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jeudi 2 février 2006

Danish cartoons - Doing away with the Enlightenment ?

par Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologue et coordonnatrice de Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Écrits d'Élaine Audet

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Facts :

30.09.2005 : the conservative Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons portraying Prophet Muhammad : Muslim groups in Copenhagen demand public excuses ; this is followed by death threats and demonstrations.

20.10.05 : several embassadors from Muslim countries officially protested against the cartoons and the newspapers.

2.12.05 : the Arab League made official protest.

21 .01 2006 : International Union of Ulema in Cairo called for boycott of Danish and Norvegian products, after a Norvegian magazine reprinted the cartoons in January, in an attempt to explain to its readers the rise of ’Muslim’ protest.

On 1. 02, for the very same reasons, other European newspapers reprinted them too.

Despite ’excuses’ et ’regrets’ formally presented by concerned newspapers, and after ambiguous statements made by both the Danish and Norvegian gouvernments in an attempt to pacify everyone, some Arab countries demanded sanctions, and called back their embassadors.

Finally riots sparked, embassies were burnt down in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Indonesia, etc... and fundamentalists groups declared that any citizen from the countries that published these cartoons will now be a target.

Everyday there is worse escalation

October 17, 2005 : the Egyptian newspaper Al Fager prints the cartoons, in the heart of the month of Ramdan without inducing any reaction either vis a vis the journalists or vis a vis the editors of the paper. : the ’Muslims’ show total indifference. It is clear that it took four months to Danish fundamentalists to stir up opinion through activating their fundamentalist networks in the Middle East. Then only did ’Muslims’ feel offended.

February 2006 : several journalists and newspapers from the Algerian independant press decide to publish the cartoons in total indifference of the Algerian masses. For them it is a way to take side, to show the gap between the actual cartoons and the reactions that have been ingeneered, and in wake of the lack of freedom of expression and freedom of information in this country, it is also a way to stand for it. Both the journalists and the directors of the newspapers are imprisonned.

February 9, 2006 : the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) lobby the Human Rights Commission at the UN in order to insert a new language into the next resolution of the HRC, using the term of ’blasphemy’.


What is most worrysome in my views, in this controversy over the Danish cartoons, is that we are reduced to a narrowing range of political options in Europe :
 on the one hand, Muslim fundamentalists, i.e. a political extreme right movement working under the cover of religion, that grabs any opportunity to appear as victims of the atheist West and to push their agenda forward, while Europe would make any form of compromise and trade it against social peace
 on the other hand, a racist European extreme right movement that would make use of any demonstration or riot to legitimize migrant’ bashing, especially those of ’Muslim’ descent.

Where is the left movement ? Where are progressive forces ? They are eaten up from within by doubts and hesitations, precisely because of fear of being accused of racism, because of the colonial past, because of the actual discrimination against migrants from Muslim countries and communities. The left has given up its role and duties. It lacks political clarity regarding differenciating between ’Muslims’, ’migrants’, ’fundamentalists’, thus serving unwittingly the interests of the two extreme rights in presence. It has no analysis of its own to offer.

For what is actually happening ? Have you seen these cartoons ? They are not especially good and rather dull , except for the one that shows a bomb in the turban of Muhammad,- which indeed is problematic insofar as it lumps together Muslims and fundamentalists.

May one recall for a while the kind of cartoons that are regularly published in France, for instance, against the Pope, the Vatican and the Catholic Church : they are a thousand time more pungent, funny and cruel than the sad Danish cartoons representing the Prophet. Just imagine for a second that millions and millions of catholics throughout the world - not just a handful of cranks as sometimes happened in the past - burn embassies and threaten the lives of ordinary people who unluckily happen to share a national identity with the newspapers that published such cartoons...

You will say ’they have lost it !’ and right you are ! But then why on earth is it that no one says so when it comes to Muslim fundamentalists doing such things ? Why ? Why does the left looses its critical edge and allows the racist extreme right to be the only one to react ?

Indeed the left does not approve the "excess" of fundamentalists, but when it comes to substance, they walk on tip toe, they call for nuances - one should not offend... one should not blaspheme....

Yes ! this is the word that is now permanently uttered on French TV, by the widest political diversity of speakers : "blasphemy" ! Since when is this word part of the conceptual apparatus of the secular French Republic ? Only believers can blaspheme.....

Moreover one should not be accused of "Islamophobia" for the only reason that one does not impose on oneself the various restrictions that believers freely choose to impose upon themselves.

Let us remember the controversy over the veil in school (i.e. a legal disposition exclusively applicable to minors under age 16, within the premices of the school) ; let us remember the demand for separate swimming pools for men and women, boys and girls ; let us remember the demand for separate wards in hospitals and within it, the demand for an exclusively female personnel for women ( while France does not have enough medical doctors whether males or females) ; let us remember the demand not just for no-pork meals, but for wholy hallal meals , in school cafeteria ; let us remember the demand for a different cursus in schools for girls - who should not be entitled to classes in sport, biology, music, art .... - Did we say art ? Drawing ? Yes indeed : for Muslim fundamentalists, human representation is forbidden, hence the rest of humanity should stop drawing human figures - and if they do not, it is because the rest of humanity is Islamophobic, because it does not respect the beliefs of The Other.

For decades already, it has been the strategy of fundamentalists : if you do not think and act lik,e us, if you do not obey our orders, you are against Islam, since we fundamentalists are the true and only representatives of Islam.

This was their discourse in Algeria, vis a vis other Muslims - that they considered as Kofr and slaughtered for this very reason. It is also the discourse that they have now in Europe, but unfortunately they succeed in intimidating quite a few people with this ill reasonning !

What we see coming into Europe and into France, largely under the influence of Muslim fundamentalists, is the imposition of forced religious identities and forced "respect" for modes of behaviors and thinking that are specific to religion. Thus Muslim fundamentalists in France are gaining ground, for there is no force on the left to confront them, to put limits to their freedom when it tramples others’ freedom.

The only ones who dare raise their voices are progressive Muslims as well as agnostics and atheists originally from Muslim countries - who fled fundamentalism in their own countries and fear the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Europe and know what they will loose in the process -, but media are not in the least interested in them. Unfortunately, the only ones to whom media give a platform are the fundamentalists, as if the only true Muslims in their eyes were the fundamentalists, as if a Muslim had to be a fundamentalist, otherwise he is not truly a Muslim... Is it unconscious racism ?

There is no doubt in my mind that neither the writings of Voltaire, nor those of Montesquieu will be published in France today. Publishers will not take a chance, for fear of a fatwa being issued against them. For who would defend them ? No one. Publishers would be told that they ’provoked’ "Muslims", that they do not respect others’ beliefs and culture : it is only last year that a play by Voltaire was taken out of the program of a theater company in Geneva, Switzerland, under pressure from Muslim fundamentalists who said the play was offensive and blasphemous. ...And no, it did not prompt general outcry, - no....

It is very clear to me that we are heading towards a profound modification of European values. The European Parliament already gave us valuable indicators of this shift, when it discussed whether Christianism should be specified in the Constitution as a common value of Europeans, and whether blasphemy should be criminalised under European laws. In both cases, the representatives of the secular French Republic opposed these propositions. However, their hesitations are more and more visible, even at the time of the veil controversy. One can feel that they are more and more ready to compromise with Muslim fundamentalists, in the name of respect of cultures and religions, in the name of anti racism, in the name of freedom of expression, etc...

Progressive forces bare a huge responsibility in this state of affairs : they have adopted the apolitical discourse of human rights, which efficiently served the interests of a fascist faction of the so-called Muslims and condoned the representation of a whole community of migrants by a right wing coalition that ranges from deeply conservatives to plain fascists.

The European left miserably failed to take position at the time of the Rusdie affair, already - and European governments lacked political clarityregarding the political nature of fundamentalism, especially Denmark which hosted for decades the murderers, members of FIS, AIS, GIA etc... who enjoyed there a safe haven from where they could organize and finance, among other crimes, the killings and bombings against the people in Algeria. What happens on their soil now is only a consequence of long years of political inconsequence.

If anything good could come out, at this stage, of such a disastrous situation, then let us hope that the ridiculous controversy over Danish cartoons, far from leading to public apologies by coward European Heads of State to ’ the Muslims of the world’ ( who are not asking such a thing - it is exclusively a fundamentalist demand), will finally raise political issues : will European governments and European progressive forces go on allowing fundamentalists to speak in the name of all so-called "Muslims" (i.e. both believers and non believers, provided they originated in Muslim countries), or will they at long last give to progressive forces migrated from Muslim countries the place of valid representatives that they deserve ? With their help, will social problems that urgently need a response be spelt out and solved, so that they will no longer be a pretext and a justification for the religious endoctrination of youth - a youth that crave for social recognition, social integration, and decent work, in Europe.

In 1765, in a northern city of the then Christian Kingdom of France, a young man, the Chevalier De LaBarre, age 19, was accused of refusing to take off his hat while a religious procession was passing by the street , and he was convicted of blasphemy.. The fact that he owned a copy of the ’Philosophical Dictionary’ by Voltaire was an additional proof against him. He was atrociously tortured before being executed.

Historians consider this to be the final straw that sparked the Republic’s total separation of state from religion : under French secularism, religious beliefs are a private affair : it follow suit that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the state, but subsequently, beyond this security, the state does not interfere in any way with religions. No citizen has to bend ever to others’ religious beliefs nor to follow their religious rules.

If progressive forces are not clear enough now, si progressive Muslims together with agnostics and atheists from Muslim countries are not heard now when they warn Europeans, then new Chevaliers De La Barre will be tortured and executed for not bending to fundamentalist orders and rules, in the heart of Europe, and secularism will fadeunder Taliban-like boot.

For those who believe neither in one god nor in several, it is inconceivable that they should publicly adore what for them is only man made idols. It is the undisputed right of belivers to do so right, but the laws of the Republic, European laws or international treaties should by no means impose it on others .

Marieme Helie Lucas, February 15, 2006

Women Living Under Muslim Laws

On Sisyphe, February 19, 2006

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Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologue et coordonnatrice de Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologue algérienne, a fondé avec d’autres femmes le Réseau international de solidarité Femmes Sous Lois Musulmanes et elle est la coordonnatrice de Secularism Is A Women’s Issue.

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