Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War

Asghar Bukhari
8 min readJan 7, 2015

Most white people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

In less than an hour of the dreadful shooting of 12 people at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the politicians had already started to lie to their own public.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State, declared that, “freedom of expression is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”

The media lapped it up — the attack was now spun as an attack on ‘Freedom of Speech’. That cherished value that the West holds so dear.

The British Government was so in love with it, that they were passing laws that demanded nursery school teachers spy on Muslim toddlers because they had too much of it. Toddlers were ‘free’ to speak their mind as long as it agreed with UK Government policy.

A ‘free speech’ machine. It looks for people who do not have enough free speech and then gives them some

Still at least it was not as draconian as Western Governments routine harassment of those they thought spoke a bit too freely. Ask Moazzam Beg, the freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee and human rights campaigner, who was falsely accused of terrorism and imprisoned for months, after flying back from Syria with damning evidence of Britain’s complicity in torture in the Muslim world.

Or for that matter the Al-Jazeera journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye incarcerated in Yemen at the behest of the America for reporting the wrong type of facts.

They loved it so much, they kept spying on everyone, tapping their phones and arresting them for having the wrong sort of facts, or as Edward Snowden found out — having the right sort of facts!

Hypocritically even Charlie Hebdo, the magazine at the centre of the controversy, those ‘champions of free speech’, sacked a journalist in 2009 for making anti-Semitic comments but interestingly never took similar action for anti-Islamic comments, articles or cartoons.

The hypocrisy of French commentators took this absurd lie to new heights. The rapper Monsieur R was put on trial for ‘insulting the French state’. Do you remember the Western world’s outrage over that? — me neither. Attack the Prophet of the Muslims, OK — but the French state — NO!

But its not just the French State you cannot criticize, its their Allies! France that bastion of freedom, became the first country in the world to ban marching in support of those being ethnically cleansed in Palestine.

And as to those reading this and thinking ‘yes but these journalists were killed, its different!’ — let me remind you of Western complicity, in the murder of 17 journalists along with 2500 men, women and children in Gaza, by Israel, less than 12 months ago or the wilful murder of Al-Jazeera journalists in Iraq by American forces.

One rule for them and another for Muslims. That great overarching cherished Western principle that Muslims just didn’t understand.

As usual there was no real depth in any of the analysis in the media. The public were left in shock and anger but without any real answers.

The elites’ narrative was simple: a left-wing magazine, had produced ‘satirical cartoons’ about all religions and politicians, some of them about the Prophet of Islam — only Muslims took offence (subtext because their backward barbaric religion was alien and intolerant).

The argument sounded reasonable enough… if you lived in a bubble in the land of middle class white guy — sadly Muslims usually don’t have that luxury.

Let me explain it from a different perspective, one that Muslims see all too clearly.

After all its only a joke! They make fun of white people as well!

In thirties America, when white people were burning black people on trees, whites could equally have used this argument. After all there were cartoons even about the president! However making insulting cartoons about white people who controlled the power structures was not the same as demonizing black people — a powerless underclass.

Imagery of black people being, dumb, violent, lazy, thieves who looked like monkeys — upheld a political reality, the very imagery re-enforced the prejudices of those in power and subjugated blacks.

How outrageous that so many Jews joined the chorus against of condemnation against Muslims claiming it was an attack on ‘free speech’. For it wasn’t so long ago that Nazi Germany used imagery to turn society against them. Imagine today’s spurious and conceited argument being used by the Nazis — could a German newspaper hide behind the claim it also made fun of white Germans? How unjustified that only the Jews complained so! After all Germans don’t complain when they were made fun of — those backward Jews and their greedy religion didn’t understand free speech!

Most white people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons uphold their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

Muslims today are a demonized underclass in France. A people vilified and attacked by the power structures. A poor people with little or no power and these vile cartoons not only uphold the narrative of power, but heighten racist prejudice against them.

You see when white people were offended, they have the state, white corporate media and the threat of a right wing mob to make their point — Muslims have nothing.

During the Media frenzy, even white liberals have acted in the most prejudiced way. It was as if these so called enlightened liberals instantly blamed the violence on Muslims inability to understand their values, rather than Muslims having lost of faith in white liberals believing in their own so called values. In this attack, white liberals stood shoulder to shoulder with right wing bigots — screaming at Muslims about ‘free speech’ — to Muslims it seemed obvious why, both after all were white, and deep down, both saw Muslims as inferior.

French colonial forces making sure everyone can speak freely

How quickly these white liberals erased the social impact of the French states rampant racism against Algerians from the equation, built on their colonial past, which murdered 1.5 million Algerian Muslims before they left the country only to prop up its subsequent dictators. This magazine re-enforced everyone of those racist prejudices held in that polarised society, you may note that it was Algerian gun men who carried out the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

After the Egyptian dictator seized power and started shooting Muslims who opposed him — the paper ran this headline “The Quran is sh*t it doesnt stop bullets” — Imagine if a Muslim paper did this about them now — still find it funny?

Cue some right wing media white dude (or some Zionist propagandist) to now accuse me of justifying the murder —After all, if you are Muslim, explaining things is justifying them right! ?

The truth is, this awful attack can not be explained in a vacuum, absent of the context around it. It has to be seen through the prism of events, that are going on around the world. With eyes firmly fixed on the wars going on from Palestine to Pakistan.

A global view spreading across the Muslim world, is that the West is at war with them (propagandists say this is due to hate preachers — nothing to do with more bombs being dropped on Iraq alone than were used in the whole of the first and second world war).

This anger sweeping the Muslim world, is solidifying in the consciousness of millions, re-enforced by daily bombings, kidnappings and of course wars that the West has initiated and engaged in. These policies have lead to many Muslims abandoning the belief that they could bring any change peacefully — cue the rise of men taking up arms.

Killing Muslim children doesnt make Muslims take up arms — its just they hate freedom of speech honest!

These images then, can be played down as just a ‘bit of fun’ as no doubt the least perceptive of you will try to argue, or it can be seen through the prism of the war on terror — just another front on the war against Islam that has claimed so many lives — and the demonology behind it.

The Orientalist racist stereotype of the Muslim humourless barbarian — in this image of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH — it says “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!”

I argue, that we are creating extremists by the bucket load and have done so exponentially, since we declared this endless war of terror . Our policies are hardening views on all sides.

To justify its continuation, politicians have to keep lying to the public (via the pliant corporate media) saying Muslim violence is due to ‘Islamists, Extremists, Hate Preachers — the evil Muslim fairy, or any other word that makes people think the problem is faith and not the real driver — War.

This false narrative is creating extremism in white communities too, because they now believe that it is the Muslim religion that makes them act in this way, it is their backward pre-disposition to violence (note the rise of right wing neo-facists across Europe). And of course as the bombs fall like rain — it hardens opinions and creates extremists in the Muslim world. And both these people are expressing themselves in very ugly ways — and that’s exactly what happened here.

Twelve people are dead because the world we are creating is utterly polarised.

Our bombs dont leave much room for ‘freedoms’ and now neither do theirs.

Extremism leads to extremism — this is just another symptom of the world Bush and Blair gave us and our political classes are determined to keep it going. Read more on this here and here.

Drone strike — another dead Muslim

The two sides are set to clash unless we pull the foot off the accelerator — and our elites don’t want to do that.

By the time the dust settles, there will more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques burned down, politicians introducing draconian laws against Muslims, media wall-to-wall demonization and France along with the rest of Europe will lurch right — proving true the very thing these Muslims believe — that the West hates them — and they wouldn't be wholly wrong.

Someone, more powerful than you or I reader, in the political elites has to have the sense to change the mood music of war and hate, re-look at our policies and have the courage to say:

‘Everyone chill out, put the guns down and lets talk’.

Even if I am wrong, one thing is for sure — to bring an end to this — we got to do something differently, because what we are doing now — isn’t working.

I leave you with these short videos.

To discuss you can find me on twitter at @AsgharBukhari
And Facebook on MPACUK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee)