It is not what we usually post here, but it is important:
Friday, January 09, 2015
THE ABSURD TIMES
Behind Charlie Hebdo
Illustration: The cartoon by Carlos Latuff appeared on CNN Thursday. Why he sent it to CNN instead of us is beyond us, but here is another, above, guaranteed not to offend anyone.
But as soon as the news of the attack on Charlie Hebdo was announced, the Absurd Times snapped into action on Twitter.
We announced our intention of printing all of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as an expression of solidarity. Then we warned that Mississippi was likely to ban Sharia Law in the U.S. to retaliate. Then the Huffington Post published the cartoons. Then Vox did. Six others did as well while we were pointing out that France at least had the courage to defy the U.S. by supporting the Palestinians at the Security Council.
So, if you want to see the cartoons, just go to Google, click on “images,” and then Type in Charlie Hebdo, and you will see thousands of such cartoons, tens of thousands. There is no point using bandwidth here to imitate.
Anonymous has announced that it will attack all so-called “terrorist” sites (no idea if that includes Fox). this should make most armchair patriots feel a bit like “Christian Scientists with appendixitus,” (You figure out how to spell it, stolen from Tom Lehrer.)
News stations announced that the killers were on the no-fly list. Follow up question “Do you think they will come here?”
MI-5 announced that there is more danger so “be careful”. One newscaster said “You don’t have to tell me to be careful. I’m careful, ok?”
Some really brilliant news-coverage.
Now, so far as can be learned, Anwar Al-Aw-Laki in Yemen is behind this whole thing. What Obama need to do is kill him and then things will get better. Oh? He did kill him? Well then who do we kill, then?
One of the amazing things about this is that the attack on Charlie Hebdo gave rise to such a backlash and an increase of Islamophobia. Can anyone explain why the murder by Israel of 2,000 innocent civilians, mostly women and children as it that makes any difference, was not blamed on Judaism?
Or why the Oklahoma City bombing was not blamed on Christianity?
Or why the guy in Israel went into a Mosque and killed several dozen worshippers and it was not blamed on Judaism?
Yet two of the killers in Paris hid in a Kosher food store and all of a sudden it is an example of anti-Semitism?
With all these rapes in India, shouldn’t we be sending drone attacks against Hindu shrines?
Whatever the Chinese are up to, you can bet Confucius has something to do with it.
When that guy in Norway killed all those people on the island, why didn’t we blame Thor or Odin? Or Jesus?
Are we sure that North Korea did not have anything to do with this?
I would not, especially after the past few days of dealing with Sony customer service, put it past Sony. That’s it, Sony is responsible for the killings.
On this whole thing, the most cogent statement I heard was from a respected journalist who said “I’m a journalist — how do you think I feel?”
Well, here is some discussion that presents the reality of the situation in a sane manner:
Gilbert Achcar on the Clash of Barbarisms from the Massacre in Paris to the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
French police have surrounded a building in a northern town near Charles de Gaulle Airport as part of a massive manhunt for the two men accused of carrying out the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Police say they believe the suspects, Said and Chérif Kouachi, are holed up in a small printing business where they have taken a hostage. Meanwhile, French officials are now saying there is a link between the two brothers accused of the Charlie Hebdo attack and the heavily armed man who shot dead a French policewoman on Thursday. That man is now holding five hostages, including women and children, at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Sources told Reuters the three men were all members of the same Paris cell that a decade ago sent young French volunteers to Iraq to fight U.S. forces. Chérif Kouachi served 18 months in prison for his role in the group. At the time, he told the court that he had been motivated to travel to Iraq by images of atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Abu Ghraib prison. We speak to Lebanese-French academic Gilbert Achcar, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: French police have surrounded a building in a northern town near Charles de Gaulle Airport as part of a massive manhunt for the two men accused of carrying out the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Police say the suspects, Said and Chérif Kouachi, are holed up in a small printing business where they have taken a hostage. The brothers reportedly told police they wanted to die as martyrs. Earlier today, shots were fired as police chased a car believed to contain the suspects. The two brothers have been accused of carrying out Wednesday’s attack on the office of the satirical magazine, killing eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor. Eleven people were also wounded, four of them seriously.
Meanwhile, French officials are now saying there is a link between the two brothers accused of the Charlie Hebdo attack and the heavily armed man who shot dead a French policewoman on Thursday. That man is reportedly now holding five hostages, including women and children, at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
AMY GOODMAN: Sources told Reuters the three men were all members of the same Paris cell that a decade ago sent young French volunteers to Iraq to fight U.S. forces. Chérif Kouachi served 18 months in prison for his role in the group. At the time, he told the court he had been motivated to travel to Iraq by images of atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Abu Ghraib prison. Said Kouachi was reportedly in Yemen in 2011 for several months training with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. government sources told Reuters the two brothers were listed in two U.S. security databases—a highly classified database containing information on 1.2 million possible counterterrorism suspects called TIDE and the much smaller no-fly list maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center.
Vigils are continuing to take place across France to remember those killed. Last night, the lights on the Eiffel Tower were turned off as a mark of respect.
For more on the attacks, we are joined again by Lebanese-French academic Gilbert Achcar. He’s a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His most recent books are Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism and The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising. The French newspaper Le Monde has described him as “one of the best analysts of the contemporary Arab world.”
Gilbert Achcar, thanks so much for joining us again today on Democracy Now! So the situation is thousands of French police have surrounded this printing press right near Charles de Gaulle Airport. They are saying that the two brothers are inside, that they’ve got a hostage with them. Police say that they have made contact with the men, that they say they want to die as martyrs. That’s according to the police. Can you just talk about the developments of the last few days, from the attack on the newspaper,Charlie Hebdo, to where we stand today?
GILBERT ACHCAR: Thank you, Amy. Well, I mean, the obvious thing—and it should be said to avoid any misunderstanding—is that, of course, this was an appalling attack and a really barbaric act to, you know, slaughter like this these journalists, whatever disagreement one may have with their kind of drawing and their kind of perspective. That, I should say, is the obvious.
Now, again, what we are seeing now unfolding is, unfortunately, something predictable, which is trying to blame Islam, actually, for this. And there are so many pronouncements in this direction now in Europe, in the West, and all that—of course, not official pronouncements, but you have a deluge of far-right and, let’s say, vulgar kind of racist attack on Muslims, in general. And that’s why I think it’s very important to put such events in context.
And, well, yesterday when we spoke, I tried to remind the viewers that, well, on the scale of rampage killing, this appalling killing in Paris comes, you know, after—I mean, beneath, I mean, on the list, the Islamophobic mass killing by the Norwegian, Breivik, if I remember his name correctly—
AMY GOODMAN: Anders Breivik.
GILBERT ACHCAR: Yes, and the—which, I mean, made something like over 75 people killed, young people in Norway—and the massacre perpetrated by also ultra-Zionist killer Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in 1994, which made something like 29 or more people killed. Again, these are, I mean, appalling acts of what I described some years ago as a clash of barbarisms, because that’s what we are getting—the barbarism of the strong, of course, being the primary responsible in this awful dynamics. And it leads—it leads, you know, to a counterbarbarism on the side of those who see themselves as the downtrodden, the oppressed.
In the case of Iraq, this was—I mean, this is something that I said immediately after 9/11 and even before the invasion of Iraq, and what we saw in Iraq was the best illustration of that. You just mentioned how these killers, the French—the two French killers, or alleged killers, let’s say, had even been affected by these developments in Iraq and had fought or been connected with networks fighting in Iraq against U.S. troops. Well, what you had in Iraq is that the barbarism that—represented by the U.S. occupation of that country, which went actually beyond what even one could expect, with things like the torture in Abu Ghraib or the massacre in Fallujah, of course, bred a counterbarbarism represented by al-Qaeda. And the Bush administration invaded Iraq in the name of eradicating al-Qaeda, and it only managed to give al-Qaeda the largest territorial base they could ever have dreamt of in Iraq. And what we are seeing now in the name of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is the continuation of al-Qaeda, of this same al-Qaeda that the Bush administration was supposed to eradicate. So that’s what you get, because this kind of actions by the United States in invading other countries and, of course, acting as an occupying force, with all what this means, leads, of course, to such extremism on the other side, as we have seen.
Moreover, I mean, we have to take into consideration that for decades the United States, in alliance with its best friend in the Middle East, which is the Saudi kingdom, the closest friend, even closer than Israel in that regard, the Saudi kingdom, has used their kind of ideology, the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, which is the most fanatical interpretation of Islam, even against other Islamic—other branches of Islam. It’s extremely offensive. They use this ideology in the fight against anything left-wing, anything progressive in the region. That was in the ’50s and the ’60s and the ’70s, and ultimately, I mean, of course, it peaked in the war in Afghanistan, where such ideologically inspired groups were used by the United States in the fight against the Soviet occupation of that country. And ultimately, well, a chicken came home to roost, as you know, and tragically, with the appalling massacre of 9/11, but that was a direct continuation of that. And every—I mean, everyone knowing about the whereabouts of all this knew that, I mean, at that time, and it was very much emphasized, although it was, of course, blurred in the public opinion by the kind of characterization that we heard from the Bush administration: “They hate us because of our freedom and our democracy.” And, you know, we hear the same, the same kind of tune now, and this is quite misleading, I would say.
Let me also add another dimension concerning France, which was not part of the occupation of Iraq. But in France, I mean, the fact that you have had some young French citizen from Algerian background in the last few years behaving, I mean, in such extremist and fanatical forms, as we have seen, is something to be related also to the overall racism and Islamophobia that are quite, I would say, pervasive in French society, in French media. And this is a country that has not really cleared, you know, its memory—I mean, its past, the problem of its past, its colonial past. In France in 2005, the Parliament voted a law requiring that in the schools it should be taught—I mean, what should be taught is the positive role of colonialism in Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine. Imagine in the United States a law asking schools to teach the positive role of slavery. This is quite, I mean, unimaginable. One has to understand all this background, not of course as an excuse for these appalling murders—definitely not—and these guys belong to a completely crazy kind of ideological perspective. But one has to understand how, in a society which is supposed to be, you know, relatively wealthy and all that, you can have such hatred growing and coming to such extremes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Gilbert Achcar, I wanted to follow up on that, asking about, now that we have gotten these reports that the two attacks—not only the attack on the magazine, but also the shooting of the policewoman—were individuals that had apparently had ties together, what’s your sense of the extent of support for jihadist perspectives and viewpoints within the Muslim community in France, a rather large Muslim community, and also your sense of the extent of these right-wing, Islamophobic movements within France?
GILBERT ACHCAR: Well, there are definitely much more Islamophobic-minded persons and militants in France than supporters of such appalling act as the one, this attack on Charlie Hebdo. And I would say, fortunately, that those who identify with this kind of jihadist perspective may be in the hundreds, out of a community of several—I mean, a community or a—let’s say, out of several millions of people in France of Muslim background. So, we are speaking here of a tiny minority.
But nevertheless, the risk is that the kind of victimization of Muslims in general, the kind of the targeting of Islam, the finger pointed at Muslims, requiring from them that they should condemn all that as if it were their problem and their specific problem, and not seeing that this is a problem of the French society and the French state in the first place, all this, you know, creates the risk of people finally identifying even with these two crazy guys, you know, as a kind of—I mean, think of what you had in the United States turning Bonnie and Clyde into heroes, you know? Although, I mean, if you look at the record, it’s not exactly a humanistic record. So, I mean, there is here a real danger, a real problem, of getting this dynamics of what I call the clash of barbarism going further, developing and all that.
AMY GOODMAN: Gilbert, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion, and we’ll be joined by a young French-Arab student who’s here in the United States. Also, the latest news is that in these two standoffs that are taking place, one near Charles de Gaulle Airport with the brothers holding a hostage, the other at a kosher supermarket—that one, it looks like two hostages have been killed. We’ll keep you updated throughout this show. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
French Muslims Fear Backlash, Increased Islamophobia After Charlie Hebdo Attack
Muslims across France are fearing a backlash after Wednesday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Several mosques have been attacked. A bomb exploded at a kebab shop in Paris. We speak to Muhammad El Khaoua, a graduate student in international relations at the Paris Institute for Political Science. He grew up in the outskirts of Paris where he was involved with different grassroots associations, including Salaam, a student association dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue and a better understanding of Islam. Also joining is Lebanese-French academic Gilbert Achcar, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we continue to look at the breaking news from France. Agence France-Presse is reporting two people died after a gunman took five people hostage at a kosher grocery store. The gunman is reportedly the same man who shot a Paris policewoman dead on Thursday. Meanwhile, French police have surrounded a building in a northern town near Charles de Gaulle Airport as part of a massive manhunt for the two men accused of carrying out the massacre at the Charlie Hebdomagazine. Police say the suspects, Said and Chérif Kouachi, are holed up in a small printing business, where they have taken a hostage. Still with us in London is Gilbert Achcar.
AMY GOODMAN: Also with us here in New York is Muhammad El Khaoua. He is a graduate student in international relations at the Paris Institute for Political Science. He grew up in the outskirts of Paris, where he was involved with different grassroots associations, including Salaam, a student association dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue and a better understanding of Islam.
Before we go back to Gilbert Achcar, Muhammad, talk about the climate in Paris. And you hear the horror right now. You’ve got the two brothers. They’re holed up near the airport. They’ve got a hostage. Another man, not clear what their connection is, if there’s a direct connection, though they may have been years ago together, is—has killed two hostages, or two hostages have been killed in a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: Yeah, I mean, this is a political nightmare for the entire French society, but particularly for the French Muslims, because those who killed those individuals really create a space, create a great opportunity for the most destructive Islamophobic, racist forces in France, which are already using this tragedy, this catastrophe, to justify more repression against the Muslims. So it’s a political suicide that they basically did in the name of Islam. And again, the condemnation has been really clear: This goes against the, really, foundation of Islam.
But I think we have also to be clear on this: We should not always expect Muslims to condemn as Muslims. I think they should condemn as French citizens, or as human beings. When, as Gilbert Achcar mentioned, this Norwegian individual, Breivik, killed those 77 individuals in Norway, he was not portrayed as a Christian, white Christian individual. He was not even portrayed as a terrorist. So it seems like when a Muslim commits a terrorist act, he is referred as a terrorist, but when a non-Muslim does the same, there is a double standard.
And it reminds me that I was watching NBC, and there was a former CIA official who was on the show, and he said that this terrorist attack was the most serious one in France since the—in Europe since the killing of this Norwegian individual by Breivik. But he forget that actually it’s not the case, because he didn’t include the killing of these Norwegian people, as if this individual is not a terrorist. So, there is a kind of identity politics here which is a bit disturbing for me.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole issue of the, for now, for 30, 40 years, the uneasy situation of the Muslim—the growing Muslim population within France vis-à-vis the old established French white citizenry, what do you see—I mean, clearly this is a setback for those relations, but what has been the relationship now over the last several decades?
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: Well, as you may know, France has a largest Muslim population in western Europe, and the history of the Muslim presence in France is deeply connected with the history of French colonialism. Most of the Muslims come from the countries which have been colonized by France, namely North African and West African countries.
AMY GOODMAN: Where is your family originally from?
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: From Morocco and Nigeria. So, to understand the treatment of the French Muslims in today’s French society, we need to look at the colonial legacy, which I believe continues to shape, influence the way France deals with Islam and Muslims.
AMY GOODMAN: Gilbert Achcar, can you comment on what Muhammad is saying?
GILBERT ACHCAR: Yes. I mean, I think—well, I agree with what he is saying. Until now, I can’t see any disagreement. I mean, he is exactly pointing to this problem of the double standard in reacting to such events when they come from Muslims nowadays compared to any other religion, because, after all, this wave of extremism and fundamentalism is affecting everywhere, you know. I mean, we mentioned this Norwegian crazy guy, and you have these appalling demonstrations of the far right in Germany, of all places, that’s really frightening. You had—you have Jewish fundamentalist extremists in Israel killing regularly, actually, and no one is saying Judaism is the source of all these killings. You have Hindu fundamentalists doing all sorts of appalling things, and again, no one is saying this is the problem of Hinduism. But when it comes to Islam, Islam is finger-pointed immediately. And that’s really here an issue of double standard in dealing with that.
And again, I mean, the freedom of speech is something, and I’m fully for the real freedom of speech, actually, which France is not a real country of freedom of speech, where you have a lot of laws hindering the real freedom of speech in France. It’s nothing like the First Amendment in the United States. But even in these limitations to the freedom of speech, you find double standards also.
And as I said, I mean, for instance, France, of course, the sense of guilt—for very good reason, which is actually an awful historical reason—about the Jewish genocide is not equalled by any sense of guilt with regard to the colonial past of France. And Algeria, for instance, is one of the most appalling episodes in the history of colonialism. You know, I mean, there are few worse cases, like the Congo, with the Belgians in the Congo, and such, but the history of French presence in Algeria, which lasted until 1962—that’s not that long ago, you know—is just appalling. And there is no—no real—I mean, at the level of the whole French society and the French media, this is not really integrated. And you have this kind of secularist arrogance towards Islam, which is a continuation of the kind of arrogance and colonial spirit that existed at the time of direct colonialism.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to just interrupt to say breaking news: The police have named two suspects wanted in connection with the second siege at the kosher supermarket in Paris: Amédy Coulibaly and Hayat Boumeddiene. Hayat is a woman. I want to turn to an imam of a mosque located in a Paris suburb, Drancy mosque. Imam Hassen Chalghoumi said France’s Muslim community fears a backlash in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
IMAM HASSEN CHALGHOUMI: [translated] We are also afraid of this twisting. That’s not to say we do not do our duty in renouncing this barbarism. No, we renounce it. We are one of the first victims. I am living 24 hours a day under police protection, faced with a minority. Unfortunately, all of the Muslim world are victims of 95 percent of terrorism. Currently, the acts of yesterday, there is also a wave of racism and insults that follow on the networks and on the Internet. We can understand the anger, but we cannot accept the hatred.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Imam Hassen Chalghoumi of the Drancy mosque in Paris, the French Muslim community fearing a major backlash in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. In fact, the policeman that has become famous now, who was laying on the ground outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, named Ahmed Merabet, was Muslim himself, when one of the two assassins came and shot him directly and killed him. And people are not only saying, “Je Suis Charlie,” now, but they are saying, “Je Suis Ahmed.” On Sunday, there will be a mass protest in France, a rally in Paris. But they will not have the National Party, which is Marine Le Pen’s party. If you could comment on this, Muhammad, and the organizing among the youth, people like you, groups like Indigène?
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: Yeah, I would like to say a word about this hashtag, “Je Suis Charlie.” I really understand the compassion, the natural compassion and respect and sentiment which the slogan represent, but I think Charlie—we need also to mention that Charlie Hebdo’s role in fostering this Islamophobic context has been very, very controversial, and especially since the early 2000s. They somehow recuperate—they use some of this rhetoric of the clash of civilization, and they apply it to the Muslims, who were always portrayed in the most degrading ways. So, we are very clear on the condemnation of these attacks, which are not—which cannot be justified in any way, shape or forms. But we also, as citizens, should be entitled to criticize the content of the newspaper and the shift in its editorial line since the early 2000s.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to ask you about that, because the way it’s been portrayed here, at least in the United States, is that the magazine was an equal opportunity satirist, attacking Christian—the Christian religion, Judaism, as well as Islam. But you think that that’s not quite so.
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: No, I think when you target, you know, the weakest of the weak, when you target a population, a segment of the French population, which is already the target of institutionalized racism, this is not brave. I don’t think it’s courageous. Again, they have the right to do it, and it’s the law, so nobody puts into question the right to do so, but we should be also—without being, you know, afraid of being linked to this attack, question the responsibility of the newspaper and question their ethics in that matter.
AMY GOODMAN: The organizing of young people, like the groups Indigène, Indigenous, how people have been organizing in the past?
MUHAMMAD EL KHAOUA: You know, the Indigenous party, the Party of the Indigenous People of the Republic, as it is called, Parti des Indigènes de la République, has emerged in a very specific context, that which Gilbert Achcar mentioned, the 2005 propositions of law which would make obligatory for the French educational system to emphasize on the positive role of colonization—this law has now been passed—and also the 2005 riots, which have been—which are a very interesting case to understand the way Islam is dealt and perceived in France in the post-9/11 context. So, this is the context under which this movement, which is now a political party, has emerged. Basically, the idea of this movement is to say that, well, France has denied its colonial past, it refused to deal with it, it refused to recognize how this colonial legacy continues to shape its relation with Muslim and Islam. And I believe they make a point in this understanding, in this analysis of French society, which is a very racialized society, which pretends to be colorblind, which is really haunted by its colonial past.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but of course we’ll continue to follow this issue. Muhammad El Khaoua is a graduate student in international relations at the Paris Institute for Political Science, grew up in the outskirts of Paris, where he’s been involved with different grassroots associations, including Salaam, a student association dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue and a better understanding of Islam. He heads back to Paris soon. And Gilbert Achcar, thanks so much for being with us, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, orSOAS, at the University of London. His most recent books are Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism as well as The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising.
This is Democracy Now!
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