Charlie Hebdo and the consequences: How can we make sure that liberal principles will be preserved, and that at the same time we can defend ourselves by the means available?

(Valentina Calà/Flickr/Creative Commons)

(1) Attacks on liberal and secular societies are continuing, and they will go on on a broader scale. The combination of increasing global complexities and ‘holy’ scripts, allegedly pointing a way out of confusion and threats, is a very dangerous one. Most important is that we do not make a step back, not a single one. No caricature that may or may not be offensive for someone must remain unpublished. No text that may or may not be tasteless for some readers must be hidden.

(2) Overwhelmingly, muslims are no terrorists, and don’t support them. At the same time, since 9/11, political terrorists are quite often muslims – or use islam-related narratives. How can we explain that?

  1. Shen Dingli 3 years ago

    The attack on Charlie Hebdo reminds one of the importance of balance between sense and sensibility.

    In terms of sense, the freedom of speech allows all of us to express most of what we want to express, but with few exceptions. Indeed, Charlie Hebdo shall not be intimidated for what it has expressed, and for what it will continue to express, including the cartoons that could be viewed by some as offensive. If truly perceiving such cartoons as offensive, one shall bring them to court and deal with them through legal means.

    In terms of sensibility, one may be sensible in judging the outcome of certain actions, including printing certain cartoons. If some cartoons would be provocative, it might be desirable to exercise some self-censorship. This is no kowtow to pressure, but to show sensibility toward the difference of civilizations. It is clear that some American media tend to show its political liberty, but in the cultural area it is more sensitive on controversial or offensive issues.

    Why are muslims often involved in terrorist attacks? This might have something to do with their trans-regional religious or cultural common identity and their perception of being oppressed. If this makes sense, the world needs to help change their perception through positive interactions, and offer them alternative ways to improve the world and their own situation through peaceful approaches.

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  2. Hildegard Müller 3 years ago

    It is important that the spirit of the funeral march in Paris continues. The march showed that the vast majority of people share common values for which they stand for. That is something we need to remind ourselves every day and we should feel obliged to act according to these values in our everyday lives.
    The horrific acts that have not only taken place in Paris also reflect the fact that our values are not shared by everybody. Is all the more important to explain our values and ideals and to draw a red line. Both will remove the basis for those who justify their deeds with pretended arguments that are beyond our shared beliefs.

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  3. Dimitrios Triantaphyllou 3 years ago

    (…) If we take the radical Islam dimension out of the equation, the events in France and the reaction to them in France and in other liberal societies in general, have more to do with how to protect the debate and understanding of freedom and freedom of expression which most citizens of liberal democracies take for granted rather than a demonization of all things Muslim. (…) The trap has to do with the response to the attack which either leads to a sanctification of Islam as a religion that can do no wrong or as one which is dangerous; ergo the anti-Islamic debate and the growing retributive attacks on Muslims in France and elsewhere. This shifts the nucleus of the debate about the sort of liberal society we believe in and would like to live in and to tackle its many wrongs and inconsistencies head on in public debate and structural reform in order for it to remain as inclusive and respectful as possible. (…) Read the full article here.

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  4. Dibyesh Anand 3 years ago

    The biggest attack on liberal societies in the recent times has come not from extremist Muslim chauvinists but from the states that have made use of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ to put citizens under surveillance, suspend rights of detainees, and take away liberties in the name of protecting it. Framing the discussion after the massacre in Paris solely in terms of liberal society fighting for freedom of speech and anti-liberal Islamists promoting violence adopts a very problematic and narrow notion of rights to free speech. Freedom of expression was meant to hold those in power accountable and to protect the weak and the marginalised from the dictates of the dominant groups. Sadly, European Islamophobes have managed to hijack the free speech agenda and present their hate speech as epitome of values of Western civilisations and if we accept their narrative, we ignore the history of struggle for freedoms in Europe, we adopt a reified notion of what civilised values are, and we support a majoritarian hate politics against a richer notion of democratic values that balances between majority rule, minority rights, respect for pluralism and right to dissent without fear. Are we happy doing that? If not, then this toxic spiral down the bottom race between extremist Islamophobia and extremist Muslim chauvinism – both very European – will make the world a more brutal, a more violent and more hate filled place to be in. What we need is calming down of the situation and not provocation and revenge. The Muslim extremists took revenge against what they saw as an attack on their values by using violence; the free speech warriors are now taking revenge against what they see as an attack on their values by reprinting most racialised representations of a figure sacred to billions of people across the world. In this cycle of revenge, there is no hero, there is no martyr. Let us not malign a cherished freedom of expression value by associating it with racist attacks on marginalised and victimised Muslim minorities in Europe. There can be no struggle for a just, peaceful world if we obsess about cultural wars and securitise those wars. Political use of terrorism has been often closely associated with Muslims since 9/11 because most of the wars waged by the Western powers since 1990s has been in the Muslim majority world. The wars of the state and the non-state actors are connected and it is important not to lose this context when we focus on cases of spectacular terrorism.

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  5. Klaus Segbers 3 years ago

    – In a way, the Islamist terrorists represent one special anti-globalization movement.
    – The preservation of a liberal society and a secular state are indispensable for the identities of our societies. If there are any markers of Western societies – here they are.
    – The thesis that there is absolutely no connection between Islam and terror is misleading. As there were links between the crusaders and Christianity, so there are links between the jihadists and Islam.
    – We should be careful with the notion of ‘the West’.
    – Also, we should refrain from assuming the Islamist terror on Europe is the most vicious and worst. This would be a disgrace toward what is happening in the MENA area between Sunni and Shia groups; in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; and, right now, in Nigeria, where Boko Haram is slaughtering tens of thousands of people.
    – Another place of clashes is Asia. Here, Muslims are often the victims, not the perpetrators.
    – Amusing: There hardly are news from the Russian leaders’ attitude toward the attacks in Paris. Moscow is not Charlie?
    – David Brooks noted that there is a clear signal for fundamentalism: “Fundamentalists are people who are taking everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints.”
    – Appeasement is the most dangerous reaction on jihadism.
    – But there are seductive strategies to avoid confrontations, and to take stance: ‘You accept my taboo, and I accept yours’. Wrong. No taboos. Rather, I completely support Flemming Rose’s (Jyllands-Posten) position: “No one has a special entitlement not to be offended”.
    – One of the sharpest weapons against the terror is the ability to keep smiling, and laughing. May be not loudly. But carefully.
    Read the full article here:

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  6. Alexei Voskressenski 3 years ago

    We all must form a consensus that terror is not a way to resolve differences, that it is condemned by all without any exclusion. At the same time, freedom of speech and expression must embrace a concept of responsibility of speech and conduct, human ethics and moral that will hinder provocative offence but not a freedom of responsible expression. The basis of this consensus is the understanding that there are no exclusive nations or people, that we are all equal in our fragile world that is existing while we are existing as human beings.

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  1. Sawsan Halawa 3 years ago

    The story and what happened for sure doesn’t reflect Islam and who have done this attack must be punished. People now a days are educated and should respect laws and who doesn’t, there is law and court that will solve the problem. killing people is not the solution for those kind of things!
    For me as a person who is living in the middle east region I will connect it to extremist Muslim as people call them while in my opinion they are not Muslims, they are people who are doing un human things by using the religion as cover. Also, according to some news extremist Muslims didn’t do this attack. The Deployment of US news site “International Business Times” story accusing the newspaper parking Intelligence Institute and the Israeli Mossad missions own stand behind the attack after recognition of the State of Palestine France. The newspaper “Maariv” Israeli newspaper Onturnchunal Times accused it of anti-Semitic newspaper and they are from a group of Western sites that are trying to implicate Mossad in the killing of journalists magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, also stated that these sites are not enmity against Israel is inventing excuses to implicate Mossad, taking advantage of the Parliament French voted in favor of Palestine, the International Business Times newspaper has to delete the news two hours after its publication.

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    1. Jens 3 years ago

      I´m really sorry but this is just a stupid antisemitic conspiracy theory that somehow made it online. Please read the apology by the editor and more about the story here: It just shows you that anti-semitism is still very alive.

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  2. klaus segbers 3 years ago

    i do have a few comments here.
    the quote “Framing the discussion after the massacre in Paris solely in terms of liberal society fighting for freedom of speech and anti-liberal Islamists promoting violence adopts a very problematic and narrow notion of rights to free speech” is a very proper frasming for covering what was/ is going on here, given we replace the word ‘solely’ by the word ‘overwhelmingly’. there is nothing ‘narrow’ in the concept of ‘free speech’ – we are talking plainly about the right to free spech, without qualifications. those who cannot accept these notions with guns and bombs in their hands should realize that liberal and secular societies are able to protect themselves.
    along similar lines of reasoning, “respect for pluralism and right to dissent without fear” is very agreeable, as long as the dissenters refrain from claiming a special right “not to be offended”, and killing journalists or others along the way.
    to apply the framing of ‘islamophobia’ to all and every criticism of muslim fundamentalists or also to criticism of islam proper are narrowing down the space for public debate, and to set taboos around looking critically at the role of religion in post-modern societies. that’s not gonna work.
    finally, the eveil terrorists should not be awarded ths status of sacred figures taking revenge for the oppressed marginalized masses. they are criminals, and should be addressed as such.

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  3. Torge Matthiesen 3 years ago

    I think we face a set of conflicting values here. I also do not think that the staff at Charlie Hebdo and the other victims have been killed because the magazine choose to publish potentially „offensive“ material. This is nothing more than a lame excuse or an an ill-fated attempt to sell the crime to a certain audience.

    What the perpetrators committed was an act of terror. Terror seeks to undermine the conscience, perceived security and emotional cohesion of the “enemy” – and planting terror and fear into hearts and minds is often achieved by targeting the soft underbelly of societies. In that regard, we can compare the crimes of Paris to the carnage that a Pakistani Taliban suicide-squad inflicted on the pupils of an army operated school in Peshawar some eight weeks ago. Or to the recent Boko Haram atrocities in the north of Nigeria. The message of such attacks is clear: even if you defeat us in battle, you and your loved ones can never feel safe. There is no security and we may strike when you least expect such acts.

    There is another point – shouldn’t there be some sort of reconciliation between the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion / the expression of religious beliefs? Is it acceptable that one single human life is sacrificed in this regard? Is the freedom of speech more valuable than one single muslim protester who is killed during a rally in Cairo, Lahore or elsewhere in the world?

    There are some 1.7 billion muslims of many different schools on this planet. Some are more tolerant than others, some adhere to more conservative conceptions of Islam. And there is a minority of extremists. However, the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed seems to be sacrosanct for a majority of the muslim population. I argue that there has to be an awareness for this and that this warrants some form of responsibility and respect for these religious feelings. Societies have to accept barriers for the freedom of speech as religious people have to accept barriers for how they are allowed to express their religious beliefs. In our western societies this is generally governed by law.

    The real problem is that we do not have appropriate fora for the exchange and agreement of a consensus on how to reconcile the freedom of speech and the freedom of religious beliefs with other societies. While messages and depictions are globally available through the Internet, a debate about the reconciliation of basic rights is mostly limited to governments, academia and intellectual elites. And these groups often do not represent the ordinary citizen who might take the street to protest against the depiction of the Prophet, the burning of the Quran or any other reason he perceives as a grave religious insult.

    That said, none of these efforts will stop violent extremists to commit the heinous crimes that we have seen during the last weeks. These perpetrators are interested to plant the seed of terror and not in a political or societal reconciliation.

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    1. Wisam 3 years ago

      I agree with almost everything you’ve said. In particular: “Societies have to accept barriers for the freedom of speech as religious people have to accept barriers for how they are allowed to express their religious beliefs. In our western societies this is generally governed by law.” The answer is always some kind of middle ground. Well said. Hope you’re well.

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  4. Begoña Parajón Robles 3 years ago

    We can make sure that liberal principles are observed by following them ourselves, i.e. instead of killing the two “suspects” we should have observed our democratic and judicial systems.
    Second, two young men were so unhappy and for such a long time, that they lost completely the hope for the liberal principles and the democratic state. There are a lot of young people with Muslim origins that feel the same away. They have suffered extreme discrimination for too long and the liberal democratic state couldn’t help them.
    Third, freedom of speech against respect for other cultures. USA is not Charlie Hebdo, neither is Spain, Russia, Portugal… Because in these countries the French satiric comics would never have been cultural acceptable. However, being in a globalized world means also that we all have to respect other cultures putting limits to the freedom of speech, if necessary by creating laws that allow the offended to report the assumed “hate speech” to the judicial system.
    We are spiraling out of control. We have to stop, breathe, think and, then, think again before we break our own liberal principles again.

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    1. Torge Matthiesen 3 years ago

      I agree with your points three and four but humbly have to disagree with your arguments one and two.

      First, in my view, the perpetators never expected to leave the Charlie Hebdo compound alive. They conducted what I would label a “suicide attack” and were lucky not to encounter a specialised police force but only two police officiers on bicycle when they left the building after their killing spree. Then, how do you arrest suspects that yield AK 47 assault rifles without loosing half your police squad?

      Second, no experience of frustration or discrimination can ever justify the use of deadly force against innocent human beings. And I do not think that this was the case here – it seems that we speak of gunman who underwent military training in Yemen. And who received substantial amount of intelligence on their victims. Those attacks were not conducted out of frustration but were commited in cold blood.

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    2. AW 3 years ago

      Today they ask you to limit your freedom of speach, tomorrow they introduce Sharia in your homecountry. There ARE legal ways to prosecute against hate speach in France. It’s just that those stupid and agressive people did not bother to go to the counrt.

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  5. Terry Muvanya-Wischman 3 years ago

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  6. Wisam 3 years ago

    Let’s not confuse the tragic events of what happened in Paris, with anything that has to do with a legitimate debate on free speech and liberalism. The cavemen who perpetrated these attacks could have found some obscure justification for bombing even an ice cream stand. But let’s not kid ourselves. There is a serious conflict occurring, not only in Europe, but in ever corner of the globe. We cannot fall into the trap of looking at this conflict through the lens of “Muslims vs. the West”, but rather we should keep in mind that it’s the extremists vs. the rest – the latter consisting of 99% of Muslims in the world. Extremism is a criminal problem. I take serious issue with the term “terrorism”. In fact, its definition is widely debated in academia. The attacks in Boston, Paris, Ottawa, etc. are criminal in nature, and should be treated as such. Accordingly, they warrant a strong police, psychological, social, political and even economic response.

    “Islam is currently experiencing modernity, but it’s doing so at the barrel of a gun.”
    -Dr. Sherman Abdal Hakim Jackson

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    1. Necek Barbara 3 years ago

      I think we somehow do have to think about what happened in Paris through the lens of “Muslim vs. the West/or France”. The question is whether Islam is compatible with Western values. To what extend should France adapt to its Muslim population and their cultural sensitivity? By sacrificing freedom of speech in regards to religion? The real issue is the problem of integration of young Muslims in Western societies who don’t identify with the values of the “République” but choose extremism instead. There is hope considering the fact that many Muslim religious leaders in France firmly condemned the attacks in public.
      As a regular Charlie reader I would like to point out that statistically most of the caricatures are “offending” Christian religion (the pope is one of their favorites!).

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      1. Wisam 3 years ago

        Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure I understand your question. What do you mean by “Muslim population”? I think part of the problem is that we often incorrectly lump these people together into one group. In fact, Islam is just a religion. Muslims come in every shape and size, have differing views, and political aspirations. Just like you cannot refer to Christians as one single group of people, the same applies to Muslims in Europe, and across the world. “The real issue is the problem of integration of young Muslims in Western societies who don’t identify with the values of the “République” but choose extremism instead.” I completely agree with this statement. However, I think we need to replace the word “Muslims”, with “immigrant communities”

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        1. Necek Barbara 3 years ago

          I do agree that the Muslim population is diverse in France and Europe. So let’s rephrase the question: to what extend should France adapt to the religious and cultural sensitivities of its (immigrant) communities? French would say they don’t have to adapt because they value the secularity of their system and consider religion a private matter. Everybody is supposed to respect the values of the French Republic above any religious considerations. Easy to say, difficult to implement…

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          1. Wisam 3 years ago

            Immigrants have a civic obligation for adopting and even promoting the values of the host country. This is something that we all agree with, I think. To which extent should these host countries adapt to changing/evolving culture? I think people are scared of change. But generally a very good question you’ve posed.

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  7. AW 3 years ago

    In this debate I would totally support Mr. Segbers’ argument: no special treatment, to exceptions, no right to be not offended. And above all other things: no taboos. As it has already been mentioned, in Europe there is always a LEGAL way to protect your rights and interests, this is why the argument of Mr. Ahnand sounds self-righteous to say the least.
    I would also be cautious using the dichotonmy “the West vs. Islam”, as “the West” and “Islam” are vary vague terms needing additional clarification. There is a big cultural difference between the USA and Europe on the one hand and between different islamic groups on the other.

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  8. Mathias J. Jongkor 3 years ago

    The Attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris by so-called Terrorist under different names (Al-Gaeda, isis and Boko-Haram) was tragic assassination for him in the middle of liberal society in Paris that let to reaction in Paris and German.So, terrorist were not surprising because they think their values have been attacked, and they can revenge who ever attack their valuses.Despite the fact that Liberal society and secular fought for Democracy Values and they can not tolerate that activities in their homeland.And they even want these valises to be spread to the world. On the other hand, the Terrorist want to spread Islamic idealism to the western societies as well. It is a long war to go,and the Terrorists are scatter everywhere in the world, they do not have state so that multinational force can be used or sanction. And I think using Multinational forces at this point to Terrorists is not work , but there are other weapons can be used, such as media and technology. for example, Obama speech at Cairo University had a big impact to Egyptian society in changing their government.In the west for instance, liberals and seculars brought the democracy valises, so, Eastern liberals and seculars should do likewise for their own countries by changing their governments.

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