Je ne suis pas Charlie: No solidarity with racists and Islamophobes

I’m a journalist but I don’t believe in absolute freedom of speech, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.   

The Paris killings yesterday were clearly wrong and un-Islamic. There’s simply no sanction among the scholars for freelance jihadism no matter what the targets have done.

Our tradition has always been one where righteous leaders with Islamic knowledge as well as secular wisdom show the way while their followers obey.

So it’s completely unsurprising that every reputed Muslim scholar in the world condemned yesterday’s killings as haraam.

And that’s why I sympathise with the families of the murdered and hope that the killers are caught and punished.

More generally, the Ummah has a lot of work to do routing out the takfeeri fanatics who are ripping our communities apart, demonising Islam in the eyes of the world, and playing directly into the hands of Western imperialism.

BUT… I will never show any solidarity whatsoever with journalists who peddle racism and Islamophobia just because they belong to the same profession as me.

Let’s face it, “journalistic solidarity” doesn’t exist anyway. For example, I didn’t see much journalistic solidarity when Press TV’s Serena Shim was killed in Turkey last year.

No, the only solidarity that exists is between like-minded people and I share nothing in common with the Islamophobes and racists that run Charlie Hebdo.

Freedom of speech

There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech.

We don’t yell “fire” in a crowded space and watch as people get trampled to death. We don’t publish cartoons of Jews with big noses or black people with huge lips because we recognise that this would be anti-semitic and racist.

So why do our “western values” deem it acceptable to publish caricatures of the Prophet (pbuh) in pornographic poses? Or to generally portray brown-skinned Muslims as mad terrorists?

The freedom to spread racist propaganda violates the freedom to live without racist propaganda.

Charlie Hebdo is an Islamophobic publication
Charlie Hebdo is an Islamophobic publication

Minority communities in the West are often well-protected. There is a zero tolerance attitude to verbal attacks on Jews and homosexuals, for example. These two communities also enjoy healthy backing and representation in all aspects of British life.

But it seems that Muslims are still fair game and Charlie Hebdo is simply an extreme manifestation of the Islamophobia which exists in much of the mainstream media.

The truth is that journalists self-censor all the time and so they should when it comes to promoting hatred against weak minorities. That’s called “being socially responsible.”

And despite the ridiculous rhetoric emanating from the right-wing (and increasingly the left-wing) media, we should remember that Muslims are still a weak, disenfranchised and powerless minority community in countries like France and the UK.

They are NOT taking over but they ARE subject to the racism and Islamophobia of the rich and powerful.

Satire

I should add that lampooning Islam and Muslims is not like lampooning the Queen or David Cameron.

Cameron and the Queen are national and political figures but do not hold a place in the hearts of vast swathes of people like religious figures do.

They are also rich and powerful so attacks on them have no real consequences whatsoever.

Gunmen (foreground) facing police in Paris during the attack
Gunmen (foreground) facing police in Paris during the attack

On the other hand, attacks on weak and powerless Muslims have real consequences in everyday life, often violent ones.

Also, we shouldn’t forget that the West has been involved in a series of devastating wars against Muslim nations over the last decade or more. So Western rhetoric is actually backed by serious Western organised violence.

Do you think that War on Terror would have been possible had ordinary people in the West not been subjected to the media’s subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle demonisation of Muslims?

France, in particular, is a fanatically secular fundamentalist state which openly discriminates against its Muslim citizens. Paris is also a major killer of Muslims the world over and seems to specialise in exporting the kind of terrorism abroad (in Libya and Syria especially) that it decries at home.

Backlash

Unfortunately, the real winners from yesterday’s attack will be the racist and Islamophobic values that Charlie Hebdo espouses.

And that racism and Islamophobia will  only lead to a backlash against Muslims across the continent.

France is a country with a record of brutal colonialism in several Muslim countries, and it’s also a country with deeply entrenched Islamophobia. Charlie Hedbo has fed into this racist culture.

Yesterday’s shootings would have been avoided if France had a zero-tolerance policy against racism and Islamophobia, in which case Charlie Hedbo would have been shut down long ago due to its offensive content.

So we shouldn’t feed that racism by expressing solidarity with its perpetrators.

@RMSalih

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