Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Charlie Hebdo (2): more double standards

Joe Sacco, in a full-page cartoon strip in The Guardian (10.1),  I think just about got the balance right.  He notes,  as does Tariq Ramadan, that Charlie Hebdo once sacked Maurice Siné (or Sinet) for an allegedly anti-semitic cartoon.

One aspect of the intellectual mood in France,  before the attacks,  was captured in Michel Houellebecq's latest novel,  which is due to be published in English later this year:  it envisages a future in which the "Islamic party" wins the 2022 presidential election.  This seems to me somewhat hysterical,  though some disagree.

As both Nabila Ramdani on BBC WS, Weekend 10.1,  and Abdullah al Andalusi on Channel 4 News, 12.1,  point out,  France is not consistent in allowing freedom of expression,  since muslims have restrictions imposed on their dress,  on schoolgirls wearing the hijab (headscarf) and more recently on the wearing of the burqa and niqab in public.

In a way that we anglo-saxones find difficult to understand,  many in France,  including "liberals" and those on the left,  worship secularism (or laïcité) as an end in itself,  making of it a kind of fourth pillar of the Republic along with liberty,  equality and fraternity. (1)

At the press conference for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the attack,  one of the editorial board said,  'If you say "I am Charlie, you should also say "I am secularism" ' (BBC WS, 13.1, 22:09).

You do not have to push this  much further to arrive at the position of the Front national. Marine Le Pen:  "we have to oppose all demands that aim to shatter secularism [..] Demands that create special rules that would allow Muslims to behave differently."  (interview on AJE, 13.1). (2)

(1) There is a small but articulate minority that opposes the dominant trend.  Here's Christine Delphy: "nous assistons depuis les massacres des 7, 8 et 9 janvier au retour en force d’un néo-laïcisme autoritaire".  And Pierre Tevanian: "« Laïcité sacrée » : cet invraisemblable slogan, figurant sur des autocollants arborés lors d’une manifestation commémorant le centenaire de la loi de 1905, indique à quel point la laïcité a été, au sens propre, sacralisée". He reminds us of Jacques Chirac's « on ne doit pas toucher aux piliers du temple ».

(2)  Ms Le Pen is leading in opinion polls since the attack,  but she would lose in the second round of the presidentielle (The Times, 31.1).

For more about how muslims feel about the "secular" state in France,  listen to or download Assignment from the BBC WS, broadcast last Sunday (2.2, also 29.1).