This 2010 cover of the French publication Charlie Hebdo depicts a Muslim woman with a burqa stuffed up her ass. I, for one, wouldn’t publish such unnecessarily offensive material. Because you can doesn’t mean you should. There is an awful lot that we are free to do that we probably should not do.
First, the obligatory (but sincere) opening paragraph in which I proclaim that I support free speech on every square centimeter of the globe and that of course I do not condone the slaughter of human beings over the publication of things that some (or many or even most) have found to be offensive.
I’m sure that I’ve offended many people over the years, and I sure would prefer not to be shot to death because I’ve offended some fucktard’s precious sensibilities.
But missing in the discussion that I’ve heard and read regarding yesterday’s massacre of 12 people in Paris at or near the offices of the weekly French publication Charlie Hebdo is that the publication apparently has a frat-boy mentality (I dunno: is that a French thing?), the mentality in which other groups of human beings who differ from our own group exist only as fodder for our belittling attacks against them.
I don’t see that Charlie Hebdo’s many covers apparently meant to offend and provoke Muslims in France do anything to uplift the public debate. These covers seem to be meant to provoke and offend above all else, to shock, to scandalize, and to enrage Muslims, or, at the very least, to not give a shit if Muslims become enraged (because hey, they’re Muslims!).
“Charlie Hebdo insults all religions,” the ubiquitous Charlie-Hebdo-defending mantra goes.
Here in the United States, the equivalent cartoons, if they were about Jews, would be considered to be virulently anti-Semitic.
Why, in the West, is anti-Semitism widely condemned (and so much that isn’t actually anti-Semitic nonetheless is deemed to be “anti-Semitic”), but virulent Islamophobia so often in so many places is perfectly A-OK? (That was a rhetorical question, mostly, but I’ll answer it anyway: because in the West, Christianity and Judaism get preferential treatment. They always have.)
I don’t believe in God, so I have no dog in this race. Muslims, Jews, Christians, all (the fundamentalists among them, anyway) believe in things that I think are utter bullshit, such as ridiculous dietary restrictions (well, at least the Jews and the Muslims), creationism and other anti-scientific and anti-intellectual stances and hocus-pocus bullshit (“miracles,” virgin births, resurrections, being God’s specially chosen stenographer, etc.), patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and talking to a non-existent deity (a.k.a. “praying”).
Those who believe in God (as adults who should know better) more often that not are only going along to get along with the tribe that they were born into and/or want pat answers to all of the universe’s questions (and their religion gives them the veneer of having all of those answers) and/or they find the world to be a terrifying place to be and they find God to be the ultimate security blanket.
I disagree with them, and when theofascists piss and shit on my human rights, civil rights and equal rights (such as they did with Proposition H8) I will speak out, but, in general, I don’t see what good would come of my going out of my way to offend and provoke those who hold religious beliefs that I find to be ridiculous. For the most part, as long as the theists leave me (and my rights) alone, I can leave them alone.
Charlie Hebdo’s raison d’être, on the other hand, seems not to be to enlighten and to unify, but to offend and to provoke, especially Muslims, yet when the dog that it’s been stabbing with sharpened sticks for years now finally — and fairly fucking predictably — bites back in a big way, the rest of the world is supposed to feel sorry for Charlie Hebdo? Really?
I’m sorry that people were massacred over Charlie Hebdo’s low-brow, frat-boy content that, in my estimation, certainly wasn’t worth dying for. But it was preventable. The free speech that these people died for wasn’t very valuable speech, was it? A woman with a burqa stuffed up her ass? Mohammed thusly depicted:
I won’t say “Je sui Charlie” (French for “I am Charlie”) because if I owned a weekly publication, I wouldn’t print shit like this, shit that causes more harm than good.
As an atheist on the outside looking in, I can proclaim that in the West, Muslims get the shitty end of the stick almost every time. The same individuals who preach about how we should respect their precious religious beliefs have no problem disrespecting Islam, and the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that I’ve seen of the pope and of Jews aren’t, in my estimation, likely to be nearly as offensive to Catholics and Jews as are the publication’s cartoons depicting Mohammed or Muslims to Muslims. (And, from what I can tell, the publication’s cartoons lampooning Islam are more numerous than its cartoons lampooning Christianity or Judaism.)
Charlie Hebdo repeatedly has poked the critter of Islam with a sharpened stick. In 2011, the publication’s (yeah, I just have a hard time calling it a “newspaper”) headquarters were firebombed, for fuck’s sake (the day after it published an issue calling itself “Charia Hebdo” and portraying Mohammed as a clown with a red nose).
What happened in Paris yesterday was predictable and preventable. And what was it for? For “free speech,” so many people proclaim, but no, ultimately it was for the freedom to continue to shit and piss on Muslims, including the freedom to offend them deeply in ways that are universally known to deeply offend them.
That is not a freedom that I believe is worth dying for. Defending against the spread of theofascism, whether the theofascists be abroad (such as the wonderful folks of “ISIS” [or whatever we’re calling them this week]) or at home (such as those who bomb abortion clinics and those who violate the U.S. Constitution and human, civil and equal rights when they do their damnedest to stop same-sex marriage), is worth dying for, but making unprovoked attacks upon others for their religious beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they might be? That’s not a defensive posture, that’s an offensive posture.
And yes, intentionally offending Muslims in the West is worse than is intentionally offending Christians or Jews in the West, because — duh — in the West Christians and Jews have greater numbers and greater power than do Muslims. Picking on the majority is not — not — the same as picking on an already-highly-picked-upon minority group. It takes a special kind of asshole to kick someone who’s already down.
I am not Charlie Hebdo, no matter how fashionable being Charlie Hebdo might be in the West right now.