If Charlie Hebdo is racist, then so am I — Zineb el-Rhazoui responds to Olivier Cyran

Once more on the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Since it happened more than a week ago, various commentators have explored the issue of the magazine’s alleged Islamophobia. A quality that, if I might say so myself, is quite often in evidence. Nevertheless, the matter is more complex and opaque than a few unambiguously racist images lifted from their original context would suggest.

For starters, I’d recommend checking out the Olivier Cyran article from 2013, translated by Daphne Lawless, to get a sense of some of the internal dissent that existed within their editorial team since 2001. But I’ve done some looking around and learned that even this article probably isn’t definitive, since it’s pretty clear Cyran had a messy falling out with some of the staff at Charlie Hebdo. Still, I don’t think Cyran can be entirely discredited even if he did have an axe to grind with some of the staff.

And there’s also this, a riposte written by a Muslim woman who worked for Charlie Hebdo when Cyran’s article appeared. She points out that he omitted her name in discussing the various cartoonists at the magazine. Which she says is an understandable mistake, pouring salt on the wound, since her name is “difficult to remember,” signing it in full at the end: Zaynab bint Mohammad ibn al-Mâatî al-Rhazwî al-Harîzî. Either way, however, it seems beyond question that Philippe Val — the editor who took over after 2001 — is an ardent Zionist and neocon creep. His promotion to this position would seem in line with the magazine’s overall rightward drift, post-9/11.

Regardless, I’m reposting a slightly modified translation of the Zineb el-Rhazoui reply by Seth Ackerman below. It appears in a link toward the end of his most recent Jacobin piece, but since many may not have read it I thought I’d give it a broader platform. Like Kenan Malik, el-Rhazoui is a thorn in the side of “white knight” do-gooders from the Marxist camp, like Richard Seymour, who’d like to simplify matters and speak out on behalf of all the Muslim immigrants living in Europe. Maybe she’ll be tarred as just another Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a liberal interventionist and outspoken critic of Islam. Or maybe, just maybe, she’ll be read on her own terms.

[I will only add that the translation of Gruppe Soziale Kämpfe’s statement on the persecution of Muslims throughout the West is worth reading, and that it can be found on Comrade Seymour’s blog.]


If Charlie is racist, then so am I

Zineb el-Rhazoui
Cercle des volontaires
December 22, 2013

On December 5th [2013], I learned in the press that I have a terrible disease. The diagnosis, by Olivier Cyran on the website Article 11, is definitive: I am a racist. Being of French citizenship, I was anxious to identify which races were likely to activate my white-woman antibodies before the malady could advance any further. My suspicions naturally gravitated to the descendants of those exotic hordes who are said to be invading Old France to steal our bread, my bread. The Chinese? I’ve received no Asian complaint on this score. The blacks of Africa and elsewhere? That happens to be the color of the man I love. The drinkers of vodka? I just came back from a year’s exile in Slovenia and don’t especially remember being allergic to Slavic charms. Who then? “Whites”? I wouldn’t venture to think Olivier Cyran could adhere to the theory of “anti-white racism.” No. I didn’t have to make it far into the piece to be reassured that his diagnosis was more precise: my racism, thank God (that idiot), is only aimed at Muslims, and I  contracted this dangerous syndrome from the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo. An occupational illness, then. Because Olivier Cyran is himself a veteran of the shop, though I never had the pleasure of meeting him — since he had the luck, and the balls, according to him, to get out before the infection could spread  through the paper — I’ve decided to address him as tu, since we use tu among colleagues at Charlie.

Olivier, you start from the premise that the Muslims of Azerbaijan, of Bosnia, of Malaysia, Egypt or Burkina Faso, represent a single whole that can be designated as a “race.” Well, it so happens that that’s the one I belong to. The fact that I’m an atheist, and proud of it? It makes no difference, since you don’t ask us what we think; you talk about racism, and therefore race. I won’t keep beating around the bush, since I don’t doubt for a second that, like me, you perfectly understand the distinction between a religion and a race. If you make this lamentable conflation, it’s because you engage in a sociological fallacy whose origins lie in the demography of France: our Muslims are most often those we call “Arabs.” I’m sort of starting to understand why you speak of racism. But let’s try to be precise: we’re not talking about the Arabs of Lebanon, who are rarely encountered in the French projects, nor the persecuted Arab Ahwazi minority of Iran, whom nobody in France talks about, and certainly not the Arabs of Qatar who keep Louis Vuitton in business.  No, you’re talking about the “Arabs” of North Africa. (And here again, it so happens to be the “race” from whence I sprang). Moreover, for your information, those “Arabs” aren’t always Arabs. The best-informed people in France know that they are Berbers, a word of Greek origin, “Bearded,” which refers to us Amazighes, Imazighen — Free Men, as we like to call ourselves. I am thus triply qualified to dispel the obvious confusion you manifest when you identify those you claim to be defending: the Muslim race.

A Muslim you will stay

Among the individuals that you assign to this racial category, there are militant atheists like me, obviously secularist [laïque]. There are atheists who have other fish to fry, they are secularists too. There are atheists who love Charlie Hebdo and support it; others less so or not at all. There are agnostics, skeptics, free-thinkers, deists; they are secularists as well. There are believers who are non-practicing but politically Islamist, practicing but secularist, or even those with “no opinion,” whose daily lives do not suffer because of Charlie Hebdo. There are converts to Christianity — and oh, are they secularist, for they’ve endured the terrors of theocracy in their countries of origin. And finally there are the fundamentalists [intégristes], the militant Islamists, the adherents of an identity defined above all by religion, and those are the ones you have chosen to defend. Those are the ones who, given the reality of  French laïcité, have no other choice than to cry racism, a tear in their eye and a hand on their heart, on the pretext that their “religious feelings” have been mocked by a drawing in Charlie. Among them you will find many who stand for laïcité in France but vote Ennahda in Tunisia, who do their shopping at a Parisian halal butcher but would cry scandal if an eccentric decided to open a charcuterie in Jeddah. Who are outraged when a day care center fires a veiled employee but say nothing when someone they know forces his daughter to wear the veil. They are a minority. But they are the standard to which you have chosen to align the identity of all of us.

Enough generalities, which I didn’t think a man of the pen needed to be reminded of. If I’ve taken up mine to answer you, it is not solely to defend myself from racism, but above all because in my journalist’s memory I have rarely resented an opinion column as much as I did yours. If you will allow an Arab to address her own complaint, let me tell you that your rhetoric and arguments are the most sophisticated variety of racism that exists in France. Rare are those today who would risk shouting from the rooftops, “Ragheads Out!” The extremists who would do so would immediately be jeered by you, by me, and by a majority of the French people. First of all, you quote Bernard Maris, Catherine, Charb, Caroline Fourest. What about me, what about me! You preferred to omit my name, when it was my articles that you pointed to as dangerously “Islamophobic,” thus, according to you, necessarily racist. Frankly, I wondered why, and I see only two options:


  1. you didn’t want to let Charlie Hebdo’s detractors (who can only subscribe to your thinking if they never read the paper) know that the author of these racist ravings belongs precisely to the Muslim “race,” or
  2. you simply didn’t think that, as a person, I was worth naming, since in a fascist rag like Charlie I couldn’t be anything but the house Arab.

I must have been hired as an alibi, so that Charlie could hit its diversity quota, but you could never imagine that I could be brought on staff for the same reasons that you were. An Olivier, of course, is hired for his professional qualities; a Zineb is only hired by affirmative action. Or maybe you spared me because in my case you have no personal scores to settle, as you do with a fair number of your former colleagues. In that case, I would have readers seek the motives behind your article somewhere other than the realm of ideas.

Racism by omission

A Zineb who spits on Islam, that’s beyond you, isn’t it? It disconcerts you so much that you preferred not to name me, so as not to introduce any doubt as to the veracity of your accusations of racism against us, the journalists of Charlie. If the expression “spit on Islam” shocks you, let me answer you on that too. Why the hell is a “white person” who spits on Christianity an anticlerical, but an Arab who spits on Islam is alienated, an alibi, a house Arab, an incoherence that one would prefer not even to name? Why? Do you think that people of my race, and myself, are congenitally sealed off from the ubiquitous ideas of atheism and anticlericalism? Or is it that you think that unlike other peoples, our identity is solely structured by religion? What is left of an Arab when he no longer has Islam? To listen to you, a person like me must be some kind of harki of the Koran, we are traitors so profoundly stricken by a racial complex that we harbor a single regret, that of not being white. As for me, my interactions with Muslims and Arabs did not begin with the [1983] Marche des beurs. I’m what is called a blédarde, born in Morocco to an indigenous father and French mother. It’s there that I was educated and began my career as a journalist in a weekly paper that was shut down by the regime in 2010. My colleagues from the old country can explain to you how, in 2006, the Moroccan police state, which had other scores to settle with us, organized a fake demonstration of Islamists in front of the office of the Journal Hebdo, which was accused of having published Charlie′s caricatures. In reality, it was a photo of a random person seated at a café terrace holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo. I can also tell you that your piece in Article11 was posted on Moroccan websites, the same kind of sites that would never dare to poke their noses into a corruption scandal involving the King, for example. I won’t hide from you that on this one you managed to make not only the Islamists happy but also the Moroccan dictatorship that forced me and several of my colleagues into exile, and which continues to harass us as traitors to the nation, henchmen of foreign powers hostile to Morocco, even to Islam. A piece like yours is worth its weight in gold to the royalist police agents, who sponsored a “dossier” against Charlie published in a gutter newspaper in Casablanca. It informs readers that, among other things, the Molotov cocktail attack on Charlie′s offices in November 2011 was an insurance fraud, and that Charb drives a Ferrari thanks to all the dough we make. I don’t know if you’ve heard from Charb since you left the paper, but he still hasn’t passed his driving test. In another Morroccan article on Charlie, I learned I’d been hired because I had slept with Caroline Fourest and that my reporting was financed by the Algerian, Spanish, Israeli secret services. Clearly a raghead can’t really be hired for the same reasons as an Olivier.

My friend, I know you have nothing to do with the whole journalistic sewer that serves the Mohammed VI dictatorship. I simply want to show you who you’re making happy, if my pieces on Islam might occasionally please a few members of the Front Nationale.

You see, Olivier, as a blédarde born in the Maghreb, assigned against my will to a religious pigeonhole, not only by you, but above all by a theocratic state that does not allow me to choose my faith and which governs my personal status by religious laws, I have always wondered why guys like you lie down before Islamist propaganda. The laws of my country do not grant me a quarter of the rights you acquired at birth, and if I were to be attacked or raped in the streets of Casablanca by a barbu, as has been promised in hundreds of emails — never taken seriously by the Morroccan police — the websites that posted your article will definitely say I was asking for it because I don’t respect Islam. And you here in France, in a secularist state, you rehash, without grasping its implications, this whole moralizing discourse about how one must “respect Islam,” as demanded by the Islamists, who do not ask whether Islam respects other religions, or other people. Why the hell should I respect Islam? Does it respect me?  The day Islam shows the slightest bit of consideration to women, first of all, and secondly toward free-thinkers, I promise you I will rethink my positions.

The Front Nationale? Don’t know them

It is not in order to please the Front Nationale that I fight alongside all the atheists of Morrocco, Tunisia, Egypt, or Palestine. Because believe me, a lot of virulent atheists in the Arab world — so virulent they regularly spend time in jail for blasphemy — have never heard of Marine Le Pen, and couldn’t possibly care if what they say pleases the French far right, because they’re too busy fighting their own far right: Islamism. If you will permit us, we “Islamophobes” of the Muslim race think the liberation of our societies will necessarily come through emancipation from the yoke of state religion. Since that is what Islam is more or less everywhere in the so-called Arab countries, you’ll also find there a strong opposition to theocracy, which is fed not only by the universal idea of separation of church and state but also by the skepticism and historicization of Islamic texts. We permit ourselves just about anything, such as, for example, thinking that Mohammed, and even Allah, are not unrepresentable. Caricatures, parodies of Koranic verses or hadiths, you just have to look around on our internet forums to see that Charlie was not the original source here.

You’ve got to understand us, because you see, centuries after his death Mohammed is still imposing his law. He is, in a manner of speaking, the head of state of this Umma that deprives us of our freedom of thought, and which forbids me, for example, to inherit property equally with my brothers or to marry a man of my choosing. Why would you, an anti-authoritarian, want a man with as much power as him to be exempt from critique? Because, when I speak to you of laws, I am not referring to obsolete Koranic decrees but to the positive laws in our countries, to the civil code that governs our marriages, divorces, inheritances, child custody, etc. Yes, it’s Mohammed, in the name of Allah, who decides, and not us, free people who are equal to you. Let me tell you that for all these reasons, it will not be the official representatives of the Islamic denomination in Europe, whose platitudes you adopt, and who themselves take good advantage of the joys of secularism, who will fix the limits of our freedom of expression. Make no mistake, Olivier, because antiracism is on the side of Charlie Hebdo, which opens its pages to people like me who cannot speak out in their own country under penalty of prison or attack, and not on yours, you who agree to hand the entire “Muslim race” over to its self-proclaimed clergy. Charlie is aware of the intellectual and ideological ferment that is animating the Muslim world, it has understood that a war is on between freedom and politico-Islamist dictatorship, whether you date it to before or after the Arab Spring, and Charlie has quite simply chosen its camp. Ours, like its, is that of the anticlericals. If blasphemy is a right for the heirs of Christian civilization, why do you deny it to Muslims? Why is an Islamic state acceptable in Tunisia or Egypt, but not in France? Isn’t that what racism is?

The art of muzzling criticism

Far be it from me to force this analysis on you. While it flows logically from your reading, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you would adopt it. I’ve tried to uncover the reason you’ve fallen into such a trap, and I’ve found it in the fallacy that serves to cement your argument. “Headscarves, high heels, even a T-shirt made in Bangladesh, none of them matter to me when the person underneath is deserving of respect,” you say in your article. The honorable philanthropic intention you show unfortunately conflates the critique of ideas with the critique of persons. Let’s remember that the basis of all sound rhetoric is always to avoid the argumentum ad hominem. Inversely, to abhor an idea must never lead to its personification. Critiquing the headscarf is not the same as humiliating every woman who wears it, any more than critiquing Islam amounts to jeering every Muslim. The veiled women in my family are less sensitive than you are when it comes to this. Even though I do not hide my aversion to the bit of fabric they wear on their heads, they understand that that it in no way detracts from the affection and respect that I have — or don’t have — for them, for simply human reasons. In committing this fallacy, you once again adopt the arguments of the watchdogs of Islamophobia. Lacking the religious laws that are their tool of power in Muslim countries, they seize on antiracist laws in France to silence detractors of their beliefs. They are dying to have us admit that critiquing the headscarf means denying dignity to those who wear it, and therefore it’s racism. Critiquing Mohammed means humiliating every Muslim on an individual basis, and therefore it’s racism. That’s their equation, and you, Olivier, you took the bait.

Not me. Because the specter of racism that you so fear — to the point that you anoint the arguments of the Islamic far right, and cast stones at your former colleagues in order to escape all suspicion — doesn’t scare me. It is so absurd to suspect me of racism that even you prefer to suppress my name from your article, though you mentioned all the others.  As the Arab whose name you preferred not to cite, I experienced your piece as racist because you forced me, the Arab, to defend my colleagues, the whites. Why should I have more legitimacy than them to advance these ideas? Why does your article force me to bring up my name and my identity? I would have you think about that. You deny me the right to critique the religion I studied as a mandatory subject in school, from preschool to graduation, and which still today forbids me from staying in the same hotel room as my boyfriend when I want to spend a weekend in Marrakech, on the pretext that we don’t have a fornication certificate signed by Mohammed. As for my colleagues at Charlie, they clearly ought to shut up, or draw Christmas trees every time they get the notion to criticize Islamic dictatorship, on the grounds that they’re white. Nice definition of antiracism.

If you’ve read nothing other than Malek Chebel, the most vulgarized exponent of Islam-the-religion-of-peace-and-love, I strongly urge you to buy a Sira book first, to get an idea of the teachings of Mohammed, and you tell me if you still think it’s disgusting to critique them. Otherwise, go take a tour of the Salafist bookstores that are popping up everywhere in the Paris region, and tell me if you still think that hatred is on the side of Charlie Hebdo. Furthermore, be aware that the increase in their number over the past fifteen years or so — the period when Charlie, you say, curiously started to take an interest in them — in no way corresponds to any demographic explosion of Muslims in France, but rather to an ideological shift financed by petrodollars, involving a radicalized minority of Muslims.

Enlightened minds, learn Islam!

You will find many pearls in these books, such as le mariage de jouissance [Zawaj al-Mut’a]. Practiced in times of war by Muslims, this unilateral marriage contract — since it’s the conquering warrior who decides — can last an hour, two hours, or a few days, and is intended to allow Allah’s fighters  to drain their balls (sorry for the vulgarity, but it’s impossible to call it anything else) during their razzias. It appears that this is what happened in Syria in this byzantine story of the “sexual jihad.” In your article, you quoted a piece in Charlie, of which I was the author, which addressed this subject and which you described as a “pseudo-investigation” based on an abominable Islamophobic rumor. I concede that neither you nor I were on the ground to witness the practice, given the difficult conditions of journalism in Syria at the moment. But for you it was sufficient that [Saudi preacher] Mohamad al-Arefe denied the fatwa that was attributed to him — urging that the jihadists be resupplied with women — for all of this to be unfounded. Do you think the FIS in Algeria, or Al-Qaeda everywhere else, needed al-Arefe in order to make use of it? You also refer to another of my articles, again without naming me, and quote the teaser to illustrate Charlie Hebdo′s dangerous drift towards nationalism. In your view, this piece about a group of Belgian Salafists was denouncing the threat of our Christian West being invaded by barbarian Muslim hordes. “Will fries soon all be halal?” I asked. You forgot to mention that the hapless hero of my piece was a [white] Belgian convert named Jean-Louis, a.k.a. le soumis. This is no issue of racism, but rather of fundamentalism. Since the article came out, the tall redhead was arrested over a recruitment cell for jihad in Syria. You would think I wasn’t totally wrong to take an interest in his case.

You see, Olivier, this Charlie Hebdo that was totally not racist when you were working there, but which  inexorably became so after you left it, does not need anti-racist lessons from you, and it’s the Arab who’s telling you so. Personally, I never worked with [Philippe] Val and I don’t know if I would have been able, as you were, to listen to his encomiums to Israel, a racist and colonial state, at every editorial meeting in order to keep my job. For me, it’s the pen of Charb, one of the most pro-Palestinian writers in the French press,  with which I find affinity. Charb, because of this lynching to which you are contributing through the confusion of your ideas, is today being threatened by al-Qaeda and lives under police protection. So which side is hatred on?

Collegial greetings [salutations collégiales],
Zaynab bint Mohammad ibn al-Mâatî al-Rhazwî al-Harîzî

38 thoughts on “If Charlie Hebdo is racist, then so am I — Zineb el-Rhazoui responds to Olivier Cyran

  1. Marx:
    “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”.

    It’s sad to see the argument retrograding to the Enlightenment era. Zineb have the right to fight her fight against Islam but not to mock those living out of the enlightened elite who stick to their “opium” in an increasingly cruel capitalist society that keeps them alienated. If you want them to abandon their illusions don’t call the Merkels and Sarkozys of this world to the defense of your right of expression; denounce thir hypocrisy instead.

    • first how dare you assume we’re all inherently victims who need to be coddled? racism is completely different from anti-religious rhetoric which is an ideology. yes there are problems with the way french government has set up its urban spaces, but there is the repression of the orthodox imams as well. it’s disgusting to me that you think they should be protected from satirization and criticism. hebdo is the only magazine in the country which decimated the marine le pens of the world & the religious dogma of societies with no double standards. they criticized arab hypocrisy on israel and israeli hypocrisy on palestine. they are heroes, zaineb has the right to say whatever the hell she wants. i have to decide how to maturely respond to it. the government has no right to tell anyone what to say – i am against holocaust denial laws for this reason as well. but hebdo is morally not the reverse dieudonne – that would be a false equivalence.

  2. Pingback: Charlie: We Publish ‘Provocative’ Bolshevik anti-Religious Caricatures. | Tendance Coatesy

    PLEASE correct this :
    ” it seems beyond question that Philippe Val — the editor who took over after 2001 — is an ardent Zionist and neocon creep. His promotion to this position would seem in line with the magazine’s overall rightward drift, post-9/11.”
    I strongly dislike Philippe Val myself, but this is pure misinformed calomny!! You can argue that he was somehow a “zionist” (but definitely not an “ardent zionist” since he never defended the brutal attacks on gaza for instance, and under his direction at charlie several anti-zionist cartoons and articles denouncing the brutality of israel have been published). But a neocon creep!!??? He is left wing and always has been! The criticism against Val come from the far left who thought he was not “left enough”!! Also there has been NO “rightward drift” at Charlie, the magazine stayed very much FAR left, what has been denounced is an increasing obsession with the criticism of (the conservative values of) islam, which is still in line with their far left anticlerical, secularist and egalitarian ideals!!

    • Criticism of Philippe Val reached a peak David (at least for me) over his weekly (? – I turned off most times) chronicles on France-Inter in the first decade of this century.

      In 2009, he joined the top management (as Director) of France-Inter, the most popular station of the publicly owned Radio France and left Charlie Hebdo.

      One of his first acts was to sack Stéphane Guillon – a comic given a short slot on France-Inter every morning.

      Guillon’s virulent humour was often directed against President Sarkozy (you can hear France-Inter as clear as a bell on the long-wave radio round here incidentally).

      Guess who is said to have helped Val get his position…..

      I agree however, that there have been, are, many different positions within Charlie but they are all broadly on the left.

      Yet how *exactly* would people have classed François Cavanna (whose novels and other writings, humour, autobiography and politics are rich and warm) who passed away last year? A generous humanist is about all I can come up with.

  4. To help you understand, let me say this : if Ph Val is a “neocon creep”, then so is Bill Maher!
    I wish the anglophone world would do a little more research before hastily publishing condemnations that are close to calomny.

  5. 1) One can be opposed to CH as both a publication for its racism and defense of racism, and be equally opposed to reactionary political movements, including radical Islamism, at the same time.
    2) One can be opposed to Islamophobia and opposed to radical Islamism at the same time.
    3) One can be opposed to CH’s Islamophobia and be critical of Islam at the same time.
    4) Islamophobia -is- a form of racism. Racism in -all- forms is in opposition to the beliefs and goals of scientific socialism.The support of racist opinions and the publications that spread these opinions is in direct opposition to scientific socialism.
    5) Merely “being” Leftist does not make one immune to Rightist, reactionary, and liberal thinking and attitudes, such as racism in general.
    6) Merely “being” Leftist does not give one a free-pass to take actions of racism. So called “equal-opportunity-offensiveness” does not negate the reality of racist content and belief.
    7) Non-White persons can indeed be guilty of perpetrating, protecting, and propagating racism and other Rightist errors. An Arab defending CH’s racism is simply an Arab guilty of racism.
    8) Infantile and facile racist cartoons do not constitute criticism of religion and, again, are in opposition to scientific socialism.

    The author and commentators on this blog should do some reflection and consider apologies to Cyran, Seymour, and every Leftist they accuse of being “do-gooders” because they didn’t make the mistake of conflating CH’s racism with revolutionary anti-clericism and the defense of communism. Frankly, if one must choose, this Marxist will choose every time to be a “do-gooder” for Muslims instead of being “do-gooders” for Euro-liberals pretending to be revolutionaries. (But, as pointed out, this dichotomy is false.)

    • 1) One can be relatively indifferent toward Charlie Hebdo as a publication, admit that certain individual cartoons are obviously racist, while also pointing out that someone like Charb’s decades of Palestine activism and Zineb el-Rhazoui’s editorial role complicates the simple view that it was a racist rag.
      2) Most of those defending Charlie Hebdo‘s content on the Left are also opposed to the growing persecution of Muslims across Europe.
      3) Clearly. And as Marxists it is our duty to be critical of Islam and all religious ideology, since “criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.”
      4) This is contested, not least by leftists from Muslim cultural backgrounds who have pointed out that much of the rhetoric of Islamophobia on the Left mirrors the rhetoric of far Right Islamist clerics. Everyone with eyes to see recognizes that xenophobia toward immigrants from “the Muslim world,” and that this is obviously chauvinist, but to call it straightforwardly racist is misleading and reductive.
      5) No one disagrees about this. Seymour’s a leftist, for example, but his record of lending “critical but unconditional support” for reactionary and antisemitic organizations like Hamas would seem to suggest that he is not immune to opportunistic coalitions with unambiguously right-wing groups.
      6) You’ll have to take that up with the good cartoonists of the Soviet magazine Bezbozhnik.
      7) Adolph Reed, Kenan Malik, and many others have already pointed out the limits of “anti-racist” politics.
      8) Or they merely constitute a form of bourgeois atheism, crude and limited but not necessarily a positive impediment to socialist goals.

      • 1) I haven’t personally seen any outright accusations that CH was and is only a publisher of racism, only accusations that the paper has continuously taken it upon itself to produce racist content and done so unapologetically. We know that racism is, of course, not a feeling but an action, and those that think of themselves as not-racist, even anti-racist, are still fully capable of racism. What CH’s contributors think is of no consequence- it is both guilty of propagating racism and supporting Palestine and other progressive causes. That CH contains contradictions does not exempt it from criticism for its failings.
        2) No doubt, but it is a contradiction to be opposed to the persecution of Muslims and support/partake in the discourse that aids and continues the persecution of Muslims. This is impossible.
        3) Of course. But one can not simply create racist caricature (or essay, or other medium) and then swipe it out for actual criticism. Not only is it counter-productive (because no one is going to be convinced of any such ‘criticisms’ in such a form) it’s disingenuous.
        4) Instances of Islamophobia could be possibly be non-racist, maybe, yet every instance of Islamophobia has necessarily been racist as they are nasty monolithic conflations of the religion with oppressed “racial” and ethnic groups, almost always the “Arab” but occasionally the “African”. Judaeophobia/Anti-Semitism is naturally very similar, but with caricature of the “Ashkenazi” instead. More simply, one can grant that Islamophobia can theoretically be non-racist but this is at least not the case with CH and its content, if not a strictly imaginary qualification in all cases.
        5) I am admittedly not well read in Richard Seymour’s work, having only discovered him recently and not browsed his writings thoroughly. Regardless of how he feels about Hamas, or what else, I did read his posts on the CH attacks and the statement that he acted as a “White Knight do-gooder”, who “simplif[ied] matters and [spoke] out on behalf of all the Muslim immigrants living in Europe” do not fit with what he actually wrote on this topic. He, and others, are correct to be critical of Charlie Hebdo and to not place it on a pedestal, simply for being victims of reactionaries (which, to emphasize, is not supportable). This itself is a reactionary position.
        6) That would be a conflation, but Bezbozhnik is also subject to criticism, yes.
        7) Absolutely, identity-politics is mere reformism. Regardless, Marxists are devoted to anti-racism (amongst other claimed reformist projects) and Marxists should take care to not only -not- defend racism but to criticize it when it appears, including amongst Marxists and oneself. I don’t think Cyran, Syemour, or others have done anything but the latter.
        8) I fail to see how racism, in whatever form, can be anything but an impediment to socialism.

  6. ‘In’, just some remarks & questions about your initial comment on 17Jan. Not to gratuitously heap denoted point upon another, but as I see no other way of doing this I’ll refer to your 17Jan numbered points as (#1), etc.:

    a) “CH as both a publication for [?] its racism and defense of racism” (#1).
    What evidence do you have for these two claims?
    Many accusations of CH’s racism were made by people unable to read French or knowing little or nothing of the immediate context of their publication. Knowledgable people had no difficulty explaining each of the crucified or lashed cartoons, as it were.

    b) “CH’s Islamophobia” (#3).
    CH’s fear of Islam? What evidence do you have of the mental states of CH writers & cartoonists? Or did you perhaps mean to say ‘CH’s propagation of . . .’, in which case what evidence do you have for this (fear, that is, not ridiculing & suchlike)?

    c) “Islamophobia -is- a form of racism” (#4).
    This is a biggie. How can a fear of a religion – a religion like Islam which organises perhaps 1 600 000 001 people, of all sorts of ethnicities & racial groups (if one believes in either anti-scientific way of classifying our species) – how can that fear be a racism? A fear is an (affective) attitude, not a practice; & a mode of ruling, sometimes in a racialising guise, is necessarily a practice.
    There’s also the small matter that racism is usually taken to mean the institutionalised exercise of rule through power, not simply the spouting of a magazine down to 40 001 readers.

    • a) One needs only look at any single cartoon of theirs depicting what is supposed to be a Muslim and see it is textbook racism. Take the cover of the issue just before the attacks, a very prominent ugly caricature of what is supposed to be some kind of Middle-Eastern person but resembles more a non-human muppet. My question is: how is this not readily recognizable as racism? Must we place it directly next to Nazi cartoons of Jews and American cartoons of Blacks to see the similarity? To end, as noted by the date of the article written by Cyran, referred to in the article, that CH has been producing this kind of content for years and has defended it’s “right” to do so. There is no leap of the imagination here. Also, yes, my original statement is worded poorly.

      b) “Islamophobia” may literally mean “the fear of Islam” but the meaning of the word extends beyond this, as it very common in many English words, especially those derived from loan words/stems (e.g.: “psyche”, or “philosophy”). That said, Islamophobics do tend to be paranoid about a global Muslim conspiracy and that Islam is “creeping” into “non-Muslim” societies (ie: Europe and America). That said, I don’t care about their individual feelings- as I (and you) pointed out, racism is a social institution and action, not mere feeling or idea.

      c) I tried to comment on this in my second comment, so I will try to be clearer here. It is of course true that there is no “Muslim”. Indeed, there is not even an “Islam”, really. The religion originates amongst Arabs, yet the vast majority of its practitioners are not Arab, do not speak Arabic even as a second language, and do not live in lands with majority Arab populations. These are, however, nuanced facts, where the common feature of racism is that it distills a society’s “idea” of the racial Other into a sub/non-human image (a process called racialization). Even seemingly benign and positive images of Muslims in media depict them as usually “Arab”, itself an image of non-historical stereotype (again, refer to the cover image of the issue before the attack, which is not actually recognizable as anything, yet we have been conditioned to know what it represents). Even when the image is not the pseudo-Arab, the image of the Muslim is that of a racially-distinct foreigner -first-, and as a religion (or, as they say to skirt away from further accusations of discrimination, a “political ideology”) second. Yes, racism is an institution of power, and the fact that France possesses this institution historically and contemporaneously should immediately inform us that this content does not occur in a vacuum, or in innocence. It may be, for some of the CH staff, unconscious, but as this issue is long-running they should be well aware of their actions by now.

      Hopefully, that is clearer.

      • The running italics is, of course, an accident. One day I’ll develop the habit of really proof-reading what I write.

      • (Sorry to all for not using the ‘reply’ option yesterday to indent my two comments here.)

        Thanks for responding, ‘In’, & I offer these further remarks.

        a) Your point #1 on 17Jan wasn’t clear as to which two of these three you were claiming: CH publishes racist material; CH defends the racist stuff it has published; CH defends racism in society. Let’s assume it’s the last-mentioned that you don’t mean.

        To help people assess your two claims I asked you for evidence. But you offer readers nothing – except an appeal to the epistemic wonders of direct evaluation, presumably something that is never wrong, an alchemic infallible procedure, the sort of thing Popey uses. Importantly you offer no argument – not even a defence of the idea of direct evaluation, the coming to a judgment independently of absolutely anything, be it the effect of linguistic habits or one’s visual education, or how the evaluative dispositions of a person, their powers & susceptibilities, come about. Nope. Things speak for themselves. Which is why you say “[o]ne needs only look [. . .] and see it is textbook racism”, “[it is] readily recognizable as racism” – is it really so obvious that we have to “place it directly next to Nazi cartoons of Jews and American cartoons of Blacks to see the similarity?” Hope you never run a People’s Court. You could have starred in that scene in ‘You, the Living’.

        You also refer to a CH cover but unfortunately you didn’t identify it; date, link please?

        b) Polysemantic words are dangerous grains, not least because their use can both be misinterpreted & induce sloppy thinking. Everything collapses into ‘Islamophobia’. The whole world of Islam-stuff. So we have this word that’s to do with fear – but maybe it’s not. Are peeps afraid of Muslims – or is it the opposite, do things like CH make Muslims afraid? Which is it? Indeed, what’s the point of the I-phobia word: what is its referent?, what does it mean?, what discursive work does it do? How can its ambiguity be curtailed, even eliminated? Or should we simply realise that we can express ourselves precisely & clearly without using it? Why not let G-d be joined by I-phobia? Lexis akbar!

        Because after all, what is ‘Charlie Hebdo’ supposed to be doing, all 40 001 copies of it each week? Is it making Muslims annoyed, upset, perhaps mixed with making them pity the writers & cartoonists?; or feeling mocked, ridiculed, laughed at, criticised?; or unwelcomed, rendered outsiders, victims of a campaign, cowed?; or perhaps reviled, humiliated, hated?; over time, combined with gestures & verbal abuse in the street, are they even being made ill, suffering psycho-somatic collapse?; & what about inciting violence against perceived believers and their individual & valued collective property, their temples called mosques?

        Which of these is CH doing? And what is the extent of each effect upon France’s perhaps 6 000 001 Muslims, one for each of the fascist European judeocide? (Like believers in the Second Coming we also await our Islamic Deutscher to write the seminal essay.)

        The I-phobia word is being asked to do far too much. Far too much. Ditch it. It’s the only rational thing to do. It’ll be no great loss. We will be forced to expand our vocabulary. Who knows, we may all express ourselves in a more exact way, allowing us all to recognise the shades in today’s politics, its complexities, all lived in & thru the reciprocal determinations that the Principal & the others focus on. (And don’t get me started on whether the FN is fascist, or UKIP racist, & the children of the Italian MSI & all the other examples of sloppy talk.)

        Lots of peeps in Europe are having a hard time these days. But some are doing rather well, & this includes peeps who may be Muslims, maybe aren’t, may be pious, may be fake observers, may be agnostic, even atheistic. Some are capitalists going bust, some struggling along, others creaming it. Likewise with that other great class in our society. And then you have all the other ways of relating to the means of sustenance. And the effects of these relations, & the practical imperatives arising from them, mesh with causes arising from the racialising & ethnicising & religioising of people. It’s complicated. Just like the possible effects of a pic or article. We need the precision of a liberating needle, not a suffocating blanket. The word I-phobia needs unstitching, unpacking. Not least as far too much detritus is concealed beneath it.

        So to return to your point #3, “CH’s Islamophobia”. What’s the evidence – & evidence of what? We’re still waiting.

        c) You say this, unidentified, CH cover “is not actually recognizable as anything” yet as if by magic, by being “conditioned”, we “know what it represents”. Wow, as Gordon would say. Wow. That’s some process. Please let us in on it: we could use it in socialistically transforming our societies.

        We could even go all Lacanian here & introduce the character known as the Pseudo-Arab, the Pseudo-Other, the one that operates on the emasculated (or is that sexist of me, I am being misandrous?) lower case -ised ideologised particular, growing its balls, both inside & out, giving it the fullest Reality, not merely real Reality but full-on Real Reality. But I jest. (Although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been proposed by some doctoral student. There really should be a Memorial to the Tortured Theoretician – & why not in Paris? Complete with oculus. If only Käthe Kollwitz were still alive.)

        My point here is that you make an ‘ungrounded’ conceptual leap, from ‘those f-ing Muslims’ to talk of “racism is an institution of power”, as if the transition is smooth, unproblematic, as if its achievement is effortless work. If you claim this is happening you need to offer an explanation of how it’s done.

        As for your second-from-last clause, “they should be well aware of their actions by now”, so they had it coming, did they?

        Allow me to end with a general point. Since 7Jan a theme is that CH has been accused of racism, & when queried the accusers have been unable to support their assertion with the two necessary rational warrants, evidence & an explanatory account of how that putative evidence fits the bill of not just being racialising but also acting as a means of institutionalising rule on a racialised basis, that is, being racist.

        It hasn’t been shown that ‘Charlie Hebdo’ is, & has been, such a means for capitalist ruling. No-one has offered a convincing justification for carving the racism label into the workers of ‘Charlie Hebdo’, even as they lie motionless, as Marat. Unfortunately you yourself have also continued to flow in the other vein, the accusatorial. And rational peeps do not accept assertions – whoever advances them, be they you, Chuck, Freddy, Vlad, Leo the Lion, even Polly the Platypus.

    • I’ll try and be as simple as possible. First and most important: this well has been poisoned and I will not continue in it after this post. Your disgusting claim that I anywhere even suggest that “they had it coming” can not be reasonably inferred and reveals exactly the emotionalist mindset you’re arguing from, if we needed only one sign of this. Weeks later and the guardians of the holy martyrs of CH are still enacting this intellectually dishonest attack, regardless of how many times the contrary must be stated. While not deserving, I will finish this reply for you for the sake of concluding what has been started.

      “CH publishes racist material; CH defends the racist stuff it has published; CH defends racism in society.” All three are true, but my original claim concerned the first two (the third naturally follows from the second). That I did not provide an argument is demonstrably not true. As for providing evidence, I very clearly, more than once, referenced the issue prior to the attack. I did not link to it as links from image searches are sometimes iffy and the image itself is now notorious, so I didn’t figure I needed to. That said, I must confess that I did make a mistake: what I thought was the issue previous to the shooting is actually an older issue. Seeing it on the news I misunderstood it for being the one previous one. This is the one I refer to: http://www.tuxboard.com/photos/2011/11/Charia-Hebdo-couverture-Charlie-Hebdo.jpg Regardless, if one simply image searched “charlie hebdo covers” this is in the very first selection of the first page, and many similar images accompany it, so I am being charitable linking it at all, especially at this point. If you do not think this is not a racist caricature of Muslims/Arabs, and I don’t think you do since you’re clearly a fan of the rag and digest its images thoroughly, there will be no convincing you otherwise, as there is no convincing the White American that Indian sports logos and team names are racist.

      Concerning your b response, I’m honestly wondering if English is not your native language, or if you’re simply so hot about anti-anti-Islamophobia that you’ve not bothered to read what I wrote. Disregarding what’s already been addressed and the obscurantist word-salad: the evidence is provided; if you want to go around saying “racism/xenophobia specifically directed towards people that are Muslims or otherwise perceived to be Muslims, usually because of the person’s ‘racial’ features, clothing, or marker of other appearance” then feel free to, but I’ll continue with ‘Islamophobia’, as it fulfills the need for “precise and clear” language; if you’re contention really is that what is described above is a fringe phenomenon (because some Muslims do well in the capitalist system and “everybody” is having a hard time? An argument identical to the argument that the US is “post-racist” because a Black man is now President of that society), there can be no earnest discussion because you’re arguing from ignorance. But this is made clear later in your last comment.

  7. Ross, a few things:

    a) “certain individual cartoons are obviously racist” (your #1)
    Which ones, & how were they racist?

    b) “antisemitic organizations like Hamas” (your #5)
    I know of Hamas being against Jewish-Israeli supremacism & its practitioners, not least state managers & members of the Israel Attack Forces, but what’s the evidence that Hamas is against anyone for simply being either a believer in Judaism, or a professed ethnic Jew, or castigated by Hamas as an ethnic Jew?

    c) are you saying ‘Bezbozhnik’ cartoons displayed “the reality of racist content and belief” (the words of ‘In’ to which your #6 refers)?
    If so, which cartoons, & what evidence do you have of the beliefs of the caricaturists? Concerning the former I’ve seen the ones posted by yourself & others, & I can’t remember even one of them pulling me up with a start. (Just to say, for what it’s worth, the Soviet cartoons doing the rounds were almost certainly all produced after Lenin had died, or at least sitting in his Bath chair – the weekly ‘Bezbozhnik’ started late Dec 1922, at the very moment Vlad stopped almost all his work. Who knows, maybe Mrs Vlad used them to cheer him up.)

  8. A white male Muslim with no apparent religious sign walks along a Middle Eastern Male Atheist on a side walk of EU when they both notice a bunch of racists approaching them. Who would the racists assault?
    A major flaw with the term Islamophobia is its deliberate ambiguity that originates from its distorted definition. It claims that Islamophobia refers to both an idea and the believer of that idea (Islam & Muslim). We all proudly say we’re anti-fascism, that we hate fascism. The fascists cannot accuse us of being racist because we’re saying we’re against a brutal anti-human doctrine, an idea. However, if we state that we’re Islamophobic (as in fearful of Islam), the Islamic states, the pro-Islamic left and the Western establishment accuses us of racism for being fearful of Muslims.

    If we now clearly state that we’re against Islam, they accuse us of being Islamophobic which in turn is considered an insult to Islam which in turn is equivalent to insulting Muslims, and therefore our stand is considered racist!

    The best way to show the absurdity of islamophobia, a term invented by political Islam as a propaganda tool, is to assert the existence of millions of “Islamophobic Muslims”. Let’s examine one of the largest populations who are said to be Muslims, Iranians.

    The IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) claims that 99.4% of residents in Iran are Muslims. What does it take to become a Muslim in Iran? One inherits religion at birth! In other words s/he is assigned a religion at birth because his/her parents were Muslims. However, the parents themselves inherited their religion at birth, so did their parents and grandparents, et al. This is how one becomes Muslim in Iran! On top of that, Islam does not allow conversion from Islam to any other religion, nor it allows leaving Islam. Ever. The punishment for apostasy is death.

    So, according to the IRI, 99.4% of the population in Iran were assigned a religion at birth and are not allowed to convert to another religion or leave Islam otherwise they face the death penalty. It all seems be fine thus far. There is, however, a small problem. These Muslims confront Islam daily for practical reasons, that is, the ability to survive in 21st century. IRI official statistics say that 63% of women do not comply with the Islamic dress code, e.g. the Hijab, Sheik Yusef Sanaee confessed that “people congratulated each other upon the death of Mahdavi Kani — a high ranking cleric — while millions participated in in the funeral of a pop-signer”, whose music is deemed Haram (unclean), as per Khamenei the Supreme Leader of the IRI. From their choice of TV channels – e.g. 5.5 million active, illegal satellite dishes in Iran — to what they drink — 80 Million liters of alcoholic beverages are smuggled to Iran annually, from how they sexually orient themselves (including homosexuals) to how they have sex in bed … are all subject to insulting Islam. Therefore, as per the IRI, millions of residents in Iran do fall into the category of “offenders to Islam and to its clergy”.

    Islamophobia as defined by the IRI’s Office of the Supreme Leader Consulting (OSLC): “Islamophobia … refers to irrational fear, prejudice and discrimination against Islam or Muslims “

    It is safe and fair to say that 90%+ of the population in Iran are Islamophobic because they have a rational fear of Islam. Over 50% of the population fear imprisonment and lashes if they don’t follow the Islamic dress codes, a misogynist act of the IRI, which bases its laws and its actions on Islam. Iranian residents are afraid to express themselves against Islam unless they are ready to pay the price – torture and possible death, such as blogger Satar Beheshti. They fear to convert from Islam, they fear to leave Islam. These fears are real. But then, this very population is deemed Muslims at the same time, as per IRI statistics. So, it only leaves us to conclude that these “Muslims” are Islamophobic. Also, as admitted by the IRI statesmen, these Muslims make countless jokes everyday in which they mock Islamic rules and Islamic codes and Islamic clergymen. (Isn’t that what Charlie Hebdo does?)

    In conclusion, we have, more or less, 70 Million Islamophobic Muslims in Iran who insult and make fun of Islam on a daily basis. They are Charlie.

    Outside the “Islamophobia” box, we need to clearly state that a) We believe that Islam –like any religion– is the opium of the people, Marx b) We are against racism no matter what belief the victim has because everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, freedom of thought c) Everyone is entitled to criticize/ridicule any belief system, freedom of expression and d) We do not tolerate religious/racist hate speech and hate crimes against any group of people.


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  15. Well, then you can feel real proud for your admission.
    Of all people and their (written) reactions, Oliver’s is the least open for attacks, especially to one totally inadequate, short in every way, like this Zineb’s !

  16. If you (blog owner) didn’t get tired of my comments, allow me, at least, two more points which I am compelled to make:
    1. as you said Zineb “points out that he omitted her name in discussing the various cartoonists at the magazine” – yes, it’s quite noticeable that Zineb tried to make an argument of her own background and identity, hence the title – basically, with title and glaring usage of her full Arabic name as her signature, she announces “I am Arab(-Muslim?) woman and if magazine editorial politics is racist than I am racist toward my own kind” – which is really superficial and dishonest;
    2. your characterization of Ayaan Hirsi Ali as “outspoken critics of Islam” – she’s maybe outspoken, but she’s no critic: how she succeeded to impress media and public and impose herself as “critic of Islam” is beyond ludicrous, while at the same time she is another serious example to what extent Islamophobic bigotry became accepted and normalized – anyone serious, whenever she’s appear in any media, would ask what’s qualify Hirsi Ali as an expert on Islam, so that she can become mainstream voice and media darling?

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