Article: The Politic of anti-Islam Caricatures

Beheading of the French teacher Samuel Paty has once again sparked controversy over Charlie Hebdo’s

Beheading of the
French teacher Samuel
Paty has once again sparked controversy over Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islam
caricatures as the French President Emmanuel Macron exploited the tragedy to push
his long-sought agenda against Islam and Muslims.

Days before
Paty’s killing, on October 2, Macron had made a controversial speech. He
declared that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world.”

In response
to Macron’s comments, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said he believes his
French counterpart “needs mental treatment.” “What is Macron’s
problem with Islam? What is his problem with Muslims?” Erdogan added. France
recalled its ambassador to Turkey in response to Erdogan’s comments.

Macron’s
anti-Islam comments were condemned widely by the Arab and Muslim countries
while several Arab countries called for boycott of French products. President
Erdogan also called Turks to join the boycott of the French products.

On
Wednesday, Oct 28, Charlie Hebdo joined the fray by publishing a searing caricature
of Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan said he had
not looked at the drawing and had nothing to say about the “dishonorable”
publication. “My sadness and anger does not stem from the disgusting attack on
my person but from the fact that the same (publication) is the source of the
impertinent attack on my dear Prophet,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the
Associated Press.

He
went on to criticize France and other Europe nations’ colonial past saying:
“You are murderers!”

Freedom of speech

After
the beheading of Samuel Pary, President Macron declared France would “not give
up cartoons, drawings, even if others back down.” “We will defend the freedom
that you taught so well and we will bring secularism.” He was alluding to
Paty’s showing anti-Islam cartoons to his “freedom of speech” class. Paty was beheaded
on October 16, by a Chechen refugee, 47 days after he had shown the
caricatures.

To
borrow Will Morro, it is difficult to describe the hypocrisy involved in the
attempts by Macron to present himself as a bulwark for democratic traditions
and free speech. His government is perhaps best known for being condemned by
international human rights organizations for its police violence, and for video
images of riot officers using tear-gas and shooting rubber bullets at “yellow
vest” protesters. It is involved in imperialist wars across the Sahel and the
Middle East, deliberately allowing thousands of refugees attempting to reach
Europe by boat to drown in the Mediterranean.

Reprinting the cartoons
is not about free speech

Charlie Hebdo, on September 1 reprinted the Mohammed
cartoons in a special issue at the start of the trial related to the terrorist
attack five years ago. “The hatred that hit us five years ago is still there,”
said Editor Laurent Sourisseau. “We will never lie down. We will never give
up,” he added.

To borrow Dr. Asma Barlas, a retired professor of
politics in New York, European vilifications of the prophet and
Islam have a much older pedigree than free speech and have nothing to do with
humor. To be precise, they have their roots in medieval Europe and the changing
self-conceptions of Christians over a millennium.

For instance, Tomaz Mastnak, a historian of
the Crusades, argues that it was in the mid-ninth century when Western unity
began to express itself as Christendom, that Muslims also came to be seen as
the “normative enemies” of Christianity. Until then, they had been viewed as
just another pagan group and generally ignored – even the Muslim conquest of
southern Spain did not make it into leading chronicles.

Over time though, Europe’s Christians came to
see in Islam not just a “sinister conspiracy against Christianity [but] that
total negation of [it] ” which would mark the contrivances of Antichrist”. This
is how Robert Southern describes it in his book Western Views of Islam in the
Middle Ages and he attributes this suspicion to the “strong desire not to
know [Islam] for fear of contamination”.

Instead, he says, even the Christians who lived
in “the middle of Islam” (Muslim-ruled Andalusia) looked to the Bible to
explain it, which is how they came to consider it the Antichrist. In short,
according to Southern, it was ignorance and the fear of contamination that made
“the existence of Islam the most far-reaching problem in medieval Christendom”.

Given this history, it is not surprising that
medieval Christians would also portray the prophet as a heathen idol, the
devil, an imposter, and the Antichrist. He appears in such guises from the Crusades
to the Reformation, with his representation as a religious imposter, reaching
its literary apotheosis in Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, in
which he is confined to the eighth circle of hell .

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Author and journalist.
Author of
Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality;
Islam in the Post-Cold War Era;
Islam & Modernism;
Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America.
Currently working as free lance journalist.
Executive Editor of American (more…)
 

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