000 euros in less than 24 hours. Charlie’s survivors are inundated with subscription requests that they can’t handle at the moment. Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer, Richard Malka, speaks. “There’s money arriving from everywhere. Assistance, space, personnel to deal with requests …” “We have received support from lots of media sources,” echoes Christophe Thévenet, another lawyer for the newspaper. “There are donations, already 250,000 euros from the Press and Pluralism Association, the million euros pledged by Fleur Pellerin [the French Minister of Culture and Communication]. … You are going to have finances like never before at Charlie!” The lawyer would know something about that: He’s the one who developed the newspaper’s regulations and who runs the paper’s general meetings. These past few months, the weekly had put out a call for donations to try to replenish its coffers, which were in bad shape.

“So, are we doing the newspaper?” asks Biard, who, it’s apparent, wants to fight to the finish. “What do we put on its pages?” “I don’t know, what’s in the news?” asks Pelloux. Nervous giggles. Biard starts again: “I’d be in favor of doing a quote-unquote normal edition. Let the readers recognize Charlie. That’s not an exceptional edition.” “Not even hurt!” calls out someone at the table. Some people mention the idea of leaving blank spaces where those killed Wednesday would have written or drawn. In the end, the team is against the idea. “I don’t want there to be material emptiness,” argues Biard. “They must all be there, in the pages. And Mustapha too.” Mustapha Ourrad, the copy editor, is among the long list of those killed in Wednesday’s attack. “Then leave in my mistakes!” joke Pelloux and the others.

“Oh, hey! Fidel Castro is dead!” thunders Luz, sticking up his middle fingers upon discovering the news (which would quickly be disproven) on his cellphone. Reporter Laurent Leger tries to refocus the debate on the newspaper: “I think we shouldn’t do obituaries, we’re not going to do a tribute edition.” The editors debate the content of the newspaper. Biard: “I hope that people stop calling us secular fundamentalists, that they stop saying ‘Yes, but’ to free expression.” Leger: “I think that we can also say that we were very lonely these past few years.” Luz: “This edition also needs to talk about what comes next.” Corinne Rey: “Let’s convey the message that we are alive!” Malka: “And that we’re not leaving out our criticism of religion.”

Charlie Hebdo is a curious newspaper: It doesn’t really have sections but “spaces” allocated for each author, each cartoonist. For the spaces of the deceased, the team decides to find previously unpublished material to print. So, in the edition that will hit newsstands Wednesday, there will be some Charb, some Cabu, some Wolinski, some Honoré … During the discussions, there are sobs here and there, like brush fires that light up only to be extinguished in the arms of a neighbor. There are hands grasped and wet eyes.

Malka clears his throat: “Manuel Valls [the French prime minister] just arrived on the premises.” The team sighs, spreads out, chats. Accompanied by Fleur Pellerin, the minister of culture and communication, who sports a “Je suis Charlie” sticker on her chest, and a horde of outside journalists, assistants, and communications people, the prime minister shakes the hands of those present, releasing some news on the ongoing situation in Dammartin-en-Goële—“The two gunmen are in a trap”—before bidding them to be “full of courage.”

Biard ventures to say: “OK, the journalists are gone? The ministers are gone? For Page 16, what are we going to do?” The question is lost in the sound of Coke cans opening, people snacking on pains au chocolat, muffled sobs, police sirens outside. In his corner, Pelloux jokes, “So it’s a real editorial meeting, then, it’s mayhem, we’re really back.”

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PREVENT and Religion


The UK government has announced, as part of its Prevent strategy, that even toddlers at nursery need to be watched out for in case they are groomed by others towards Islamic extremism that would make them susceptible to terrorism.

The boy went to school, and the teachers noticed something different about him. He did not sing at school assembly, not even join in happy birthday, and would not bow his head during school prayer. But he would pause before he ate anything. Eagle eyes would have picked up he was praying.

He had been in town telling people that this evil impure world was going to end, and that only faith in the one true God was going to save them. Death was certain for the unbelievers, and deserved. Asked whether that would require the faithful killing other people, he replied that God had ordered unbelievers to be killed before by man, and his judgment was beyond the question of anyone. His divine law was the thing to pray and live for. No one would want to witness the end of this system of things. Better to be dead before seeing that horror.

World governments were but puppets of their master, Satan. Politics were the machinations of the evil one. It should be no surprise that the faithful would be oppressed and despised. For they obeyed God first, and death held no fear compared to that devotion to him. The world was nothing to be a part of, it offered trifles compared to what God could.

Yet no calls were made to alert the security services. That if God commanded he would kill, as had holy men before, was not cause enough to concern anyone. For it was common knowledge the stories he referenced of death and destruction.

He slipped under the radar, even leaving school for some years.

However, he ended up writing a blog about religion and fundamentalism. Including what it was like as a child being indoctrinated in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You have just read his post.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Santa and the International Space Station Fly By


Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It’s commercialisation has opened the festival to everyone as Sunny Hundal explains:

Christmas is perhaps the most widely celebrated festival in the world, even with non-Christians, because a bunch of commercialised non-religious rituals have sprung up around it.

Santa and his flying reindeer are part of the magic, as presents appear over night under the tree and in stockings.

Yet that tradition of Santa being the one delivering the presents is dying out according to a Pew poll.


From 72% to 31% telling children that Santa comes round with the presents Christmas Eve/Day. Massive change in how the celebration of Christmas is told.

Which is where the International Space Station, which will be visible in the UK at 5:22PM (weather permitting) comes in:

Festive flyover by the International Space Station could look a lot like Father Christmas and his sleigh, the Met Office suggests

It may be the perfect opportunity to show the little ones Santa on his way: a bright light zooming across the sky, just after nightfall on Christmas Eve. [Daily Telegraph]

It rather seems the perfect opportunity to fire little ones with the wonder of science. What they can see is a space port which over 200 people have visited. It’s weight is equivalent to 5,000 of me.

Not only that, but it is an orbital laboratory conducting a range of experiments and examining the universe. Even up there orbiting the earth an astronaut can tweet this photo.


In the night sky you see what humanity can do. Coming together we can reach for the stars.

That really is worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas!

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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