‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

Yet another manifestation of France continuing debates over the hijab, one unfortunately that has crossed to Quebec and its Bill 21:
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has weighed in on the Muslim veil controversy, recently reignited by President Emmanuel Macron, by publishing a caricature of him ignoring the alleged Islamization of the French society.

The cartoon – relatively innocent by the standards of the weekly – features a row of sad-looking women, donning Muslim veils, with Macron in front stating: “That’s not my business.” The picture is dubbed “Islamic republic on the move,” in a clear nod to the president’s party – Republic on the Move.

View image on Twitter
Not uncommon for Charlie Hebdo pieces, the cartoon sparked a fierce debate. Many accused the magazine of “drifting to Fascism” and producing quality content for the “far right.” Others, however, lauded the magazine’s ability to exercise the “free speech” and to stick to the traditions of the political caricature.

Muslim veil row reignited

The cartoon refers to the debate on the Muslim veil, an issue raging in France for years. The controversy made fresh headlines on October 11, when a headscarf-clad Muslim woman showed up at the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, accompanying her son’s class during a field trip. The woman was confronted by a politician from Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally, Julien Odoul, who demanded she remove her veil.

The woman’s outfit, Odoul claimed, was a deliberate “provocation” that cannot be tolerated in wake of the recent stabbing of four French policemen. The woman, identified as Fatima E., has filed a complaint over Odoul’s attack since the incident, which she said left the class distressed and traumatized.

While full-face Muslim garments – as well as other kinds of masks – are banned in public spaces in France, headscarves are fine to wear. Still, they are prohibited in public schools “in the spirit of secularism,” alongside with other explicitly religious accessories, such as Jewish kippahs and large Christian crosses. Yet, there’s no law in France that forbids women from wearing headscarves – or anything else they please – during the field trips of their children.

Ambiguous stance of the Elysee

As the France-wide scandal grew, with some calling for a full veil ban while other urged the Elysee to protect the country’s “secularism,” Macron weighed in on the issue, warning against “stigmatizing”Muslims or somehow linking Islam with terrorism. “There is a lot of irresponsibility among political commentators… Communalism is not terrorism.”

But on October 24 he managed to reignite the veil row, stating issue was not “his business” altogether – or at least that’s what was ripped out of context and widely publicized by the French media, including Charlie Hebdo.

“Wearing of headscarf in public spaces is not my business, however, in public services, at school and while educating children, headscarf issue is my business. That is what secularism is about,” Macron said, adding that in certain neighborhoods in France, “some people use the headscarf as a symbol to break one’s connection with the republic.”

Macron’s statement seems to have left virtually everyone dissatisfied. Some said it was the first time in the history of the Republic that its leader said a public matter was not the state’s business, while others said the country needs a strong president, not Pontius Pilate. Macron’s stance on the veil issue was itself met with a mixed reaction, as some found his statement too weak and pandering to the Muslim community, while others, on the contrary, believed it to be ‘Islamophobic’ in essence.

Source: ‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

Charlie ou l’amnésie | Christian Rioux

Christian Rioux of Le Devoir on the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo killings:

Pourtant, chaque fois, c’est la même amnésie qui réapparaît. Comme pour Salman Rushdie, vite abandonné par ses principaux soutiens. Comme pour Théo Van Gogh, dont on a presque oublié le nom. Comme après les meurtres antisémites de Mohamed Merah, aussitôt qualifié de « loup solitaire ». Il aura fallu Charlie et même le Bataclan pour que la France comprenne que le mal était plus profond. L’absence évidente d’un fort contingent arabo-musulman dans les manifestations historiques du 11 janvier 2015 en offrit à tous la preuve irréfutable.

Comme le montre Gilles Képel dans son dernier livre (Terreur dans l’Hexagone, Gallimard), le vieil islam de France est « désormais bousculé par la mouvance salafiste[…]. Cette vision « intégrale » de la religion musulmane construit un grand récit promouvant un apartheid culturel avec la société « mécréante ». Elle recrute principalement parmi les enfants des quartiers relégués, où l’islam est devenu une norme. »

Sans être majoritaire, le salafisme parvient néanmoins à imposer sa loi en s’appuyant sur la culture du consensus qui paralyse partout le monde musulman, malgré quelques voix courageuses. Les ordres ont beau venir de l’extérieur, le terreau qui nourrit le terrorisme est là. C’est lui qui permet aux terroristes de se mouvoir. Exactement comme autrefois une large frange de la gauche marxiste universitaire alimentait des groupes comme les Brigades rouges italiennes ou la Fraction armée rouge allemande.

Ce n’est pas en se reniant que la France viendra à bout du terrorisme. Au contraire. Aujourd’hui, il ne s’agit pas tant pour l’islam français de lutter contre une islamophobie souvent fantasmée (même si la discrimination existe) que de respecter les règles de la nation et de la laïcité française. Point à la ligne. Ce qui implique de vivre, qu’on l’aime ou pas, avec l’humour impertinent de Charlie Hebdo, ainsi que le font toutes les autres religions.

Prétendre naïvement que ce terrorisme n’a rien à voir avec l’islam, comme le font encore tant d’intellectuels et de responsables politiques au Québec comme en France, n’a pas de sens. L’écrivaine bangladaise Taslima Nasreen, exilée aux États-Unis après avoir été menacée par les islamistes, ne dit pas autre chose lorsqu’elle affirme, dans le dernier numéro de Charlie Hebdo, que, « sans évolution et sans réforme de l’islam, la terreur ne disparaîtra pas ».

C’est bien cette réalité terrifiante qui est apparue au grand jour il y a un an.

Charlie Hebdo Editor: Europe’s Problem Is Racism, Not Islamophobia | TIME

Deceased Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier on the need to focus on racism, and the risks of focusing on Islamophobia. Valid arguments, that will likely provoke some debate.

In Canadian context, the previous government’s almost exclusive focus on antisemitism meant broader anti-racism initiatives and programming were neglected. Expect some of this to change with the Liberal government as part of its diversity and inclusion agenda, although likely with a mix of broader messaging and programming and specific community focus (i.e., antisemitism, anti-Muslim):

Minority pressure group activists who seek to impose the concept of “Islamophobia” on judicial and political authorities have only one goal: to persuade the victims of racism to proclaim themselves Muslim. Forgive me, but the fact that racists may also be Islamophobic is essentially incidental. They are racists first, and merely use Islam to target their intended victim: the foreigner or person of foreign extraction. By taking only the racist’s Islamophobia into account, we minimize the danger of his racism. Yesterday’s anti-racism activist is turning into the salesman of a highly specialized commodity: a niche form of discrimination.

The fight against racism is a fight against all forms of racism; but what is the fight against Islamophobia against? Is it against criticizing a religion or against abhorring its practitioners because they are of foreign descent? Racists have a field day when we debate whether it is racist to say the Koran is a useless rag. If tomorrow the Muslims of France were to convert to Catholicism or renounce all religion, it wouldn’t make the least bit of difference to the racists—they would continue to hold these foreigners or French citizens of foreign descent responsible for every affliction.

Okay, so Mouloud and Gérard are Muslims. Mouloud is of North African extraction and comes from a Muslim family; Gérard is of European origin and comes from a Catholic family. Gérard has converted to Islam. Both are trying to rent the same apartment. Assuming they have similar incomes, which of the two Muslims is more likely to get the apartment? The Arab-looking fellow or the white guy? It’s not the Muslim who will be turned away; it’s the Arab. The fact that the Arab bears no outward sign of belonging to the Muslim faith changes nothing. Yet what does the anti-Islamophobia activist do? He charges religious discrimination instead of decrying racism….

Social discrimination, while the subject of much less debate than religious discrimination because it is manifested more insidiously and discreetly, is nevertheless far more predominant in France. Managers choose their future employees less on the basis of their religious membership, true or supposed, than, for instance, on their place of residence. Between the Mouloud who lives in upscale Neuilly-sur-Seine and the Mouloud who lives in the down-at-heel banlieue of Argenteuil, which of the two, assuming they are of equal competence, is more likely to get the job? Yet who ever talks about this kind of discrimination? People are massively discriminated against based on their social class, but since a large proportion of the poor—whom no one wants hanging around their place of work, their neighborhood, or their building—is made up of people of foreign descent and, among these, a great many of Muslim origin, the Islamic activist will claim that the problem is Islamophobia.

Source: Charlie Hebdo Editor: Europe’s Problem Is Racism, Not Islamophobia | TIME

Missing the Point of Charlie Hebdo. Again. – The Daily Beast on satire

Charlie_Hebdo_RefugeesGreat point on once again how many critics of Charlie Hebdo don’t get satire (the offending cartoon above):

Satire is, by definition, offensive. It is meant to make us feel uncomfortable. It is meant to make us scratch or heads, think, do a double-take and then think again. It is supposed to take our prejudices, turn them upside down, reapply them, and make us think we’re seeing something we’re not, until we stop to question ourselves.

Yes taste is always in the eye of the beholder. But that’s the whole point of goodsatire. It is not meant to be to our tastes. It is meant to challenge our tastes. Having our fundamental assumptions about life challenged is never a comfortable thing. Bringing this back to the subject at hand, far from insulting him, these cartoons about Aylan are a damning indictment on the anti-refugee sentiment that has spread across Europe. The McDonald’s image is a searing critique of our heartless European consumerism, in the face of one of the worst human tragedies of our times. In particular, this image plays on the notion that while we moan there are not enough resources to cope with the influx of refugees, we simultaneously offer two for one McDonald’s Happy Meals to our own children. The image about Christians walking on water while Muslims drown is — so — critiquing what the magazine views as hypocritical European Christian “love” and truly bigoted claims, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s, that Europe is a “Christian” civilization.

Hebdo is no more racist a magazine than that bastion of liberal media The New Yorker was when it depicted Obama dressed as a Muslim, fist-bumping his angry black-revolutionary wife Michelle.

Not to our taste? Okay. Make us cringe? Fair enough. Don’t like them? Fine. But whatever we do, let us not misrepresent these images. Juxtaposing images of a dead child next to offers of cheap food “meal deals” is not mocking little Aylan, it is mocking us. It is mocking us for what we miss every single day, hidden in plain sight, and we do not see it because this is how desensitized we have become to human suffering. No, those besieged, brave satirists at Hebdo are not mocking Aylan. They are mocking newspaper covers like this from the UK right-wing tabloid The Daily Mail in which an image of Aylan was — in a national newspaper —  placed below an actual food deal. And how many of us noticed that on the day this Daily Mail cover went to print?

Poe’s law refers to a standard by which satire can be judged to be too good, where parodies of extreme views are so well performed that they are indistinguishable from the real thing. Yes, if those courageous disturbers of our conscience at Charlie Hebdo — those who survived the massacre that is —- are guilty of anything, it is that they are too good at their job.

Source: Missing the Point of Charlie Hebdo. Again. – The Daily Beast

Stephen Colbert Opens Up About His Devout Christian Faith, Islam, Pope Francis, and More

From the interview and his noting historical parallels:

Colbert, who taught Catholic Catechism for several years, says he thinks there is a responsibility with devotion. When Rosica asked him about religious fanaticism and the Charlie Hebdo murders, Colbert said that the Catholic Church was once that extreme. He also said he’s relieved he wasn’t doing a show when the Hebdo massacre took place. “There’s no sufficient response I could’ve thought of at that moment, and I felt very lucky not to be on-air at that time,“ said Colbert. “When a big story happens, I would think, ‘I wish I were on-air to talk about this,’ that one was like, ‘I’m so glad I’m not because I don’t have anything I think that approaches it.”

But he said his second reaction to the murders was to look at his own faith. “If this were the 14th Century, Christians could have done this,” he said. “If the 15th Century Christians might have been offended to the point of violence, at blaspheme. You know, check your history books. So, in an ultimate sense, I do not perceive that action, is indicative of Islam…I’m not trying to make a moral equivalency between the Christianity of the Middle Ages and these people, who are doing this horror right now, but every religion has been so defensive of its beliefs that it has actually abandoned its beliefs at times.”

Colbert said that he hopes his connection to his faith helps him find his humor. “We know that I could do my show and make jokes about the Church, and now sit with a priest and laugh about it, that’s a fairly modern behavior,” he said. “That’s not a hundred-year-old behavior, this is a modern behavior—this is, I hope, the right relationship to have with your faith, which is to love it, but not to exclude it from your intellect.”

Source: Stephen Colbert Opens Up About His Devout Christian Faith, Islam, Pope Francis, and More – The Daily Beast

Art Spiegelman: Je Suis Charlie—But I’m Not Pamela Geller

Cartoonist Art Spiegelman on the differences between Charlie Hebdo and Pamela Geller. One of the best:

I think that’s when my brain short-circuited. Because superficially, it seems like, well, the same thing is happening in Texas. But it’s not. It’s the anti-matter, Bizarro World, flipside, mirror-logic version of what Charlie Hebdo is about.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative is racist organization. It’s exactly the nightmare version that the writers who were protesting the PEN award thought Charlie was. But Charlie is an anti-racist, political magazine that does not have an agenda that consists of wanting to bait or trouble Muslims.

Pam Geller’s organization is intentionally trying to start war of culture with Islam by saying that all Muslims are terrorists under the surface, and we’re going to prove it. Do the group members deserve free speech protection? Of course. But they’re hiding behind that banner with things that have very little to do with free speech and a lot to do with race hate.

Je suis Charlie, mais je ne suis pas Pam Geller. She and her dim-witted, ugly organization deserve the protection of the free speech mantle that they wrap themselves in. But would I ever give them a courage award? Hardly. Would I ever want to be in the same room with them? No. Do I wish they would stop? Yes.

The PEN writers who protested the event were projecting similar motives and attitudes onto Charlie Hebdo. Dismissing it as French arrogance is quite arrogant. Dismissing it as crude and vulgar is something that makes me suspicious of how cartoons are viewed by the writers who didn’t have enough respect for these images to understand them on their own.

…. I’m stuck having to agree with my bête noir friend Pam Geller that it would be better going forward for newspapers and magazines to take on the responsibility for showing these images. When the Danish Muhammad cartoons appeared in 2006, and when the Mohammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo appeared, newspapers should have shown these images and talked about them. Many dismissed them as banal and treated them as, “Nothing to see here, move along.”

If it were taken as a matter of course for newspapers and magazines to show these images, they could be normalized, so the many Muslims not offended to the point of grabbing a machine gun could understand that this is how our culture functions with images and issues. It would create a better-informed population dealing with whatever comes next. It would also be useful to have other voices on newspaper and magazine staffs.

What’s the mistake in not publishing images that could be deemed offensive?

There’s no stopping it. What would it be based on? Would it be based on when someone takes up arms against the image? Would it be based on when someone thinks it’s offensive? God knows where the line would be drawn. It can’t be drawn that way. There is an incredible efficiency cartoons have, once you learn to read them, in clarifying the issues at hand, making them memorable.

There’s something basic about cartoons. They work they way the brain works. We think in small, iconic images. An infant can recognize a smiley face before it can recognize its mother’s smile. We think in little bursts of language. This is how cartoons are structured. They’re structured to talk to something deep inside our brains. A cartoon becomes a new kind of word that didn’t exist before.

It’s interesting how little respect they get. “Oh, anyone could draw that crude, vulgar scrawl,” said a number of critics of Charlie Hedbo. That’s not quite true. They’re not totally dismissible. If a writer had made some of the points that Charlie Hebdo had made, I don’t think the writers protesting PEN would have been so condescending and dismissive.

Art Spiegelman: Je Suis Charlie—But I’m Not Pamela Geller | TIME.

Charlie Hebdo Editor Seeks to Distance Newspaper From Anti-Islam Causes – NYTimes.com

The numbers tell the story (7 out of 500 or 1.4 percent):

“Out of 500 covers in the past 10 years, only seven were made about Islam,” he [Gérard Biard] said. “So it’s not our obsession. We’re dealing with politics, we’re dealing with other religions.”

Ms. Geller has called the attack in Garland, Tex., in which both assailants were killed, a defeat for “the enemies of freedom” that validated the art contest — which she said had been held in part to honor Charlie Hebdo.

Asked how the Charlie Hebdo attack may have influenced a right-wing surge in French politics, Mr. Biard criticized Ms. Le Pen for portraying herself and her supporters as defenders of free speech.

“Marine Le Pen has a political agenda,” he said. “Her goal is to be elected in two years, to become president. She’s doing what every political leader does. She’s used an event and tried to transform this event into something for her own purpose.”

“The thing is, Marine Le Pen is not credible on that issue, because she is an extreme-right politician,” Mr. Biard said. “She runs an extreme-right party, with religious extremists in there. So when she attacks Islam, she in fact attacks Arab people.”

By contrast, Mr. Biard said, “when we mock a religion, we don’t knock believers, we don’t mock people. We mock institutions. We mock ideas.”

Mr. Biard was in New York to receive an award on Tuesday for “freedom of expression courage” at a literary gala sponsored by PEN American Center, a prominent literary organization that defends writers around the world.

The choice of Charlie Hebdo to receive the award has incited angry contention within the organization. More than 200 of its approximately 4,000 members have signed a letter protesting what they called Charlie Hebdo’s violation of acceptable expression, asserting that the newspaper’s cartoons have promoted anti-Muslim bigotry.

Mr. Biard, who has been the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo for the past 10 years, said that the PEN protesters were entitled to their opinion but that he rejected their criticism.

“We have always been anti-racist, and we fight against all discrimination,” he said.

Mr. Biard also said that the newspaper, which derives its revenue exclusively from subscriptions, had gone from fewer than 10,000 before the January assault to more than 250,000 today.

Charlie Hebdo Editor Seeks to Distance Newspaper From Anti-Islam Causes – NYTimes.com.

It’s not about Islam, it’s about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award are missing the point – Salon.com

One of the better commentaries on the Charlie Hebdo and PEN controversy by Laura Miller:

It isn’t always easy to judge where power resides. Islamophobia is a real problem, but so is Islamic fundamentalism — and even just good ol’ fashioned patriarchal religious authoritarianism. Most of the targets of Muslim extremism are other Muslims. Muslim writers, artists and cartoonists are subject to religious censorship on a routine basis across the Muslim world. Islam cannot be simply or easily equated with victimhood, even if Muslims are discriminated against in French society.

And yet even in France, extremist Muslims seized the power to impose the ultimate punishment on the staff of Charlie Hebdo for, in the words of Salman Rushdie, “drawing pictures.” They were able to do so only with the backing of an organized, well-funded international network that, when it comes to criticism of their beliefs, would gladly shut down the speech rights of everyone, regardless of faith or nationality. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a significant initiative in their campaign to do just that. It was not a one-off, or an uprising of the powerless, even if its organizers are able to play on real grievances to hoodwink young men into executing homicidal and suicidal actions.

As I’ve written before, Charlie Hebdo’s humor is too crude and obvious to appeal to me, but I’m predisposed to favor anyone who takes religious authorities down a peg. Raised in the Catholic Church, I regard anti-clerical campaigns as anything but passé; my own experience suggests to me that some French Muslims might find irreverent portrayals of the prophet, however crass, to be a crowbar prying open the confining box of tradition and piety. I don’t think anyone should be forced into secularism, but history tells us that this is far less of a threat than the compulsion — enforced by the state or by a more intimate community — to believe and observe. For this reason, I feel that no religion should be shielded from ridicule and satire; organized religion is always a form of power.

Rushdie has excellent cause to fear violent Islamic extremism, which Charlie Hebdo always maintained was the true object of its mockery. It’s likely that Eisenberg, a Jew, and Cole, a black man, have a heightened sensitivity to scenarios in which racial caricatures appear in publications indulged or encouraged by a prejudiced state. And from what my French friends tell me, there are all kinds of cultural signals in those cartoons that Anglophones miss, leading them to radically misinterpret the jokes. We’re all entitled to interpret them in our own way, of course, and even to repudiate them for what we think we see there. But what we can’t do with any real credibility is decide what they mean to somebody else.

It’s not about Islam, it’s about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award are missing the point – Salon.com.

And the contrary view by Philip Slayton and Tasleem Thawar of PEN Canada which I find less convincing, as it only focuses on one community, not recognizing that Charlie Hebdo, as noted above, aims for equity among the largely religious groups it offends:

Clearly, Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish should be defended. But does an obligation to defend something entail an obligation to celebrate it? We often recognize and celebrate writers who are silenced by the state or other powerful groups – still the primary threats to free speech around the world. And PEN has always been committed, as stated in the PEN charter, to dispelling race, class and national hatreds. This is why celebrating Charlie Hebdo is complicated. While Charlie Hebdo journalists were victims of a horrific attack on free expression, there are good arguments that regardless of their intentions, their work can be used to promote hate and further marginalize an already disenfranchised community.

The same argument holds true for PEN American’s impending celebration of Charlie Hebdo. Certainly Charlie Hebdo was courageous in continuing to publish, despite threats and, indeed, the murders of its journalists. In awarding this prize, PEN American clearly distinguishes between agreeing with Charlie Hebdo’s message, and applauding their bravery. But, as the six writers who are boycotting the PEN Gala are aware, despite intentions, the PEN award may very well be perceived as an endorsement of a magazine that continues to lampoon a disempowered group with scathing and provocative cartoons, and used to bolster the arguments of those who seek to further marginalize them. No organization can expect unwavering support from within its ranks when it makes difficult choices on sensitive matters. PEN represents writers with widely differing viewpoints – it has always embraced controversy and encouraged dissent.

 We celebrated Charlie Hebdo’s right to offend – and some took offence 

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award

A fair amount of coverage and commentary with respect to Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award on both sides of the issue (I lean towards Rushdie’s position):

Six writers have withdrawn as literary hosts of the 2015 PEN American Center gala, criticizing the organization’s choice to honor satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the Freedom of Expression Courage award—a move author Salman Rushdie calls “horribly wrong.”

The writers—Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose and Taiye Selasi—believe it’s wrong to reward the publication for free speech, since they feel its depiction of Islam was often offensive, the New York Times reports. Carey acknowledged that the terrorist act that killed many of Charlie Hebdo‘s staff members was “a hideous crime,” but also noted that France as a nation “does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”

Though Rushdie (whose death was called for by a Muslim leader over his book The Satanic Verses) calls both Carey and Ondaatje “old friends,” he said the choice of Charlie Hebdo was perfectly appropriate. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others,” he told the Times, “is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award | TIME.

Commentary magazine, while predictably using this to assail the left, nevertheless has a point:

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Indeed. Liberals have apparently graduated from telling Muslims what is and isn’t truly Islamic to telling Muslims (and their victims) what is and isn’t blasphemy. According to the left, blasphemy is not a religious term so much as it just shouldn’t be applied to people who draw yucky pictures. This is, to say the least, a standard that bodes poorly for those who truly do support free speech. Where are their allies going to come from if not from free-speech organizations?

And there’s also something quite hilarious in the don’t-worry-Rushdie-you’re-still-good defensiveness in the anti-Charlie Hebdo group. That may be true today, but for how long will it continue to be true? At what point will the left finally throw Rushdie under that bus? Because that moment is coming, and I suspect everyone knows it.

The Left Will Disown Rushdie Too; the Only Question Is When

The Globe’s editorial board tries to find a middle approach:

For writers who deal in human complexity like Mr. Ondaatje, context matters. If an awards night is to be more than a self-congratulatory fundraiser, abstract notions like freedom of expression and courage must defer to a harder literary question: Should the boundaries of both free speech and courage necessarily adapt to local realities?

Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, working in the persistent French spirit of secularism and anticlericalism, saw themselves as caricaturing a monolithic sect that consistently behaves with barbaric cruelty and unreason. Islam, for Charlie Hebdo, became an updated version of the Catholic Church, and so a deserving target of ferocious satire.

But for the dissenting authors at PEN, these broad-brushed satirical attacks necessarily had damaging consequences at the human level. France’s colonial past has produced a modern culture of inequality, they say. In Paris, where encouraging anti-Islamic sentiments shades too easily into racism, Muslims are much more likely to be the oppressed than the oppressors PEN normally rails against.

For other prominent PEN members, all this literary ambivalence is a weak-kneed diversion from the no-compromise ideals of free speech. Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about attempts to limit free expression, said his old friend Mr. Ondaatje was “horribly wrong.” But he’s not wrong, just different – and right to avoid the gala’s awkward culture of unanimity.

 Charlie Hebdo deserves praise, but not at all costs 

The lesson of Charlie Hebdo? We need more free speech, not less – Globe Editorial

Globe editorial nails it:

In Canada, it appears a growing list of objectionable ideas and beliefs are to be hunted down and subjected to the full weight of the state. And so it was that, on Monday, the borough council presided over by Mr. Ménard amended its definition of a community centre to specifically forbid religious teaching, effectively shutting down Mr. Chaoui’s aspirations.

More rule-tightening will presumably follow; Mr. Coderre has gone so far as to say, “I oppose radicalism in all its forms.”

Otherwise sane provincial lawmakers in Quebec have been involved in a multi-partisan argument, now in its second year, around how to legislate against religious fundamentalism. There hasn’t been much of an argument over whether that’s a good thing to do; it seems to be a given.

In Ottawa, meanwhile, the expansion of the police state continues apace, fuelled by the irrational Islamic State fears ginned up by the Conservative government.

What if the solution to all of this were as simple as more free speech?

In the marketplace of ideas, hateful, offensive and small-minded beliefs can and should be vigorously confronted. But instead of using the law to shut them down, fight back with speech that shows them up. Incitement to violence is a crime, and always has been. But some of the speech politicians are talking about shutting down falls well short of that long-standing legal line.

Opinions can be changed. Bad ideas can be shunted aside. People can stop listening to nonsense, or they can never start in the first place. That is essentially what happened to Mr. Chaoui’s reactionary spiel in Anjou.

The process was working swimmingly. And then the politicians got involved.

The lesson of Charlie Hebdo? We need more free speech, not less – The Globe and Mail.