Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Charlie Hebdo Debate

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 15th January, 2015

Charlie HebdoLast night, at short notice, I was asked to take part in a live TV debate on the Charlie Hebdo affair on PressTV, the Iranian channel, to give a European perspective on things. There was incomprehension from some of the interactive viewers as to why the French satirical magazine would once more produce a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover when it knew that millions of Muslims would find this offensive, even blasphemous. I said that it was an act of defiance by the publication and remaining members of its team to show that they would not be cowed by the appalling assault on the editor and his colleagues, and that millions of people who do not normally buy Charlie Hebdo were doing so this week as an act of solidarity with free expression. What took me by surprise, however, were the views of an American Muslim (convert?) also participating in the programme from the US who declared forcefully that the massacre had been carried out by French agents, not by the two French-Algerian brothers named, and that this was all part of the West’s oppression of Muslims. As he then went off on a tangent ranting about the alleged Establishment cover-up in Britain of rampant paedophilia he was not an interlocutor I could take seriously. But there a couple of points which I think are worth some reflection. The first is the willingness of many in the Islamic world to frame everything in the context of what they see as a giant conspiracy by the United States and Israel to oppress Muslims (with obvious links to the Palestinian issue), and the second is that there is a genuine gulf between two mindsets: one that cherishes free expression and believes in the right to offend and to be offended, as opposed to those who passionately believe that blasphemy (in its widest sense) is a heinous crime worthy of capital punishment. I don’t believe either side will ever persuade the other of its arguments, but in order to avoid further conflict and bloodshed, a modus vivendi has to be found in our globalised, multicultural world, in which we agree to differ. But that is going to require some inspirational leadership by religious and political leaders, as well as a heightened sense of responsibility in the media.


3 Responses to “The Charlie Hebdo Debate”

  1. Marwaan Daniels said

    This whole Hebdo thing was planned and planned very well. You see Islam is getting too strong in Christian Europe and something has to be done about it. Look the European governments just cannot expel the Muslims.
    Now how do you stop the “2nd invasion of Islam” in Europe? Turn on the hatred for the religion, the murder of those people reeks terribly of the 911 hypocrisy. These kill the he do people including a Muslim policeman and then shout Islamic slogans. Their getaway car was parked on the middle of the road for everyone to see thus advertising their presents.
    Freedom of speech? Making fun of a very holy prophet (pbuh) is ok but if talking against the so called holocaust you can be jailed.

    I’m a South African in Cape Town

  2. jonathanfryer said

    Yes, it was planned… by the killers. I know the conspiracy theory is gaining traction in some quarters (as happened with 9/11), but it just doesn’t add up.

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