January 14, 2015 – 1:24 pm

Wear a veil, get kicked out of a French opera hall. Slaughter animals the halal way, get condemned by animal rights activists for cruelty. Say the fajr (morning prayer), get ready to be accused of noise pollution. If you’re a Muslim, you’d think the rest of the world had something against you. No? But poke fun at the Jews and you’re an anti-semite. By Tariq Ali.

It was a horrific event. It was condemned in most parts of the world and most poignantly by many cartoonists. Those who planned the atrocity chose their target carefully. They knew that such an act would create the maximum horror. It was quality, not quantity they were after. The response will not have surprised or displeased them. They don’t care a damn for the world of unbelievers. Unlike the medieval inquisitors of the Sorbonne they do not have the legal and theological authority to harass booksellers or printers, ban books and torture authors, so they go one step further and order executions.

What of the foot-soldiers? The circumstances that attract young men and women to these groups are creations of the Western world that they inhabit - which is itself a result of long years of colonial rule in the countries of their forebears. We know that the Parisian brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi were long-haired inhalers of marijuana and other substances until (like the July 7 bombers in this country [UK]) they saw footage of the Iraq war and, in particular, of the torture taking place in Abu Ghraib and the cold-blooded killings of Iraqi citizens in Fallujah.

They sought comfort in the mosque. Here they were radicalised by waiting hardliners for whom the West’s war on terror had become a golden opportunity to recruit and hegemonise the young, both in the Muslim world and in the ghettoes of Europe and North America.

Sent first to Iraq to kill Americans and more recently to Syria (with the connivance of the French state?) to topple Assad, such young men were taught how to use weapons effectively. Back home they got ready to deploy this knowledge against those who they believed were tormenting them in difficult times. They were the persecuted. Charlie Hebdo represented their persecutors. The horror should not blind us to this reality.

Charlie Hebdo sees itself as having a mission to defend republican secular values against all religions. It has occasionally attacked Catholicism, but it’s hardly ever taken on Judaism (though Israel’s numerous assaults on Palestinians have offered many opportunities) and has concentrated its mockery on Islam.

Charlie Hebdo had made no secret of the fact that it intended to carry on provoking believing Muslims by targeting the Prophet. Most Muslims were angry about this, but ignored the insult. The paper had reprinted the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons of Muhammad in 2005 - the ones that depicted him as a Pakistani immigrant.

The Danish newspaper admitted that it would never publish anything similar depicting Moses or the Jews (perhaps it had already done so: it certainly published articles supporting the Third Reich), but Charlie Hebdo sees itself as having a mission to defend republican secular values against all religions. It has occasionally attacked Catholicism, but it’s hardly ever taken on Judaism (though Israel’s numerous assaults on Palestinians have offered many opportunities) and has concentrated its mockery on Islam.

French secularism today seems to encompass anything as long as it’s not Islamic. Denunciations of Islam have been relentless in France, with Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Soumission (the word Islam means ’submission’), the latest salvo. It predicts the country being ruled by a president from a group he calls the Muslim Fraternity.

Charlie Hebdo, we should not forget, ran a cover lampooning Houellebecq on the day it was attacked. Defending its right to publish, regardless of consequences, is one thing, but sacralising a satirical paper that regularly targets those who are victims of a rampant Islamophobia is almost as foolish as justifying the acts of terror against it. Each feeds on the other.

We didn’t see torchlight vigils or mass assemblies anywhere in Europe when it was revealed that the Muslim prisoners handed over to the US by many EU countries (with the plucky Poles and Labour-run Britain in the forefront) had been tortured by the CIA. There is a bit more at stake here than satire.

French law allows freedoms to be suspended under the threat of unrest or violence. Before now this provision has been invoked to forbid public appearances by the comedian Dieudonné (well known for making anti-Semitic jokes) and to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations - France is the only Western country to do this.

That such actions are not seen as problematic by a majority of the French people speaks volumes. It isn’t just the French: we didn’t see torchlight vigils or mass assemblies anywhere in Europe when it was revealed that the Muslim prisoners handed over to the US by many EU countries (with the plucky Poles and Labour-run Britain in the forefront) had been tortured by the CIA. There is a bit more at stake here than satire.

The smugness of secular liberals who talk of defending freedom to the death is matched by liberal Muslims who waffle endlessly about how what happened had nothing to do with Islam. There are different versions of Islam (the occupation of Iraq was used deliberately to trigger the Sunni-Shia wars that helped give birth to the Islamic State); it is meaningless to claim to speak in the name of a ‘real’ Islam. The history of Islam from its very beginnings is replete with factional struggles.

Fundamentalist currents within Islam as well as external invasions were responsible for wiping out many cultural and scientific advances in the late medieval period. Such differences continue to exist.

Meanwhile, President Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy have announced that they will lead a march of national unity (Cameron’s going along too). As a French friend wrote to me, ‘The idea of Charlie Hebdo provoking a “union sacrée” has to be one of the ironies of history that even the most cynical post-’68 libertarian anti-establishmentarian would have choked on in disbelief.’

Note: Tariq Ali is the author of  The Obama Syndrome (Verso). This essay originally appeared in the London Review of Books. It was also posted at CounterPunch.

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Jan 12, 2015: A BBC reporter has faced calls to resign after he told the daughter of Holocaust survivors in Paris: ‘Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well’. Journalist Tim Willcox sparked anger during his coverage of yesterday’s rally in Paris, held in memory of the 17 victims of last week’s attacks, including four Jewish people in a siege at a Kosher supermarket.

During a live report from the streets of Paris, Willcox was speaking to a number of participants in the march, including one woman who expressed her fears that Jews were being persecuted, and ‘the situation is going back to the days of the 1930s in Europe.’ To this, Willcox, who was broadcasting on the BBC News channel replied: ‘Many critics though of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.’

When the woman, shaking her head, responded saying: ‘We can’t do an amalgam’, he told her: ‘You understand everything is seen from different perspectives.’ She was identified during the broadcast as ‘Chava’, and told Willcox when she was introduced on screen that she had lived in France for 20 years, but was originally from Israel.

Willcox has today apologised for his comments, taking to Twitter to say he had not meant to cause offence. He wrote: ‘Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question in a live interview in Paris yesterday - it was entirely unintentional.’
Historian and BBC presenter Simon Schama was unmoved by the apology and wrote on Twitter: ‘Appalling of @BBCTimWillcox to imply any and all JEWS (not Israelis) responsible for treatment of Palestinians by hectoring lady in Paris.’ And added: ‘Then he had gall to patronise her at the end - “you see people see it from all sides” That Palestinian plight justifies anti-semitic murder?’

Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard also joined the debate, tweeting: ‘What is @BBCTimWillcox’s problem with Jews? Once is problematic. Twice is a pattern.’
The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which works to combat anti-Semitism in Britain, has circulated footage of the incident, and has called on those offended by it to formally complain to the BBC.

Director of communications, Jonathan Sacerdoti, told MailOnline Willcox’s Twitter apology was ‘not really good enough’. ‘It’s an admission he has done something wrong, but it’s incumbent on the BBC to make an on-air apology and to investigate his behaviour.’

An online petition was also set up, demanding that Willcox ‘personally apologise’, and calling for ‘re-assurance that this constant anti-Semitic behaviour from the BBC will come to an end’. - Daily Mail Online

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You get the picture? You just can’t comment on anything about Israelis. Period.

Read more here.

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  1. 11 Responses to “MAXIMUM HORROR”

  2. you tell me why every prayer uttered in the mosques mentions victory over the infidels?

    By dropkick sarge on Jan 14, 2015

  3. you don`t read or hear about jews beheading innocent victims, strapping bombs to children or declaring wore on infidels.

    By dropkick sarge on Jan 14, 2015

  4. You’re living on your vastly overrated past reputation, Tariq. It’s time to grow up

    By Oliver Handel on Jan 15, 2015

  5. Ruthless fanatics who take nearly twenty lives in the space of three days portrayed as victims of a civilisation to which they continue to flock (and under whose shelter they continue to breed) in vast numbers.

    No surprise at the likes of Mr Ali for using these barbarians as more useful idiots for his team’s unending war on the West. Nor that this site would be glad to find such succour in this toxic monster’s mendacity.

    By Reimer on Jan 15, 2015

  6. We didn’t see marches and vigils when Muslim prisoners were “tortured” because they walked away from the “torture” without a scratch. Comparing that to a mass execution of unarmed civilians who were killed because they drew a cartoon that offended someone, or simply because they were Jews, is outrageous.

    By none more black on Jan 15, 2015

  7. That arab piece o’ shite can put his head in a pig’s ass. Jews will always be one step ahead.

    By More Jew Than Black on Jan 15, 2015

  8. I am a Jew With Balls. Yes, WE are the Chosen People. You don’t see any of us Yids with explosives strapped to our chest; we prefer bombs burting in air! Kill one of us, we kill your family. We shall overcome. And you, Sir - YOU are an Arab Sympathizer and you dare deny it? I am calling you out, Mr. Big O.

    By A Jew With Balls on Jan 15, 2015

  9. Shameful article. Total shit from start to finish, Ali’s just a blinkered apologist for medieval minded murderers. And by the way, if I had my way killing halal style would land you in jail in my country, it’s fucking barbaric in a civilised society in this day and age…typical muslim dark ages shit.

    By Shep on Jan 16, 2015

  10. To draw parallels between Fundamentalist Islam and Judaism is laughable at best. Insult a Jew, and their religion tells them to turn the other cheek (and maybe call you Insult an Islamist, and they’re religion tells them to kill you and your family. Also, don’t know of too many Rabbi’s calling for the deaths of a whole race of people (unlike Islamist Clerics). I think you missed the boat on this one, BIG O.

    By MisterManiac on Jan 16, 2015

  11. if this was intended just to stir the pot it sure as heck succeeded.
    I don`t think I have ever read so much crap.

    By sluggo on Jan 16, 2015

  12. All the major religions have, at one time or another in history, seemed to feel that their particular holy book gave them the right to slaughter or convert non believers.

    Perhaps it is not the faith, but the dangerous idiots who claim these faiths that are at fault. Who knows?

    The point is that what the Islamic whack-jobs are doing is absolutely indefensible, and inexcusable in modern society. I feel equal sorrow for the Christians who have to face up to their fundamentalist morons (Westboro Baptist Church in the present, Abortion Clinic bombers and Doctor Killers in the recent past, and the inquisition and Salem Witch Trials in the distant past) as I do for my Islamic friends who see this world wide insanity taking place.

    Big O, I do value the manner in which you will publish articles that might incite strong opinions and reactions.

    I can only promise that I will not saw off someone’s head with a large knife or assault anyone if I am offended. Everyone is entitle to their opinions, but not to enforce it with violence and murder.

    Nuff said?

    By Kevin Armstrong on Jan 18, 2015

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