Charlie Hebdo: Victim of Free Speech


by Sami Jamil Jadallah


No doubt the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and its editors were obnoxious, rude, blasphemous, obscene, provocative, sacrilegious, pushing the limits of free speech but that never justify the cold blooded murder committed by the would be suspects, Muslim radicals and criminals. If the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was alive today, he will be ashamed and offended by the crimes committed in his name by Islamist misfits and thugs from France, Syria, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia among other countries.

While these Muslim “terrorists” used Kalashnikov to kill journalist, the United States of America used its F-15’s and F-16s and missiles to kill Aljazeera journalist, Tareq Ayyoub and wounding many when on April 8, 2003 the White House targeted Aljazeera offices in Baghdad deeming Aljazeera and its journalist hostile to US intentions in Iraq, with Donald Rumsfeld defining Aljazeera as “vicious, inexcusably biased and abetting terrorists”.

Frank Gaffney President of Center for Security Policy called on George Bush to “take down” Aljazeera. The American well respected “Salon” with information published by the Daily Mirror (30 November 2005) reported that Tony Blair in April of 2004 persuaded President George W. Bush not to bomb Aljazeera offices in Doha, Qatar. What is the difference between the American White House and the Muslim terrorists of France?

Perhaps no one can best describe Charlie Hebdo and its editors better than Arthur Goldmann writing in Aljazeera on line titled “ Let’s Not Sacralize Charlie Hebdo” January 7, 2014 where he writes:

Charlie Hebdo – was in the business of giving offenses, and it tried hard to offend every one, right and left, Protestants and Catholics, Muslims, and Jews, male and females, Western and non-Western. It was if you’ll pardon the expression, an equal opportunity offender and it revealed it in its freedom to vex, irritate and derange” but was Charlie Hebdo was an equal offender when it came to Islam and Muslims?

Personally, and here I may offend the Muslim communities of France, in saying that this community for the most part, failed to fully understanding the history of France and the resentment against the church and state. Failed to understand and appreciate that as Arthur Goldmann puts it “ satire was more blasphemous than political and its roots lie deep in European history dated from the time when in order to challenge authority, one had to confront divinity itself” something the “Islamists” suspects, perhaps the entire Muslim community failed to understand and appreciate.

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However in France as well as in the rest of Europe, where racism and xenophobia is always under a thin veneer of civility, the French authorities on occasions have stepped in and did stop “satire and comedy” deemed offensive to the Jewish community, as was the case when French authorities through the power of the French courts stopped and banned the comedy and satire show of the French Comedian Dieundonne M’bala M’bala when during one of his shows he depicted Israeli settlers as Nazis and the courts deemed Dieudonne “crossed the limits of anti-Semitism”.

Dieudonne was cleared by French courts in 2003 stating “ this was not attack against Jews, in general but against a type of persons distinguished by their political views”. Perhaps the same rule also applies to the case of Charlie Hebdo, when it depicted in its many repeated and often cartoon, not the entire Muslim community, but “ against a type of persons, distinguished by their political views”.

Later Dieudonne signature gesture “quenelle” became notorious in 2013. He was recorded during a performance mocking a Jewish journalist “ it was a pity he was not sent to the gas chamber“. After this incident Manual Valle, then French Minister of Interior banned all of Dieudonne shows.

However the French authorities never deemed Charlie Hebdo cartoons crossing the lines of free speech or within the realm of “Islamophobia”, even when Muslims viewed these cartoons as “blasphemous” especially when it comes to depicting the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH). Hence Charlie Hebdo was not an equal opportunity offender.

Not so sure if Muslims in France or their leadership ever used the French legal systems to challenge the rights of Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoon offending their moral and religious senses and deemed ‘blasphemous”? Cold-blooded murder is never justified when there is an opportunity even a guaranteed right to seek judicial intervention.

Though France and many nations in Western Europe always pride themselves in their guarantees of free speech, and open debate, passed law such as the French law No 90-615 designed to repress acts of racism and anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Gayassot Act of July 13, 1990 “ makes it illegal to question the existence of crimes that falls in the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945.”

One thing the Muslim communities of Europe failed to understand, failed to learned is that Europe unlike the US with its long history of immigration and diversity, Europe is ‘homogenous” and not a land of immigrants and diversity, with Germans and German culture and tradition are impeded through long history, tradition and values, same in France, in Sweden, in Denmark, in Norway.

Having lived in Europe (Germany and Switzerland) for over 6 years and with some 30 years of frequent travel to Paris and France, I must say that one could not blame the French for their racism and xenophobia and one could not exonerate the Muslim community for its ills and failings to understand and learn to live in peace and harmony with active efforts to integrate in a culture that is totally different from theirs. Muslim communities could never and should never live “isolated” and stranger to France and its well-established culture and traditions.

I also could not exonerate the role of the mosques in France that for the most part contributed to this alienation and hostility toward France and French “culture”. With “Imams” who are ill trained, ill educated most do not even speak French, who for the most part know nothing of France, its history, it culture, its values and traditions, secularism, free speech. How can such “leaders” contribute to the peaceful co-existence, harmony, understanding and appreciations of the dominant culture? This is made worst in the fact that most if not all early immigrants to France are illiterate with no skills.

French policies also contributed to this divide having placed these immigrants in “ghettos” no different from the Jewish Ghettos of East Europe where immigrants and their off-springs are truly trapped with overcrowded housing, very poor schools with no efforts to help integrate and incorporate these immigrants, even native born, and their families into the main stream of French society through educations, job training even language education.

I should know, having seen and witnessed these French Ghettos. Ill educated parents with mothers sitting at home with NO contacts with French society and with fathers working long hours in factories, cleaning the streets of French cities had no background nor knowing where to seek help for their children trapped, with little chance of integrating into French society and when they do it is drug dealings, theft, and prostitution, that was the mainstream for integrations of these French born Muslims later converting to Jihadism.

Of course there are exceptional cases where Muslim immigrants and their children rose to the highest levels of French society in business and in politics but that remains the exception.

While both French and US laws guarantees freedom of speech, each country has its own unique views and standards of what constitute free speech?

Not withstanding the US guarantees of free speech through the power and force of the First Amendment, there have been many cases where political and social pressures and lobbies having affected and in fact limited free speech and expressions.

While the US Supreme Court did not have much trouble with traditional free speech, it struggled with issues deemed within the realm of free speech mainly “obscenity and pornography”. In Roth v. US, the Supreme Court deemed material “unprotected” which is “patently offensive and utterly without redeeming social values”.

In the Miller v. California the Supreme Court built on the Roth standard employed a three-part guideline for determining “obscenity”:

  • Whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
  • Whether the work depicts or describe in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law
  • Whether the work taken as whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

And in the words of Supreme Justice Potter Steward “ I shall not today attempt any further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced “ but I know it when I see it”.

The words of Justice Potter Steward were the focus of fights and disputed between artists, museums, local citizens and local political leadership here in the US and to some extent in Europe.

Fights and disputes that saw the cancellations of “Human Zoo”. An art exhibition which featured black actors in cages and chains which was cancelled by Barbican in September of 2014, and saw the cancellation of the same show by the Edinburgh Art Festival in 2014 after 23,000 signed a petition calling for the show cancellation.

Here in the US much controversies surrounding art exhibitions where community leaders even members of Congress forced the cancellation of art exhibition deemed obscene and offensive to the sensibility of the community such as that of the Holy Virgin Mary, by Chris Ofili (1996) with a Black Madona “ mixed media oil paint glittered –polyester resin elephant dung and collage pornographic images- images of female genitalia”.

The art exhibition “Sensation” sponsored the Brooklyn Museum was center of controversy between the museum, local leadership and politicians with then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani bringing a lawsuit against the museum deemed the exhibition “ sick and disgusting” and not covered by First Amendment. The court thought otherwise.

Another art exhibition that saw much controversy is “ Piss Christ” 1987 by the artist Andrew Serrano, which “depict a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist urine”. Lucy R. Lippard an “art critics” deemed “Piss Christ” as mysterious and beautiful”. One has to wonder what taste or standards these so called “art critics” have to be of any social values. The National Gallery of Victoria was vandalized and lost grants because of this exhibition.

In the US unlike Europe which so far escaped the well funded and well organized campaign of “Islamophbia” may soon see the launch of the American version of “Islamophibia” all over Europe given the financial means and connections such movement have in the US and the power and money it can muster from wealthy American Zionists and from Israel.

Unlike anywhere else, here in the US it is not the government that stands in the way of or hamper Free Speech, it is private and well funded American Zionist Jewish organizations that took the lead in limiting free speech, using “misinformation” in the media certainly on college campuses promoting racism and hatred toward Arabs and Muslims, and using “Islamophobia as a tool to promote Israeli agenda here within the US”.

Leading the charge are the likes of Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy, David Yershalmi of Society of American for National Existence, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum, Robert Spence of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America, Steve Emerson of Investigative Project on Terrorism and Sheldon Edelson with his billions and his “terrorism experts” such as Evan Kohlmann and journalist Jennifer Rubins of the Washington Post.

These organization and well orchestrated campaign by well organized Jewish Zionist student groups and well to do Jewish donors have seen to it of all places that American universities and academic institutions are the first victims of Free Speech in America.

Campus Watch the well funded American Jewish Zionist organization is dedicated to and not only monitor but does its best to stifle debates and discussions on college campus that has to do with the Middle East conflict. It has thousands of “informants” who record professors and students in the class rooms, and reports subject matters discussing the Arab-Israeli conflicts stifling in not impeding free speech, taking actions through alumni associations and wealthy donors to kill free speech on college campuses.

Only recently, the University of Illinois decided under the threats of wealthy Jewish donors to cancel the offer extended to an American born Palestinian-American professor expert on “ indigenous studies” denying him from a tenure track professorship at the university because of his frequent tweet during the Israel war on Gaza, tweet deemed hostile to Israel.

The University Chancellor, Phyllis Wise contrary to the rules of offering and rescinding of offers to potential college professors decided and with the support of the university trustees “stand firm on not hiring Professor Steven Salaita’ because of his harsh anti-Israeli tweets, thus and in the words of defense lawyer Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights creating a “Palestinian Exception to the First Amendment and academic freedom,”

Let us hope that France with its long history of freedom and its well established values enshrined in “ Liberte, egalite, fraternite” does not succumb to the well funded and well organized American Jewish Zionist “Islamophobia” disfranchising and demonizing the entire community of some 5 million Muslims setting the stage to what we saw happened in Germany to the Jews when a well organized hostile campaign of demonization of an entire community led to the Holocaust.

What happened at Charles Hebdo and the heinous crime should be a wake up call for the entire Muslim community in France and the rest of Europe that it no longer can afford to sit back and isolate itself from the rest of society it chose to live within and must understand that it has to adjust and live with and accommodate a different value system than the one it brought from “home”.

That the Muslim community in France, no longer afford to sit back leaving ill educated, ill cultured and ill informed and hostile “ Imams” to disfranchise their children from the rest of society they live in and should seek active help from authorities and community organizers to integrate its children into main stream French society making education the main focus for social, economic, political integration, starting with a official French seminaries to educate and qualify “Imams” and educating them in the Bible, in the Torah, in the French Revolution, in Rene Descartes, Nicolas Malebranche, Voltair and Jean-Jaques Rousseau among others.

The tragic death and cold-blooded murder of the victims at Charlie Hebdo and the two policemen killed (one of whom is Muslim) is a wake call for all of us. Free speech was the victim at Charlie Hebdo. Yes, the Muslim community in France too paid a high price protecting freedom of speech and expression.

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