Once again, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has fallen foul of the Islamists by publishing cartoons of Mohammed, leading to the usual threats and security alerts that attend any slight to the fragile sensibilities of ‘the devout’. This is not the first time that it has been targeted, for back in November last year its decision to publish a special issue entitled Charia Hebdo which contained many cartoons of its ‘guest editor’ Mohammed, led to its offices being firebombed. Both incidents highlight a phenomenon first generated by the Danish Jyllands-Posten furore and its publication of a number of Mohammed cartoons in 2005.
Charlie Hebdo published a fresh set of cartoons this week as a response to the violently febrile reaction to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film that has been witnessed across much of the Muslim world and amongst some Muslims resident in European states. These reactions serve to illustrate the ugly domineering impulse that lies at the heart of Islamic doctrine, and it is of course crucial that we tackle this challenge in an appropriately robust fashion: we must not cave in to Islamist threats, and their demands to restrict freedom of speech and expression in our nations; blasphemy is no offence.
In Germany, the Pro-Deutschland movement has expressed its desire to publicly screen the ‘Innocence of Muslims’, causing some disquiet amongst the German authorities and sections of the media that have wheeled out the usual demonising ‘racist’ and ‘far-right’ labels to apply to the group. In Russia, Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov called for Google to block Russian web access to the film’s Youtube site, threatening to curtail its freedom to operate in the country from November if it failed to do so. Rostelekom, one of Russia’s biggest internet providers, blocked access to Youtube in a number of Russian regions last night, and Yaroslav Nilov, Chairman of the Duma Committee on Social and Religious Organisations, has called upon the Ministry of Culture to ban screenings of the film in Russia on the basis that this would constitute “incitement to religious hatred.” He noted that Russia had a Muslim population of 20 million. The reaction of these influential Russian politicians seems to have been born out of a combination of a desire to appeal to the growing number of Muslim voters in the country, and of fear.
It is time that mainstream broadcasters and politicians in Britain and other European nations stopped pretending that these violent outbursts, threats and intolerance are not connected to Islamic doctrine, which is incompatible with a modern, civilised political and social worldview. In our countries, Muslims should not only be seen to respect our right to freedom of speech and expression and to acknowledge the supremacy of secular law, but they should also give active support to these principles. If not, then they should give serious consideration as to where they ought to live: is it to be here, or somewhere more conducive to their mental and cultural universe, such as their ancestral familial homeland(s)? The recent violent reactions to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and Tom Holland’s ‘Islam: The Untold Story’, have followed swiftly upon the anniversary of 9/11, which makes it apparent that all of these attacks upon freedom of expression are part of a wider Islamist political agenda.
Given this reality, how can anyone still give credence to what is printed in the pages of The Guardian upon such matters? That paper, and the BBC, to name but two influential players in the mass media, ought to offer us an explanation as to why they have systematically distorted reporting about Islamic issues so as to provide Islamic doctrine with a veneer of respectability, helping to embed it within our country and to facilitate its spread. We never wanted it, and we certainly do not need it. Now is as good a time as any to make this fact crystal clear.
Charlie Hebdo's latest cover