Tag Archives: France

Paris Means We Have To Get Real About Jihadism


As jihadism goes, the Paris attack last week was a spectacular, and ISIS twitter accounts roared as if the explosions of suicide bombers were fireworks. While Parisians who were enjoying a Friday night out with a drink, music or sport ended up painting the town red in their own blood.

Cosmopolitan secular cultured Paris met the monolithic theocratic anti-culture of Jihadists. One of these must have a future while the other has to be consigned to history. Standing up for and living our secular liberal values are not enough. We cannot pretend that letting ISIS get on with raping Yazidi women and butchering Kurds is not our fight. Being human means nothing, if we are not prepared to come to the aid of others in need. Just as people in Paris did, queuing up to give blood, despite fears of further attacks.

When analysing the Islamic State’s multi pronged terrorist (MPT) attack on Paris, it is too easy to stand on the corpses of hundreds and use them as a pulpit. “Islam is the enemy of the west”, when neglecting the many more Muslims killed by Jihadist groups around the world. “Islam is a religion of peace”, neglecting the political ideology that causes someone to blow themselves up is done with confidence that martyrdom has been achieved as a first class ticket to eternal paradise, avoiding the hell fire waiting room most people have to go through first.

The Islamic State aims to become the political geographic caliphate for all Muslims. Part of achieving that is making ISIS a global brand for Jihadists around the world to buy into. The PR campaign has been impressive. As Sara Khan of Inspire mentioned at the Home Affairs Select Committee this week, civil society is behind the curve when it comes to the organisation of ISIS on social media and the internet. The irony: that we are to be brought to a backward looking age by the most modern of communication systems.

Where many islamists talk the talk, jihadists go on the rampage. We saw that in the MPT attack in Mumbai, 2008. As ISIS look to supplant Al Qaeda, it was always a danger they would go for this tactic as well. Paris makes sense as a target: former French colonies have active Jihadist groups, and France has not been shy in flexing its muscles against them. ISIS has shown: swear allegiance, and your enemies are ours too.

To blame foreign policy for ISIS is simplistic, given that their survival must appeal to Jihadist groups to survive and grow. If we do not recognise there is a global jihadist insurgency happening around the world, we miss that liberating Raqqa will not be the end of it. Yes ISIS want to lead it, but cutting off the head will be an epic milestone rather than a total victory.

ISIS needs fighters, and as many fronts in this war as it can have. It needs to sow confusion and traumatise those that would oppose them. The last thing to do is see the man who has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria, Assad, as an ally. He gave the conditions and space for ISIS to form, regroup and conquer. He is the problem, and not the solution, when it comes to the Jihad insurgency.

We can talk about civic values, and standing for human rights in a pluralistic society. We also require a military response, and drone attacks like the one that killed Jihadi John. We need to infiltrate the communication, training and finance of global jihad networks. We need to show the people in regions affected by jihadism that they are not alone in this fight. In doing so, we must not let down those that died demanding freedoms from autocrats in the Arab Spring.

Solidarity for all victims requires nothing less, if our common humanity has any meaning. Otherwise ISIS have already won the culture war. We might want to imagine peace, but that is not the reality being offered by Jihadists.

Above photo by Amber McDonald, at a New York memorial to the Paris attack. Used under creative commons license – please do likewise if reproduced.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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France – Don’t Criminalise Children For Speech

A 16 year old for posting via Facebook the cartoon on the left (a parody of the one on the right that was by Charlie Hebdo) is to be placed on probation and to be indicted. The call is for judicial “extreme reactivity” to such things.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists would be turning in their graves. The Muslim Brotherhood protestors, even with faith on their side, could not withstand the bullets of the army crushing any dissent to the Egyptian coup. The islamist democratic idea in Egypt was literally killed.

So much for religion, it does not make you bullet proof in your defiance. You die, and can be suppressed as any other mortal. Which is where the mock cover makes the point. The defiance of Charlie Hebdo in printing the cartoons they wanted was not going to save them. Maybe they never thought it would really come to this, that their lives would be taken.

Putting school children before the courts for what they say is a right French farce. This should not surprise you though:

In 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy was President, a man in a crowd refused to shake his hand. Sarkozy said angrily, “Casse-toi, pauv’con!,” which means something like “Get lost, stupid jerk.” But when a protester later brought a sign reading “Casse-toi, pauv’con!” to a public meeting attended by Sarkozy, the man was arrested and brought up on charges. According to French law, the President of the Republic can insult you, but you can’t insult him—even with his own words. [The New Yorker]

How the criminalisation of school children is supposed to make the streets of Paris safe is anyone’s guess. Rather, it smacks of inequality of citizens. No Republic deserves to stand if it cannot grasp that.

Live up to égalité if you also truly want to mean it when you say “Je suis Charlie.” Or fail the Republic as the hypocrites you are. Sycophants to Liberty, whom you speak against behind her back, while claiming to be right behind her.

Hat tip Sunny Hundal.

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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