Tag Archive for 'Charlie Hebdo'

How Did We End Up Here?

In their first issue following the terrorist bombings in Brussels, Charlie Hebdo published a leading article, signed editor-in-chief Riss, which displays some of the worst tendencies of the magazine (English version here). In it, Riss seems to hold accountable all Muslims for the actions of terrorists, skewing dangerously close to the kind of rhetoric employed by fascists. To regular readers, however, it seems clear that what he is doing is criticising the reluctance among Muslims to question aspects of their faith, parts of their holy scripture, that motivate jihadist violence. He specifically mentions the scholar and commentator Tariq Ramadan, with whom the magazine has a bit of an ongoing feud, as somebody influential who glosses over these issues in his efforts to teach non-Muslims about Islam. Riss’ other main target are multiculturalist non-Muslims who similarly prefer not to debate these issues and call out people who do as ‘islamophobes.’

The thing is, there are points to be made here: surveys made among Western Muslims indicate how widespread casual anti-semitism and homophobia are, how paternalistic attitudes toward women can be, and demonstrate surprisingly little discomfort with such passages of scripture as those that condemn to death apostates and women guilty of adultery. Obviously, surveys are not the whole truth, and I assume that most Western Muslims actually have a much more nuanced approach to life than statistics may lead one to think, but it does seem that there is remarkably little open debate about such issues among Muslims. This despite the fact that some of these attitudes and doctrine are anathema to a society built on the rights of the individual and constitute part of the foundations of jihadist terrorism. Similarly, left-wing and multiculturalist efforts to downplay them or place the blame for jihadist terrorism quasi-exclusively with Western foreign and integration policy (important as those factors are) are not doing anybody any favours either, least of all Muslim dissidents.

Unfortunately, very little of this comes across in Riss’ sloppy and sensationalist op-ed. It’s as if he is talking in the same blunt register as he does in his political cartoons, but without the humour. His defense of secularism–in itself essential to our societal model–is shrill and paranoiac. In the English translation of the piece, he (or perhaps his translator) even likens the purported conspiracy of silence described to terrorism. Strangely, and perhaps somewhat reassuringly, this passage is absent from the French original. The absurd claim that a Muslim baker who does not serve pork is somehow infringing our rights to eat what we like and thereby is complicit in terrorism, however, is present in both and is an execrable example that threatens to remove all sense from his argument–confirming the fundamentally unjust caricature of Charlie as a bigoted, hateful publication.

Of course, the editorial was written by someone who has been on the receiving end of jihadist Kalashnikovs. I expect this makes him see certain things more clearly than I, but it is also well known that anger does not make for great politics.

Information: satirebladet Spot!


I juni sidste år lancerede en gruppe journalister, tegnere og akademikere satirebladet Spot, som er tænkt som en art dansk pendant til Charlie Hebdo. Der er nu kommet fire numre og jeg forsøger at gøre status over det prisværdige men stadig noget tyndbenede initiativ i Information, med implicit forhåbning om mere og bedre og sjovere og grovere i fremtiden. Læs her (paywall).

The Week

The week in review.

Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it. Continue reading ‘The Week’

Information: Charlie Hebdos seneste


I dagens Information har jeg en analyse af Charlie Hebdos seneste provo-tegning, der forestiller sig, hvor 3-årige Aylan Kurdi ville være endt, hvis han havde overlevet. Det er grove løjer, men også business as usual for bladet. Læs mere her (paywall, suk) eller køb avisen.

The Week


The week in review

As is always the case, lots happened this week, but my preoccupation continues to be the implications of the 7 and 9 January 2015 murders in Paris, or at least what they are coming to represent. As Kenan Malik laments in his excellent op-ed piece for Göteborg-Posten, the initial wave of sympathy for the dead and the huge public manifestations which happened as a reaction all over France, and in other countries, exactly one year ago don’t seem to have changed much for the better when it comes to public opinion on freedom of speech and freedom of expression. European countries, France not least among them, continue prosecuting people for various forms of “hate speech” and “terrorist sympathies” while identity politics are leading educated people in increasingly absurd to silence others. And Islamist reactionaries and jihadists seem as determined as ever to silence any perceived transgressors, whether in the West or in Muslim majority countries, most recently and horrifically Saudi Arabia. At the same time, very few in the West are joining Charlie Hebdo in the necessary, continued testing of the boundaries. And frankly Charlie itself is much diminished now that several of their best cartoonists are either dead or have left the publication. Continue reading ‘The Week’

Still at large


Today, and on Saturday, it happened a year ago. In some ways it wasn’t all that new, nor unexpected — jihadist terrorist attacks have happened all over Europe with increasing frequency for the last 10-15 years, and several lower key attempts had been made to silence Charlie Hebdo. In fact, it remains scandalous that they weren’t protected better — the attack on their offices could have been prevented.

Anyway, it seems like a watershed in Europe, creating a “before and after” in many people’s minds. The even more horrible attack in Paris on 13 November, while certainly shocking, only confirmed that everyone is at risk, not only cartoonists or Jews. Beyond that, there is a creeping, dangerous sense of “business as usual.” Probably because that is what it has become to us. Jihadist terrorism is surely here to stay for the foreseeable future, because its root causes are not going to disappear any time soon. And sadly, the influx of refugees from various Muslim majority countries probably isn’t going to help that particular problem. While we should clearly be doing more to help refugees — it is the only right thing to do — the challenges of integration are hard to deny, just like the prospects of peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan remain depressingly bleak. Continue reading ‘Still at large’

Hype: The Rotland Inquiry


Ryan Standfest, publisher at the small-press (dark) humor operation Rotland Press, recently put out the first issue of the Rotland Inquiry, which focuses on Charlie Hebdo, the Paris murders and their aftermath. Standfest has assembled an impressive range of cartoonists, critics and historians who present a variety of viewpoints and thoughts and images on the subject.

The roll call sounds: Stéphane Blanquet, Hugleikur Dagsson, D.B. Dowd, Mort Gerberg, Jeet Heer, Danny Hellman, David Hughes, Paul Krassner, Mark McKinney, Tony Millionaire, Leigh Phillips, Martin Rowson, Johnny Sampson, Mahendra Singh, Art Spiegelman, and um, me. I’m in there with an edited and slightly updated version of one of the pieces I wrote for The Comics Journal back in January.

I’m proud to be in the publication and encourage you to seek it out. It’s well worth it, whatever you think of my contribution.

More on the publication and Rotland Press from contributor D. B. Dowd here and here.

Angoulême 2015 at the Comics Journal


As mentioned a few weeks back, I was once again covering the Angoulême comics festival for The Comics Journal this year. It as a strange, beautiful and slightly oppressive experience being there, three weeks after the Paris killings. This dominates my reports, I’m afraid, but tune in also for views on artists as diverse as Bill Watterson, Alex Barbier, and Taniguchi Jiro, and for thoughts on French comics right now, the state of the Angoulême festival, and the award winners. Onsite reportage parts one and two plus the usual more in-depth aftermath analysis.

Charlie Hebdo and Paris: Post-Mortem


It’s been up for a few days now, but I just wanted to note that part two of my examination of Charlie Hebdo and the significance of the murders in Paris is online at The Comics Journal. Part one is here.

Charlie Hebdo at The Comics Journal


I recently published a review of the latest, 7 million print run-issue of Charlie Hebdo over at The Comics Journal. I have a second article, which delves further into the contentious and complicated issues surrounding the massacre, the cartoons and journalism of the magazine, and a bit of everything else, so stay tuned.

Charlie Hebdo anmeldt i Information


I dagens udgave af Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af ugens med spænding ventede nummer af Charlie Hebdo med den bemærkelsesværdige forside ovenfor. Jeg skrev teksten til en meget stram deadline, så bær over med den lidt stakåndede præsentation, den manglende reflektion og en lidt brutal redigering. Jeg håber at skrive noget mere dybdegående snart.

Nous sommes

Charb (RIP) channels Dostoyevsky's "Grand Inquisitor"


Today witnessed a mockery of the values of human dignity and community, fundamental concepts in all the major religions, not least Islam. It has already been repeated much today, but this really does feel like an attack on us all, and not just in the West, but much more broadly.

My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, while my hopes are with our societies to handle this outrage in the right way. There must be a robust response to the perpetrators and, more broadly, the mindset that motivated them, but ultimately the solution is more democracy and more freedom of expression for everyone, not less. Insha’Allah.

Institution and Individual – French Satire at the Comics Journal


A new instalment on my lamentably irregular column on European comics, “Common Currency” is up over at The Comics Journal. It examines the winners in the two major categories at this year’s Angoulême festival — Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain’s Quai d’Orsay vol. 2 and the work of Grand Prix awardee Willem, exemplified in his latest book Degeulasse. It is an attempt to tease out some of the tendencies in French satire, from the proudly idealistic to the coarsely individualistic. Go, read.

The Week

The Week in Review.

As the Arab Spring is moving into its second, rather messy and somewhat disconcerting phase in certain countries, it figures that we would get another cartoon flareup. The firebombing of the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is yet another low point in the ongoing and increasingly polarized discourse surrounding free speech and religious iconoclasm today. In this post-Danish cartoons landscape, the despicably violent response of the anonymous firebombers naturally tends to get all the attention, but it is also the easiest part of the event to deal with, in that it can be condemned outright.

The real question, as I see it, is why Charlie Hebdo figured it was a good idea once more to trot out the “likeness” of Muhammad. I found Luz’ cover, showing the prophet threatening a hundred lashes to whoever didn’t find it funny, worth a chuckle, but what purpose did it really serve? Why, exactly, did we need this piece of satire? The extra-legal power exercised by Islamic extremists deserves to be mocked and condemned, but it is also something most of us can easily agree to despise (stay safe Charlie!). It seems to me, however, that the blunt instrument of depicting the prophet merely further encourages these maniacs, while broadcasting once again that the beliefs of millions of non-violent Muslims is apparently not worthy of respect here in the West.

Satire has no prerogative to be constructive, but free speech is such a potent idea that ceding it to this kind of bullying is unfortunate. Yes, we are entitled to insult whatever belief we like, religious or otherwise — and that is how it should be (good on Libération to open their offices to Charlie) — but it would reflect well on our principles if we also employed them to speak out against the general coarsening of what was once civilized discourse.

Oh, yes, links:

  • Slavoj Žižek on the Arab Spring, the recession, Occupy Wall St., and everything else going on. Rambling and insightful as usual, Žižek is always good company. It all comes back to communism, of course…
  • Gary Groth interviews R. Crumb. This is perhaps the quintessential Comics Journal interviewer/ee constellation, and although this time around is a little light-weight, it’s still the good and fun read you’d expect from these guys.