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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The London Free Press: Vous n'êtes pas Charlie.

The local paper, The London Free Press, ran an article today with details surrounding the first issue of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo after the slaughter of many of the paper's senior editorial staff. The Free Press headline read: "Tearful Mohmamed on cover." The art accompanying the story showed the memorial to the victims which is growing larger by the day on the street near the magazine offices. The Free Press did not print a photo of the actual cover of the magazine. A description was all the paper dared print.

According to the paper, the weekly publication features "the most anticipated magazine cover in the world." As many as 3 million copies of Charlie Hebdo could be distributed with demand soaring. The usual print run is only 60,000. This week global sales alone could surpass 300,000, dwarfing the usual international sales number of about 4,000 copies.

But the most anticipated magazine cover or not, The Free Press is not providing its readers with a look at the controversial cover. The local paper is not alone. Canadian media in general, at least the dominant media in English-speaking Canada, have decided not to republish any of the satirical cartoons which made worldwide news after many of those connected to the publications were gunned down in their Paris office.

The Globe and Mail defended their decision not to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. David Walmsley, The Globe and Mail’s editor-in-chief, explained: "One doesn’t need to show a cartoon to show the story. The story is the killings, not any cartoon."

The story is not the cartoons? What balderdash. Those cartoons are at the core of story. No cartoons; no slaughter; no story. To read the full explanation, click the following link. If you do, please also take a moment to read some of the comments of Globe readers.:


The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
The journalist at Charlie Hebdo were killed because of the cartoons they published. To say that these cartoons are not an important part of this story is ridiculous. Without them there is no specific context for the crime. Walmsley's explanation is pure rationalization.
From my quick reading of the comments, it seems most readers of The Globe were not swayed. And so a few days later, The Globe ran another piece addressing its decision not to publish any of the cartoons. This article carried the headline We honour Charlie Hebdo, but we don’t want to be it. This attempt at placating readers angered by the decision also failed. Find the comments here: Comments.

Have I seen any of the cartoons? Yes. I subscribe to a daily feed from the Harvard Gazette. Following a links, I viewed a smattering of the cartoons. And I read articles defending Charlie Hebdo. Ayaan Hirsi Ali,  a Fellow with The Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center, wrote:

We do need to wake up to the fact that there is a movement — a very lethal movement, very cruel — that has a political vision about how the world should be organized and how society should live. And in order for them to realize their vision, they are willing to use any means. They are willing to use violence. They are willing to use terror.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali continued, saying:

The ball is now in the court of the media. If the press responds to this by not reprinting the cartoons, by not defending the principle that Charlie Hebdo was defending, then we have given in. Then they have won [this round].

I added this round. Why? Because if you think that this dispute is just about cartoons, you are mistaken. The cartoons are simply one round in a far larger fight. The cartoons are the focus this time. But, take away the cartoons and you still have a fight on your hands. Terrorist murderers do not disappear because a cartoon is not published. They simply turn their attention elsewhere.

This cartoon by Cabu depicts and quotes the racist demagogue
politician Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National party (with
the eye patch). The caption reads: "We want to be able to go
out in the evening without being afraid." The armed thugs in the
background are racist skinheads and their ilk. The cartoon
leaves little doubt as to who is afraid.

















I heard a self-described left-of-centre NDP supporter expressing his anger at the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. He had strong opinions on this matter even though, I don't believe, he had actually seen any of them. And no wonder. His sources for news are not publishing any of the Jean Cabut cartoons. I believe that's really too bad.

Althought the man compared the Cabu cartoons to the Nazi propaganda released during the Hitler era, don't make the mistake of thinking that he was a supporter of religion. He wasn't. He made it very clear that he despised religion. All religion. He saw religion at the root of much that is wrong with the world.

When I read the supportive phrase, "Je suis Charlie", I think of another meaning. Charlie Hebdo stirs up angry, murderous emotions in certain extreme, and I believe misguided, Muslims. But it is not just Charlie Hebdo stirring this emotional pot. I believe the oh-so-acceptable secular approach to religious faith, an approach that treats faith as foolishness, as something to be mocked and ridiculed, is also fueling the terrorist fires now burning in the West.

Those who openly distrust of religion, are intolerant of religious thought, and who might be characterized by believers as haters of religion, these people are also part of the problem. I've seen it claimed that this background noise in our secular world, this background noise that mocks religious belief is one of the  forces driving some Muslims into the marginalized camp. Maybe these people, full of distrust for all religion, can also lay claim to the phrase "Je suis Charlie." Although, used here it has another meaning: "If Charlie was wrong, if Charlie stirred up anger, then to the extent that I also have stirred up anger means that to that extent I am also Charlie."

To understand my point, read The New York Times piece, From Teenage Angst to Jihad, The Anger of Europe’s Young Marginalized Muslims.

Author Abdelkader Benali tells readers of The Times that at 13 years old he was a healthy, young Dutch boy with a Moroccan background until something happened that made him realize he was different from his non-Muslim classmates. Benali writes:

One day in history class, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie became the subject. Our teacher talked about freedom of expression; I talked about insulting the Prophet.

It took Benali years to work through the moral dilemma in which he found himself that day. And he found it is much harder to find a satisfactory answer while living in a secular society that had stopped struggling with big religious questions.

Benali tells readers, "In the end, I didn’t find the answers in holy texts. I found them in literature." He found his answer in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in Albert Camus' The Plague and in the book that originally triggered his emotional turmoil, Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses: a book about "a young man struggling with his faith in a faithless world."

Maybe, just maybe, the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo will do for others what The Satanic Verses did for Benali. Check out this link to the latest Charlie Hebdo cover showing the Prophet Muhammad holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign with the caption, "All is forgiven."

There are a lot of criticisms that can be aimed at the French weekly, insensitive comes readily to mind, but spreading hatred of Muslims is not among them.

Huffington Post: I Am Charlie.

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