Tag Archives: Charlie Hebdo

The Oumma needs to listen to ABDENNOUR BIDAR, and to others like him.

They don’t seem to get it do they. In Egypt, “one of the country’s highest Islamic authorities, Dar al-Ifta, warned that the Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon, again depicting the Prophet Muhammad, would exacerbate tensions between the secular West and observant Muslims.”

And given their statement one asks, will it happen again? Will two ignorant and out-of-work Muslim brothers pick up on the call from the Islamic authorities and look for other targets for assassination? The Islamic authorities, whoever they are (and from where did they get that authority?) don’t seem to get the very simplest things, do they, “sticks and stones may break my bones” but names (or Charlie caricatures) will never hurt me.

And as in Egypt, although the response is more nuanced, so in France, where millions demonstrated over the weekend to show their support for Charlie and freedom of expression. These Islamic establishment figures are still not seeing the forest for the trees.

This  was made clear by the French Muslim organizations who issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing concern about the “numerous anti-Muslim acts observed these days,” and calling on the authorities to guarantee the security of mosques. [They also] commented on the new Charlie Hebdo cover, urging French Muslims to “remain calm and avoid emotive or incongruous reactions incompatible with dignity,” while “respecting freedom of opinion.”

Is that how they see the cold blooded murders of the Charlie Hebdo writers, editors, and cartoonists? That instead of remaining calm the Kouachi brothers, members of the Umma, or nation of Islam, had simply given in to emotive and incongruous reactions, incompatible with dignity.

They certainly did that. There’s no dignity about a Kalashnikov in the hands of a hooded terrorist. Furthermore the “joint statement” does imply that one can excuse the brothers for that, given the deliberately disrespectful provocations regularly turned out by the Parisian satirical journal.

Islam doesn’t get it, doesn’t get what a tiny minority of Islamic fanatics is doing to a world religion that might have been, and still could be a force for good in our world. At present it’s being torn apart by the crazies in their midst and the “authorities,” whoever they are, are not stepping up to the plate and taking strong and positive action to reel in the Al Qaeda, ISIS, Wahhabi and any number of other fanatical sects that are now setting the agenda for all of Islam.

But there is one Muslim, whom I’ve just earlier today encountered thanks to my daughter who sent me the link. This guy really gets it. His name is Abdennour Bidar, Abdennour meaning appropriately Serviteur de la Lumière.

In a previous Blog I posted his open letter to the Muslim Umma or world. Now in response to the Islamic authorities in Egypt and France and elsewhere I’d like to cite here below a few passages from his letter, with alongside my perhaps a bit free translation.

Would that Bidar’s words be seen and read by all those Muslim authorities who, while not terrorists themselves, are, by their failure to lead, encouraging the very worst, destructive, fringe elements of their own world.

Tu as choisi de considérer que Mohammed était prophète et roi. Tu as choisi de définir l’islam comme religion politique, sociale, morale, devant régner comme un tyran aussi bien sur l’Etat que sur la vie civile, aussi bien dans la rue et dans la maison qu’à l’intérieur même de chaque conscience. Tu as choisi de croire et d’imposer que l’islam veut dire soumission alors que le Coran lui-même proclame qu’« Il n’y a pas de contrainte en religion » (La ikraha fi Dîn). Tu as fait de son Appel à la liberté l’empire de la contrainte! Comment une civilisation peut-elle trahir à ce point son propre texte sacré?

…. Alors ne fais plus semblant de t’étonner, je t’en prie, que des démons tels que le soi-disant Etat islamique t’aient pris ton visage! Les monstres et les démons ne volent que les visages qui sont déjà déformés par trop de grimaces ! Et si tu veux savoir comment ne plus enfanter de tels monstres, je vais te le dire. C’est simple et très difficile à la fois. Il faut que tu commences par réformer toute l’éducation que tu donnes à tes enfants, dans chacune de tes écoles, chacun de tes lieux de savoir et de pouvoir. Que tu les réformes pour les diriger selon des principes universels (même si tu n’es pas le seul à les transgresser ou à persister dans leur ignorance) : la liberté de conscience, la démocratie, la tolérance et le droit de cité pour toute la diversité des visions du monde et des croyances, l’égalité des sexes et l’émancipation des femmes de toute tutelle masculine, la réflexion et la culture critique du religieux dans les universités, la littérature, les médias. Tu ne peux plus reculer, tu ne peux plus faire moins que tout cela ! C’est le seul moyen pour toi de ne plus enfanter de tels monstres, et si tu ne le fais pas tu seras bientôt dévasté par leur puissance de destruction.

You chose to believe that Mohammed was both prophet and king. You chose to define Islam as a political, social, and moral religion, that would reign as a tyrant, over the state as over the people, on the street, in their homes, and even within the consciousness of each one of them. You chose to believe it yourselves, as well as to impose your belief on everyone, that Islam meant submission. And you did this while the Coran clearly states “there is no compulsion in religion.” In fact, you have turned what was a call to freedom into a reign of coercion! How can your betrayal of a civilization’s own most sacred text be possible?

…. So please no longer pretend to be amazed that monsters and demons such as the so-called Islamic state have presumed to be you, have taken your face! Monsters and demons take on only the faces of those already deformed and distorted. If you want to know how to no longer give birth to such monsters I’ll tell you. It’s easy but hard at the same time. To start you have to completely reform the education you give your children, in each and every one of your schools, in each of your own places of knowledge and power. Your reforms should be directed and instituted in accordance with these universal principles… — freedom of conscience, democracy, tolerance, full civil rights and citizenship for the whole diversity of world views and beliefs, absolute equality of the sexes, meaning women rendered free of male guardianship, free reign of critical thinking and questioning within religions, universities and the media. From this you cannot go back, you cannot do less than this. It’s the only way not to go on giving birth to the monsters of hate that we have seen of late. If you don’t take these steps, and soon, you will be overwhelmed yourselves by the destructive power of your creations, now turned against you.


More on Charlie

What has been happening in Paris and in France during the past several days?

I use the past perfect tense because with the killing of the killers it is now over (although the police have yet to locate an accomplice of the killers, Hayat Boumeddiene).

What has happened, whatever it was, was, if nothing else, big news right from the beginning—journalists gunned down in their home offices in Paris. In my own case I was tuned in from the moment the news broke, this being about 7:30 Wednesday morning, and I knew right away that what had happened was more than the usual news bulletin of Muslim fanatics killing themselves along with scores of others, usually Muslims like themselves.

When I first heard the news it was, of course, about 1:30 in Paris and the assassins had fled the premises of Charlie Hebdo, Place de la République. This was all of exciting. These guys, two brothers as we learned later, were not the usual suicide bombers. And from then on during the next two days I followed the chase, a page turner is there ever was one, although in this case without any power of my own to turn the pages and find out what happened.

What happened came two days later, on Friday, when the police turned on the aggressors and killed them. Might make an exciting story, based on everything I’d heard so far, but the principals, those who knew best what happened and might have told their stories, the Charlie cartoonists and the Muslim Jihadists, were all dead.

Much like a war where there’s no one left, no survivors to tell the tale. And instead we’ll have to listen for some time to all those who weren’t there themselves but who will be telling us what happened.

And there will be legions of those, in particular all those who will draw the lessons, for France, Europe, immigration, Islam’s relations with the West, and even for America, all those who will turn what happened into a morality, or better political tale with a lesson.

Just today, Saturday, The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, declared in a speech in Évry, south of Paris, that France was at war with radical Islam after the harrowing sieges that had led to the deaths of three gunmen and four hostages the day before, and as the authorities mounted a frantic hunt for a suspected accomplice. “It is a war against terrorism,” he said, “against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.”

Wow! But in all these accounts there is no lack of extravagant statements. There’s Steven Erlanger, for example, a reasonable man and competent journalist if there ever was one, now the London bureau chief for the New York Times, but for a long time based in Paris, a city he knows well. His tale entitled, “Paris experienced days of sirens, fear and blood, and France was turned upside down,” was from today’s Times.

He writes  “Days of sirens, fear and blood, …”, I suppose, from the safe distance of London (although I grant him a great knowledge of Paris). Now, if you’ve ever lived in Paris sirens you must know well. You hear them all the time. But fear and blood?? Even on this “bloody” occasion how many people saw blood, experienced fear? The single policeman guarding the Charlie offices and the single hostage were probably afraid, but weren’t the neighbors more curious than anything else to know what happened? I know I would have been.

And furthermore, it will take more than two brothers in Jihadism (not even intending to blow themselves up) to turn France upside down. Now if ever we were to boycott French wine and cheese…

I’m not trying to minimize what happened in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but, and in spite of what “some may say,” this was not France’s 9/11. For all sorts of good reasons the Charlie offices are not the Twin Towers.

Sure Charlie Hebdo stood for complete freedom of expression, a major pillar of the French République, but Charlie was not alone in this. It was only one relatively small publication in a whole country that shared the same Républican beliefs and these beliefs are not seriously menaced by a few Jihadists, even those who, as Erlanger points out, are also French citizens fluent in the language of Voltaire and Pascal.

Now this last observation is over the top. Whatever language the Jihadists spoke it was not the language of Voltaire and Pascal. What Erlanger had a perfect right to say was that the Kouachi brothers were fluent in French. But not to qualify their French as the language of Voltaire and Pascal.

For the real language of Voltaire and Pascal is not so much French (in fact when I read either the one or the other author I often forget the language I’m reading them in) —as a universal language, that of the humanists among us.

If the Kouachi brothers had been fluent in this language, that which is in fact the language of Voltaire and Pascal, they couldn’t possibly have done what they did. Erlanger is confusing fluent in a language as being, what?…, knowledgeable, understanding of what is  being said in the language? Big mistake. And probably one that many people make.

Is there a lesson to draw from all this? No, I don’t think so. Although what Erlanger does say in the same article about the social and living conditions of the immigrant populations in France today comes close.

For example, as Erlanger reminds us, the Fifth Republic was fashioned for a strong president, actually for Charles DeGaulle, and today the president, François Hollande is not up to the task.

And yes, again as Erlanger says, France is faced with questions about its future.  In particular, how large can the radicalized part of the country’s Muslim population, already the largest in Europe, be, without further Charlie Hebdo like happenings?

And much the same question, as Erlanger again asks, how deep is the rift between France’s values of secularism, of individual, sexual and religious freedom, of freedom of the press and the freedom to shock, and that growing radicalized part of the Muslim population that rejects many of these values in the name of religion?

It is probably accurate to say, as does Erlanger, that France has been without strong presidential leadership, probably since Charles De Gaulle and the early years of the 5th République, with the result that there are now living in France some 3 to 4 million Muslims, all with French citizenship, but too many of whom continue to feel left out and left behind, too many of whom are still not accepted as being “French.”

What happened this week may very well happen again, and may be more apt to happen again if the living and working conditions of the Muslim population in France do not improve, although Islamic fanaticism of the Al Qaeda kind, probably not these conditions, were the direct cause of what happened in the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Still what France should be most afraid of is not Al Qaeda, or ISIS, but a weak central government not doing enough to make the Muslim population an integral part of France, meaning in particular doing little or nothing to improve living conditions in the banlieues, those mostly poor immigrant suburbs surrounding many of France’s mostly white and privileged populations living and working in the affluent central city districts.