Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 10, 2015

Representing Mohammad

Filed under: Islamophobia — louisproyect @ 5:31 pm

Mohammad in a painting from the Topkapi museum in Istanbul

Among the many articles on Charlie Hebdo defending Western Civilization and the Enlightenment, especially the Voltairean precept (that he never actually stated) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, it was inevitable to find some that debunked the notion that Islam banned pictorial representation of Mohammad.

For example Newsweek published an article titled “The Koran Does Not Forbid Images of the Prophet” that states:

Over the past seven centuries, a variety of historical and poetic texts largely produced in Turkish and Persian spheres—both Sunni and Shiite—include beautiful depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. These many images were not only meant to praise and commemorate the Prophet; they also served as occasions and centerpieces for Muslim devotional practice, much like celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid) and visitations to his tomb in Medina.

Author Christiane Gruber has the credentials to back up her claims, as the accompanying note indicates. She is “associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan. Her primary field of research is Islamic book arts, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic ascension texts and images, about which she has written two books and edited a volume of articles.”

Now there are those with more of an axe to grind who invoke the same arguments. Nick Gillespie, the execrable editor of the Koch brothers funded Reason magazine, alludes to the same history but makes sure to line up on the right side of the clash of civilizations question while he is at it:

Especially as the radical elements of Islam become violent and desperate in their attempts to engender Ummah, it’s important to stress that their interpretations are one among many and anything but universal. At least since the 9/11 attacks, an ongoing query in America and the West more broadly has been, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” They’re out there, for sure, and we’d all be better off creating a dialogue in which the anti-modernity Islamists are recognized as a common enemy.

Actually, for many of us the real question post-9/11 has been “Where are the moderate Westerners?” As is so often the case when individual terrorism is put under a magnifying glass, state terrorism goes by the wayside. By definition, state terrorism is pardoned since it is seen as a purely defensive measure. Without our Cruise missiles or drones, the jihadists would be an even greater danger. Like LBJ telling the American people in 1967 that we invaded Vietnam to stop the spread of Communism, we were “forced” to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq to protect the homeland. This was exactly the scenario that Orwell described in “1984”, making war to preserve the peace.

It was exactly in such a charged geopolitical environment that the question of representing Mohammad became one of war and peace, and life and death. The real struggle was not over artistic freedom but how to protect the right of artists to serve as ideological combatants in the “war on terror”.

On September 30, 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (The Jutland Post, the country’s largest circulation newspaper) published cartoons of Mohammad that were really at the root of the Charlie Hebdo killings. Unlike the respectful images alluded to in Gruber’s article, these were designed to draw blood. The most infamous of them depicted Mohammad with a bomb in his turban:

Protests across the Muslim world led to 200 deaths. For much of the Islamophobic right and their liberal allies such as Bill Maher, the cartoons were seen as courageous truth-telling exercises akin to Honoré Daumier or Thomas Nast. But for most Muslims, it would be hard to distinguish them from the overall propaganda machine operating on behalf of George W. Bush’s new crusade, especially if you looked hard at the Danish role in making it possible.

At the time Anders Fogh Rasmussen was Denmark’s Prime Minister. Rasmussen was one of the first European heads of state to go nativist, well in advance of Le Pen, Farage et al. To enact tough anti-immigration laws that were hostile to asylum seekers, he relied on the support of the Danish People’s Party, a white nationalist outfit with affinities to the French National Front, Golden Dawn and the rest of the neofascist parties that are determined to cleanse Europe of its darker-skinned Muslim immigrants, legal or illegal.

Rasmussen was also a strong supporter of Bush’s war in Iraq. In defending his decision to send Danish troops to Iraq, he stated: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we think. We know it.”

It was against a backdrop of nativist opposition to mostly Muslim peoples at home and imperialist aggression against their brothers and sisters abroad that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons must be seen.

Editor Flemming Rose was the mastermind of this project. He felt that self-censorship existed in Denmark and wanted to challenge it by publishing “daring” cartoons. On February 19, 2006 he wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post titled “Why I Published Those Cartoons” that makes him sound virtually Islamophilic:

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

How nice. Making Muslims feel part of his society. Under Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the number of immigrants being accepted for political asylum declined by 84 percent. That sounds pretty exclusionary to me.

Eventually Rose toured the USA in order to interview people on his wavelength, including Francis Fukuyama, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, and Bernard Lewis. Birds of a feather, I guess. He also found time to sit down with Nick Gillespie’s Reason Magazine in 2007. Interviewed by Michael Moynihan, a creature as oleaginous as Gillespie, Rose charged the left with being soft on Islam, a charge being raised once again in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings:

Moynihan: Were you surprised by the reaction of those who argued not for unfettered free speech, but “responsible speech?”

Rose: Well, no. I think many people betrayed their own ideals. The history of the left, for instance, is a history of confronting authority—be it religious or political authority—and always challenging religious symbols and figures. In this case, they failed miserably. I think the left is in a deep crisis in Europe because of their lack of willingness to confront the racist ideology of Islamism. They somehow view the Koran as a new version of Das Kapital and are willing to ignore everything else, as long of they continue to see the Muslims of Europe as a new proletariat.

If you were paying close attention to the charges being leveled against the antiwar movement in 2007, this will ring a bell. Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, David Aaronovitch, and Johann Hari were all accusing the British SWP, which at the time was spearheading the Stop the War Coalition, of trying to fuse with radical Islamists.

In fact the entire world was polarized around the “clash of civilizations” in this period, so much so that nearly every jihadist would have been reacting to it even if frequently being unable to articulate it.

In 2005, the year prior to the Danish cartoons being published, the French police arrested Chérif Kouachi for trying to join the guerrillas fighting American occupation alongside his comrade Thamer Bouchnak, a Tunisian-Frenchman. The two were reportedly united by their hatred for the war in Iraq. The photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison angered them particularly.

I would say it was those photos that are the real images that led to the Charlie Hebdo killings. If American imperialism had not decided to invade a nation, divide it along sectarian lines, kill hundreds of thousands of its citizens, torture its captives, mock its religious figures, and then once the war ended continued to make war against Sunni tribesmen all around the world through drones, maybe things wouldn’t have reached the state they did.

In any case, the only true path to peace is one in which Arabs and Muslim peoples are not dominated and exploited by imperialism and their own elites. Yes, I know. That is a Quixotic prospect but anything that falls short of that goal will only cost more innocent lives, even those as wretched as the smug, puerile and racially insensitive cartoonists who think that lampooning Mohammad has anything in common with Daumier or Jonathan Swift.




  1. Good point sometimes lost in the to and fro over individual Islamist terrorist acts: the underlying evil cause is U.S. imperialism’s invasions and meddling in mostly Muslim countries. That said, it is an apparent contradiction to find some leftists welcoming, even urging, U.S. imperialism to do more to support Islamic rebels in Syria (or Libya, or wherever).
    I don’t agree, though, that the Danish cartoons were designed “to draw blood.” Some of the cartoons were actually progressive, others merely amusing. And Muhammad with a bomb for a turban is pretty tame satire. I haven’t seen any leftists make the obvious point that blasphemy is not only protected speech in countries that went through an Enlightenment, but without a right to blasphemy, free speech itself would be meaningless. Thankfully, the Roman church can no longer burn blasphemers at the stake, however tasteless their comments, or cartoons, may be.
    Here’s a pertinent exchange between me and the Spartacist League in 2006 over the Danish cartoons:


    Comment by David Thorstad — January 10, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

  2. And Muhammad with a bomb for a turban is pretty tame satire.

    I guess this sort of thing made them lose their sense of humor:

    NY Times, July 1, 2006
    G.I.’s Investigated in Slayings of 4 and Rape in Iraq


    BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 30 — The American military is investigating accusations that soldiers raped an Iraqi woman in her home and killed her and three family members, including a child, American officials said Friday.

    The investigation is the fourth into suspected killings of unarmed Iraqis by American soldiers announced by the military in June. In May, it was disclosed that the military was conducting an inquiry into the deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha last November.

    The alleged rape and killings took place March 12 in the vicinity of the volatile market town of Mahmudiya, an insurgent stronghold about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The killing of the family was originally reported by the military as due to “insurgent activity,” American officials said.

    A senior police official in Mahmudiya said in a telephone interview that he received a report of the killings in March. The victims were a woman, her child, her husband and the husband’s brother, he said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said a sheik from the family’s tribe immediately reported the episode to the police.

    The American investigation began June 24, one day after two soldiers “reported alleged coalition force involvement” in the deaths of the Iraqi civilians, the military said in a written statement. A preliminary inquiry conducted after that report determined that there was sufficient evidence to merit a criminal investigation, the military said.

    “This is going to be a by-the-numbers, by-the-book investigation,” Maj. Todd Breasseale, a military spokesman, said in a telephone interview. He said Maj. Gen. J. D. Thurman, commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, which oversees the capital and areas immediately to the south, ordered an inquiry “the minute he got the news.”


    Comment by louisproyect — January 10, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

  3. Abu Ghraib and drones wiping out wedding parties.. I can see enraging Muslims and committing acts of violence. But would a cartoon of the Pope with a bomb cause Catholics to slaughter an entire office of cartoonists? I think not. insensitive satirists might deserve a kick in the ass but not slaughter. Finally, . Why are most of the victims innocent civilians, like the Yazidis, school full of girls, etc. Or my Shiite inlaws killed by their Sunni neighbors?

    Comment by Peter Myers — January 10, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

  4. But would a cartoon of the Pope with a bomb cause Catholics to slaughter an entire office of cartoonists?

    Well, there was plenty of terrorism in Northern Ireland for decades. it was not about theology–it was about exploitation and discrimination. The Sepoy Rebellion in India cost 10,000 lives, mostly Indian. What was the cause? Supposedly using grease in the guns that was either derived from beef or from pork. The first offended Hindus, the second Muslims. But the real offense was colonialism.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 10, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

  5. Why ask why? Why were the vast majority of people killed in both Gulf Wars innocent civilians? Why were the vast majority of people killed during the Vietnam War innocent civilians? Why not compare the number of civilians versus soldiers killed in all of WWII?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 10, 2015 @ 8:30 pm

  6. true, Karl. The history of past society is the history of slaughtering of innocent civilians. Doesn’t mean I have to like the lastest example.

    Comment by Peter Myers — January 10, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

  7. Sorry Louis, but I am disgusted by these arguments from the Left, who should know better, that are variants of “We condemn the horrible murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists … but you know they kinda brought it on themselves.” These murderers didn’t storm the U.S. Congress, the British or French parliaments, Guantanamo Bay, or any military bases and attack the people who are killing Muslims and bombing the Middle East. They murdered cartoonists. Show me the most offensive political cartoon or satirical article you can find, and I might be offended, but I won’t kill the people responsible no matter how smug, puerile and racially insensitive I think they may be. Do you think Arabic newspapers have a clean slate on this?

    Outside of France, how many people read Charlie Hebdo — a left-wing magazine that ridiculed racism — and were even aware of its content? The Muhammad cartoons riots didn’t happen until months after they were published. Now watch as the National Front and other anti-immigrant right-wing parties sweep the elections thanks to this, so mission accomplished extremists!

    This is coming from someone who hates our foreign policy in the Mid-East and thinks Maher’s previous comments were misguided, but compared to others on the Left he sounds very reasonable and principled, especially when he talks about double standards.

    Comment by Cal — January 10, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

  8. re: “But would a cartoon of the Pope with a bomb cause Catholics to slaughter an entire office of cartoonists?”

    A film by Martin Scorsese did motivate a National Front supporter in Paris to firebomb a movie theater.

    (And note: The Last Temptation of Christ is a great work of art, not racist provocation.)

    “On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel theater while it was showing the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned.”


    Comment by srogouski — January 10, 2015 @ 10:42 pm

  9. Actually, Cal, my article was mostly about the Danish cartoons. I am opposed to murder across the board but don’t find anything particularly bold or radical about Charlie Hebdo. If we hadn’t had 25 years of brutal warfare against Muslim peoples, I doubt that the killings would have happened. In fact, this quarter-century largely explains the rise of political Islam.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 10, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

  10. Apologies if I’m misreading you (especially your last two paragraphs that seem to conflate them), but I don’t see the difference. Jyllands-Posten riots happened months afterward. Maybe Jyllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo undermined whatever point they were trying to make with what they published, but again the Islamists pushed people to violence over some cartoons that would have been ignored outside their respective circulations. They have set people like us back by dozens of steps and ensured many more decades of continuing discrimination and distrust of the Muslim faith.

    Comment by Cal — January 11, 2015 @ 5:12 am

  11. At least some Arabic newspapers agree with me: http://mic.com/articles/108076/here-s-how-arab-papers-reacted-to-the-charlie-hebdo-massacre

    Comment by Cal — January 11, 2015 @ 5:18 am

  12. Somebody I read elsewhere about the Hebdo attack pointed out, quite rightly, the difference between “punching up” eg against an authority that demands to be critiqued and “punching down” eg against people who are already being attacked. They’re terms I’m definitely adding to my vocabulary wrt the propaganda I’ve been seeing.

    Cal wrote:

    “Show me the most offensive political cartoon or satirical article you can find, and I might be offended, but I won’t kill the people responsible”

    That’s nice. I take it you’re not a member of an already despised outlier group, right? So, obviously, anything done by anyone who’s not part of your little group is totally beyond the pale, not understandable, and SIMPLY EVIL, right.

    Sonny, I think you’ll find the vast majority of people on the planet, never mind whatever you want to imagine as “the Left”, don’t think it acceptable to kill someone who drew a racist cartoon; don’t try concern trolling me. I heard your kind of liberalism after 9/11 all too often, and I still find myself sickened by your loudly proclaimed, petty bourgeois (faux) radicalism.

    Comment by Todd — January 11, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

  13. “These murderers didn’t storm the U.S. Congress, the British or French parliaments, Guantanamo Bay, or any military bases and attack the people who are killing Muslims and bombing the Middle East. They murdered cartoonists.”

    This is because the nature of the conflict isn’t like the Battle of Waterloo, where the military outcome was in the balance, this is in the context of the empire crushing people under foot. The Cartoonists were the only targets they could hit, given their resources and the resources of their enemies. Doesn’t mean they should have done it. And cartoonists are not a blunt instrument, they played a significant part in shaping attitudes and prejudices that led directly to the holocaust for example.

    Anyone who thinks this is simply about cartoonists though must be an idiot, it goes way way deeper than that. i reject the idea that Charlie were satirizing racism, they were often outright racist. They were not left wing but liberal, the sort of liberal mentality that has been cheer leading the mass murder of Muslims from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria.

    The rise of the far right in Europe is a direct consequence of the imperialist foreign policy of recent years, we in Europe predicted the following before the invasion of Iraq:

    The invasion will break up the country

    The invasion will turn Iraq into a sectarian hell hole.

    The invasion will drive more people to extremism, as empirically it has been shown that extremists have either personally been injured by imperialist troops or have had relatives killed or injured. When your family have had their brains blown out you tend to look at cartoons differently to those that haven’t.

    The invasion will provoke a rise in anti Muslim feeling at the imperialist core.

    We were correct about everything, the liberal cheer leaders were wrong about everything.

    People like Cal should be applauding our foresight, hanging on our every word, in awe of our wisdom and disdainful and lacking trust in liberal apologists , the fact that he thinks we are the ones who are unreasonable tells me he is nothing but a charlatan.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 11, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

  14. Todd: You clearly know nothing about me and are 0 for 5 in your generalizations so your satire needs work, but “loudly proclaimed, petty bourgeois (faux) radicalism” is hilarious.

    “obviously, anything done by anyone who’s not part of your little group is totally beyond the pale, not understandable, and SIMPLY EVIL, right.” I don’t like to use Biblical terms but murder is wrong if that’s what you’re asking. You wrote that you agreed with me.

    Simon: Foresight about what exactly? Opposing the same wars and policies I did? That people rally around extremists in bad times? Being appalled that the far-right may benefit? Interesting you call me a charlatan when we don’t seem to disagree on the major points. And it kind of was about the cartoonists because they’re dead and “were the only targets they could hit”, in your part of the world an ocean away from the USA. Now a small-circulation financially struggling French magazine has a sudden worldwide notoriety.

    Comment by Cal — January 12, 2015 @ 1:45 am

  15. One need only look at the Paris march today to understand the political exploitation of the killings at Charlie Hendo. Political leaders of all stripes, many from states known for their use of state violence against people, including journalists, were at the front of the march. The message of the march was straightforward: violence against the US, Europe and Israel is bad, violence directed toward Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs is acceptable. One need only look back to the summer where the French government banned protests against the Israel slaughter in Gaza to recognize that the purported need for the defense of free speech is a merely a ruse. The rights of speech and protest are easily abridged when the people involved challenge imperial policies.

    One can condemn the violence directed against Charlie Hendo without embracing its content, content centered around dog whistling to the French populace by publishing racist images of Arabs and Africans. The perpetrators were criminals of the worst kind, but that does not mean that we have to identify with the content of Charlie Hendo, unless, of course, we have an objective of exploiting the tragedy for the purpose of the defense of Zionism and the US “war on terror”. It is frightening to see the extent to Zionism and the war on terror are deeply ingrained within US and European society as demonstrated by the protests. But trying to deal with this political challenge by identifying with Charlie Hendo is not going enable the left to make any progress in overcoming it. Quite the opposite.

    Comment by Richard Estes — January 12, 2015 @ 3:35 am

  16. The New Yorker last week ran a piece by George Packer that is livid with hysteria about the “Islamism” of the Charlie Hebdo murders:

    “They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades…. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique.”</blockquote)

    Bloomberg–naturally–uses the Charlie murders to hypothesizes a new and terrifyingly powerful form of "terrorism," "wolf-pack" terrorism:


    We are meant to believe that this is all the more Islamic and all the more terroristic precisely because the connection is so hard to make. No sheikh beneath a goathair tent in Afghanistan prayed over the Charlie killings, authorized them, or organized them. The alleged "guru" (in Yahoo's terms–and the confusion of religions here is telling) who "radicalized" the killers has had nothing to do with any form of "Islamic radicalism" since 2008 and there is no evidence whatever pointing to his actual involvement in the events. (http://news.yahoo.com/ex-guru-charlie-hebdo-killers-nurse-victims-hospital-164713320.html)

    More truthfully, an NBC piece on the Kouachi brothers represents them as ordinary lumpen-proletarian youths without any especially distinguishing qualities, though in characteristically French fashion the authorities went out of their way to characterize the brothers as "stupid":


    I suspect that in reality this event is objectively French in the same way and to the same extent that the Boston Marathon killings were American. It is French first and "Islamist/terorist" only very tenuously. It has everything to do with French history and with the current position of Islamic workers in France, as well as the oligarchism of the so-called "European community" and the cover-up neo-liberalism that they seek to spread everywhere, in collaboration with the ruling elites of the world.

    Like the Boston Marathon bombings, these murders seem to have been the work of partly, but incompletely, assimilated elements in an advanced capitalist country that insists on seeing them as irreducibly alien. To be sure the Kouachi brothers were a good deal lower on the French social scale than the petty-bourgeois Tsarnaev brothers were in America. But in both cases, the killers were reaching out to an ummah that has eluded them because as they saw it (and I am not defending their acts) all else has failed them. The murders were the desperate act of individuals isolated by the social structures of advanced capitalism and seeking to realize a community of faith (or ideology), not the act of people deeply imbued with a pre-existing faith or ideology.

    We do not have to see these murderers as “the people’s glorious heroes” to take this point of view; nor do we have to exempt Islam from the merciless critique we are free to direct at, e.g., that cruel font of evil, Reformed Protestantism, or–indeed–the Catholic Church, which probably has more blood on its unbelievably hypocritical hands than any other currently functioning institution. Nor is it wrong to say, now that these killings have happened, that ISIL will try to profit from them.

    We simply have to understand that the “terrorist” chimera as weaponized by Bloomberg et al is itself a far more dangerous construct than anything the Kouachis themselves could conjure up, with or without the help of ISIL. It’s a carte blanche,/em> for state terrorism. The world is in far greater danger from this hallucination and all that goes with it than it is from Islamism.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — January 12, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

  17. “Foresight about what exactly? Opposing the same wars and policies I did?”

    We didn’t simply oppose it we spelled out exactly what would happen and in almost every detail we have been proved correct.

    “That people rally around extremists in bad times?”

    There is far more to it than this superficial dross, and even the statement is wrong. The use of the term ‘extremist’ is also subjective. We are not on the same page at all, don’t ever think we are!

    It is also wrong to assume that the attackers were trying to shape public opinion in any way, it isn’t about that. They know where the public sentiment is located. This is not a battle of hearts and minds. It is a response to the empire crushing people under foot on it relentless march for global supremacy, or more accurately to protect it’s position as the global superpower.

    If you think you can go round the world invading nations, sending troops to occupy lands, providing assistance to global corporations to land grab, to steal the resources of communities, to do this by dividing people along sectarian lines and not expect any reaction then I would love to know what planet you are living on and what history you have been studying.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 12, 2015 @ 5:40 pm

  18. Pete Glosser – Yes I tend to subscribe to that narrative, i actually should have factored that into my points, which was remiss of me. But you can’t ignore the conflicts in the Middle East in shaping peoples attitudes, it is an important factor.

    I am also wary of putting people in the psychiatrists chair, as it is invariably selective and an attempt to portray the enemy as inhuman, in need of treatment while you are the model of sanity! I think every needs putting in the psychiatrists chair!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 12, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  19. You’re right, Simon, we are on complete opposite sides of the fence when it comes to identifying “extremists.” I say guys with guns who shoot unarmed cartoonists, you say something weird.

    As to what planet I live on, I’m proud to say it’s the same as Arab cartoonist Karl Sharro: “On the right, some claim that Muslims’ beliefs are incompatible with modernity and Western values. On the left, some construe the attack as a retaliation for severe offenses, essentially suggesting that Muslims are incapable of responding rationally to such offenses and that it is therefore best not to provoke them. The latter explanation is dressed up in the language of social justice and marginalization, but is, at its core, a patronizing view of ordinary Muslims and their capacity to advocate for their rights without resorting to nihilistic violence.”

    Comment by Cal — January 12, 2015 @ 11:09 pm

  20. Cal, I am more than tired now of fake-leftists parroting and channeling the same appallingly hypocritical liberal BS lines over and over and over again, all the while attacking those who seek to cut through the BS to get at the real politics that underlie this incident. All to massage oneself with feel-good liberal homilies. Guess someone doesn’t want to open up fissures with close liberal friends, no?

    You could start by addressing US/Nato imperialism in the ME/South Asia, the Euro Far Right (including here Putin’s Russia, probably the most Islamophobic regime on Earth right now), for whom this is a big political opening.

    Warum Ich bin nicht “Charlie”: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30777841

    What is Pegida?

    Founded in Dresden by activist Lutz Bachmann in October 2014
    Acronym for Patriotische Europaer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)
    Umbrella group for German right wing, attracting support from mainstream conservatives to neo-Nazi factions and football hooligans
    Holds street protests against what it sees as a dangerous rise in the influence of Islam over European countries
    Claims not to be racist or xenophobic
    19-point manifesto says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany’s Judeo-Christian culture

    The large counter-Pegida demos are an heartening sign that in Germany, at least, that parts of the left are not falling for liberal chauvinism.

    Liberals really deserve a good smackdowm from the left over this affair. Eff’em.

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — January 12, 2015 @ 11:41 pm

  21. “You’re right, Simon, we are on complete opposite sides of the fence when it comes to identifying “extremists.” I say guys with guns who shoot unarmed cartoonists, you say something weird.”

    While I agree that people who shoot cartoonists are reprehensible, it is important to note that this is much bigger than that. If it were just about an attack upon cartoonists and writers, we wouldn’t have experienced the global political mobilization of the last few days. As implied by Louis in this piece, there are publishers who are deliberately seeking to instigate conflict between the US, Europe and Islamic peoples by publishing these cartoons, Of course, that doesn’t make their deaths any less horrible, and it doesn’t justify the response to the publication of them (although it does seem that the cartoons are being drawn and disseminated for the purpose of angering people), but it does point towards the need to understand these actions as part of a dangerous, combustible political struggle beyond the abstract defense of freedom of expression.

    So, it is entirely appropriate to condemn the people who draw and publish these cartoons, otherwise freedom of expression becomes a means by which reactionary forces are absolved of any accountability for their actions as the left prioritizes the freedom of expression of publications like Charlie Hebdo over its own. Along these lines, it is interesting that Dean Baquet of the NYT got into a Twitter slagging match with Marc Cooper over the refusal of the NYT to republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Cooper accused the NYT of cowardice in a typical attention grabbing stunt, but a more plausible alternative is that many Americans wouldn’t see Charlie Hebdo as nearly as sympathetically as they do if they actually saw the cartoons, and that Baquet and others and the NYT are well aware of this. Consider, for example, the cartoon were a French African female minister is portrayed as a large comical monkey. Just imagine the reaction if a US publication presented Michele Obama in this way. If broadly disseminated in the US, a lot of Americans would make this connection.

    Of course, we know the imperial reaction: but it is always offensive speech that must be protected! Leaving aside the obvious fact that the protection of such speech in the US and Europe is always a challenge, frequently requiring public intervention, there is also a distinction between protection and acceptance. People involved in the publication of Charlie Hebdo are entitled to protection from violence, but not from public responses to what they do and the consequences of it.

    Comment by Richard Estes — January 12, 2015 @ 11:43 pm

  22. The Charlie incident is but a Red Herring in the broader narrative of 3 decades of imperialist turpitude.

    Historically red herrings were a culinary concoction that had an extra pungent scent that was used at certain times to throw Hounds off the scent of a Fox.

    Western imperialism works overtime to to scrub away its putrefaction but as combat veterans often attest the smell of charred human flesh never quite leaves the nostrils.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 13, 2015 @ 12:21 am

  23. “On the left, some construe the attack as a retaliation for severe offenses, essentially suggesting that Muslims are incapable of responding rationally to such offenses and that it is therefore best not to provoke them.”

    You know what is wrong with this is that it assumes the people who carried out these attacks were every Muslim, when in fact it wasn’t. So if we can agree that this attack was the work of a few individuals then we can start narrowing down from the Muslim mass.

    Now to explain this, let us abstract from Muslims.

    Imagine in a particular society there is a group discriminated against, not just by the far right but by society in general.
    Imagine that this discrimination is so deep seated in the public consciousness, so widespread that it takes on an institutional form.
    From this flows bigotry, hatred, a sense of alienation etc etc.
    Imagine also that on top of this there is a global conflict that taken on a superficial (and not so superficial) level appears as a clash between the majority and the discriminated group but on a world level.

    Will this set of circumstances result in all the discriminated people becoming violent and loathing the society they belong to? of course not!

    A number will actually be grateful for the opportunities afforded despite the discrimination
    Some will have managed to live a middle class existence and wonder what all the fuss is about.
    Some will have been seriously harmed by the experience, abusive fathers, lumpen existence, born into crime.

    So we jhave to look at this from a statistical point of view.

    And when you view it like this it soon becomes apparent that the quote from Karl Sharro is so wrongheaded as to be untrue.

    So here is the news: You can explain this in the context of outside events leading to this massacre and still avoid labeling all Muslims as being unable to think rationally. Incidentally the term rational is very problematic. Is accepting your discrimination gracefully rational or is exploding against? Again terms like this are used casually without really thinking about them.

    So I am glad we now have clear distance between us. Long may that remain the case.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 13, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

  24. It should be very well noted that the discrimination against Muslims in France long preceded 9/11!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 13, 2015 @ 5:23 pm

  25. Cal wrote:

    “You clearly know nothing about me ”

    Oh, I know all I need to know about you, vermin.

    Unfortunately, the more you post, the more it’s always the same thing I learn . . . .

    Comment by Todd — January 13, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

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