France begins jailing people for ironic comments

Mock Charlie Hebdo cover circulated after the murder of the magazine’s cartoonists. The text says “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”

It may sound like an ironic joke, but it isn’t. Less than a week after the massive rallies in defense of “free expression,” following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, French authorities have jailed a youth for irony.

The arrest is part of a harsh crackdown on free speech in the country that has prompted criticism from national and international human rights organizations.

A 16-year-old high school student was taken into police custody on Thursday and indicted for “defending terrorism,” national broadcaster France 3 reports.

His alleged crime? He posted on Facebook a cartoon “representing a person holding the magazine Charlie Hebdo, being hit by bullets, and accompanied by an ‘ironic’ comment,” France 3 states.

The teen lives at home with his parents, has no prior judicial record and, according to prosecutor Yvon Ollivier quoted by French media, he does not have a “profile suggesting an evolution toward jihadism.”

The boy told prosecutors that he posted the cartoon because he thought it was “funny.”

The media reports do not include the drawing – presumably that could put journalists afoul of the law. So we do not know for sure what the youth is accused of sharing.

An actual Charlie Hebdo from July 2013 caused outrage for mocking Egyptian protestors killed after the military coup. The text says “The Quran is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”

But the cartoon at the top of this page fits the description precisely. It was widely shared on social media, and published on 7 January on the website of the controversial French comedian Dieudonné. It is a mock Charlie Hebdo cover by the cartoonist Dedko.

The text says “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It does not stop bullets.” It appears quite heartless and cruel, but look at the copy of Charlie Hebdo that the person in the cartoon is holding.

It represents a real Charlie Hebdo cover that was published in July 2013, days after the military coup in Egypt. It caused outrage at the time because of its cruelty and insensitivity.

It shows an Egyptian protestor being shot through a copy of the Quran he is holding. The text says, “The Quran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullets.”

Assuming that the mock Charlie Hebdo cover is the one shared by the youth on Facebook, this incident sums up the sheer hypocrisy of France’s current national mood.

Anything mocking and denigrating Islam and Muslims is venerated as courageous free speech, while anything mocking those who engage in such denigration – even using precisely the same techniques – can get you locked up.

Wave of arrests

“A string of at least 69 arrests in France this week on the vague charge of ‘defending terrorism’ (‘l’apologie du terrorisme’) risks violating freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said in an understated press release on Friday.

“All the arrests appear to be on the basis of statements made in the aftermath of the deadly attacks against the magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket and security forces in Paris on 7 and 9 January,” the human rights group added. 

“Some of the recently reported cases in France may cross the high threshold of expression that can legitimately be prosecuted,” Amnesty said. “Others, however offensive the statements made, do not.” 

As previously reported, the most high profile arrest was of Dieudonné himself – also apparently for an ironic comment.

Many of the arrests are simply absurd, and it is impossible to imagine what purpose they could serve other than to allow the French government to look tough amid an increasingly right-wing and xenophobic political atmosphere, and to satisfy a desire in some sections of the public and media for scapegoats.

They include:

  • A 14-year-old girl charged with “defending terrorism.” She allegedly shouted at a tram conductor: “We are the Kouachi sisters, we’re going to grab our Kalashnikovs.” Cherif and Said Kouachi are two French brothers authorities say carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack.

  • A 21-year-old was caught without a ticket on a tram, and subsequently sentenced to ten months in prison for allegedly saying, “The Kouachi brothers is just the beginning; I should have been with them to kill more people,” according to Amnesty International.

  • In the northern city of Lille, authorities suspended three school workers for allegedly refusing to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attacks, and then justifying their action. One is being charged with “defending terrorism.” The accused denies that he refused to respect the minute of silence, but said he did “debate it with colleagues outside work hours.”

  • In Paris, one man who was drunk and another who suffers psychiatric problems were jailed for fourteen and three months respectively for “defending terrorism” for comments they made. A third was jailed for fifteen months and the court ordered that their sentences begin immediately.

  • In Bordeaux, police carried out a traffic stop. A very drunk 18-year-old passenger in the car allegedly hurled abuse at the police and made comments sympathetic to the Charlie Hebdo attackers. She was charged with “defending terrorism” and sentenced to 210 hours of community service. Prosecutors had asked for a four-month jail term.

In almost every case where a name is provided, those arrested would appear to be of North African ancestry – suggesting that France’s crackdown is quite targeted.

If it is not calculated to further alienate the country’s large, young population of French citizens whose parents or grandparents came from the former colonies, there’s a good chance it will do that anyway.

The cases also suggest a pattern where minor encounters with police – with drunks and youths – quickly escalate into “terrorism”-related accusations. The fact that young people of color have long complained that they are targeted by police means that they are going to be disproportionately more vulnerable.

Double standard

Amnesty says the crackdown followed a circular sent to prosecutors on 12 January by justice minister Christiane Taubira instructing them that “words or wrongdoing, hatred or contempt, uttered or committed against someone because of their religion must be fought and pursued with great vigor.” 

Although they might exist, I have yet to see cases of people being charged or jailed for anti-Muslim or other kinds of racist or bigoted comments under the “defending terrorism” law.

After the attacks, prominent journalist Philippe Tesson took to the airwaves of Europe 1, one of France’s biggest radio stations, and declared that Muslims were responsible for threatening the country’s vaunted secularism.

“It’s the Muslims who bring the shit to France these days,” he said.

While a private citizen has reportedly brought a legal complaint against Tesson for “inciting racial hatred,” the authorities have not charged him with a crime.

Cécile Duflot, a Green Party legislator, noticed the discrepancy and urged that “the reaction to the foul Islamophobic words of Philippe Tesson should be much stronger.”

(Update: Le Parisien reports today, Monday, that Paris prosecutors have opened an inquiry into Tesson on suspicion of “inciting hatred.”)

“Islamophobic” murder

Monitoring groups have collected reports of at least 83 Islamophobic threats and attacks in France since the Charlie Hebdo attack.

There were at least 21 incidents of shots or grenades being fired at buildings.

Police are investigating if the murder of Mohammed El Makouli, a Moroccan man in the eastern town of Beaucet, was motivated by anti-Muslim hatred.

El-Makouli was stabbed seventeen times by a neighbor who invaded his home, allegedly shouting anti-Muslim slogans. El-Makouli’s wife was injured and his young son escaped the attack.

Draconian law

It may seem surprising that French authorities can charge and jail people so quickly. These summary trials and long custodial terms are the result of a change in the law last November in which the charge of “defending terrorism” became a criminal offense subject to fast-track trials.

Last week France’s Human Rights League said that when the change in the law was being debated, it had “demonstrated that it would be ineffective for security, dangerous for liberties and damaging to the credibility of the justice system.”

The organization said that the slew of summary convictions of “drunks and fools” vindicated its warnings.

Many of these people are now likely to end up on the state’s planned “antiterrorist register.”

Prosecution for song and book

Prosecutions for expression do not take place only under the “defending terrorism” law. This week the rapper Saïdou of the band Z.E.P. and the sociologist Saïd Bouamama will be indicted in Lille for “public insult” and “incitement to discrimination, hate, or violence.”

The prosecution was brought by a right-wing nationalist group, as MR Zine reports, because of Saïd’s book Fuck France and a Z.E.P. song with the same title.

The song’s refrain states: “Fuck France and its colonialist past, its paternalist smells, stenches, and reflexes. Fuck France and its imperialist history, its capitalist walls, fortresses and delusions.”

Z.E.P., ironically, stands for “Zone d’expression populaire” – Popular Expression Zone. But irony is now a crime in France.

It is a matter of time before these laws are used with renewed vigor against a whole range of speech that might upset the French state, especially those who advocate for Palestinian rights and for the boycott of Israel.

“Obsessive pounding on Muslims”

With all I’ve read since the Paris attacks, a few items stand out as particularly thoughtful and informative.

A 2013 piece by Olivier Cyran, a former journalist at Charlie Hebdo, traces the magazine’s descent into an obsessive bigotry against Muslims in the years since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The piece, in the form of an open letter to the magazine’s editor Stéphane Charbonnier, is an important rejoinder to the pervasive claims that Charlie Hebdo irreverently targeted everyone and that Muslims are just too sensitive.

Charbonnier is one of the cartoonists who was murdered.

“The obsessive pounding on Muslims to which your weekly has devoted itself for more than a decade has had very real effects,” Cyran wrote to Charbonnier.

“It has powerfully contributed to popularizing, among ‘left-wing’ opinion, the idea that Islam is a major ‘problem’ in French society. That belittling Muslims is no longer the sole privilege of the extreme right, but a ‘right to offend’ which is sanctified by secularism, the Republic, by ‘co-existence.’”

Myths of French secularism

“Commentators in France and elsewhere have taken the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as an occasion to reflect more broadly about Muslims in France,” observes Mayanthi Fernando, a professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Many read the attacks as a sign of French Muslims’ refusal to integrate. They’ve asked whether Muslims can be fully secular and expressed doubt as to whether one can be both Muslim and French,” Fernando says in an article for The Conversation.

She warns, “we should be wary of myths about French secularism (laïcité) and French citizenship being spun in the aftermath of the attacks.”

Fernando notes that despite its ostensible laïcité, the French state has always privileged some religious groups. But when Muslims ask for the same accommodations others receive, “they are reminded that France is a secular country where proper citizenship requires separating religion from public life.”

All of this happens, Fernando notes, in a country where research demonstrates “nonwhite immigrants and their descendants as a group suffer systematic discrimination on the basis of their race, culture and religion.”

Although Muslims are 7.5 percent of the general population in France, they are 60 percent of the prison population.

“Islam in Liberalism”

The broader debates about “Islam” and “democracy” or “Islam” and “secularism” are tackled in Joseph Massad’s new must-read book Islam in Liberalism.

Massad argues that “American and European missionaries of liberalism” are engaged in a campaign to remake Islam and Muslims in their image, that is to say in the image of “liberal Protestant Christianity.”

“Muslim resistance to this benevolent mission is represented as rejection of modernity and liberal values of freedom, liberty, equality, the right-bearing individual, democratic citizenship, women’s rights, sexual rights, freedom of belief, secularism [and] rationality,” Massad writes.

“[I]f Muslims refuse to convert willingly,” Massad observes, “they must be forced to convert using military power, as their resistance threatens a core value of liberalism, namely its universality and the necessity of its universalization as globalization.”

“It’s hard to imagine a more necessary and timely book,” says Jonathon Sturgeon, literary editor at Flavorwire.

I could not agree more.




Stupid politicians everywhere ...
Act #1: Let as many culturally different people enter the countries as possible (European socialist parties have pursued this goal ever since the 80ies)
Act #2: Shit happens
Act #3: Change laws up to unconstitutionality (happened in the US after "9/11", in Germany after the RAF, now apparently in France)


You're just showing your plain ignorance of the subject. In France it's actually the right who made deal with the ex-colonies : they wanted work-force to rebuild france after the second world war. It is again the right who give what we call "regroupement familial" to give the right of these immigrant workers to bring their family in France. Now we are 3 generation after and yes there is trouble because France never was used to be a multicultural country but the root of the problem is social and it's not cultural. If foreign politics of France was otherwise they won't suffer any attack. If social politics of France was otherwise they won't have a big part of their own population who don't identify with society and end to produce the kind of monsters we saw recently.


the truth is in the middle as always; you are right about France being nationalist and using wrong politics against foreigners, but then the jihad is spreading in the last few years, in any country and any social environment...even in France Muslims who are leaving their closed ghettos, they are having chance to get better social status, so many well educated and well situated Muslims are there...


It's not truth that jihadism is spreading in every social environment and in any country. You have a lot more jihadist who are produced from Palestine, from Irak or from Syria and Afghanistan than let's say in Turkey or in Malaysia. If you make war to people, you will have a response. It's a response of despair and it's totally counter-productive but we don't have to go around the main issue : it's the occupation and the strike against various muslim country that produce jihadism.

In France, these brother who attacked Charlie Hebdo wasn't middle class : they were orphan from very critical background. Yes you have a chance to get out of the ghetto in France, like in any country, but it is very thin, look at the statistic of social mobility and you'll see : it's even worst if you have an arabic name or an african face. And there is no chance for everybody since capitalist economy need a upper and a lower class.

I know France and you have lower-middle class neighbour who are racially mixed and multicultural. But it's don't change the fact that main muslim population live in muslim/immigrant poor zone and the middle-upper french class are almost white-only zone. It's true in Paris and it's truer in the rest of France.


Totaly correct Right Wing gov't and main companies and industries were responsibles for a mass immigration during the60'S fromage our former colonies. Capitalists bosses needed a cheap work force... Mitterand and the PS just a player a dangerous game during the 80'S for electoral purposes and they are responsibles for thé National Front development.


Ali Abunimah, your journalism is impeccable! top notch! thanks.

one thing that seems clear to me is that millions who marched to the drums of the most powerful world leaders were doing so in SUPPORT of them rather than in PROTEST of anything. The cartoons were entirely legal. The support was shown for racism.
The magazine incited violence. One tiny group was incited to commit violence against the magazine, while the masses have been incited by the magazine to commit violence against Muslims. I think that is very interesting.

I'm going to read Massad, thanks.


blasphemy has been legal in France since 1789 (and fyi, pictures of the Prophet Mohammad have only been banned since the 19th century). Incitement to hatred and terrorism in writing are not legal in France. Which is more serious, cartoons or killing children (Taliban in Pakistan) or kidnapping (Nigeria, Boko Haram....)


I have a question for you: which is more serious - the killing of families of the Pakistani Taliban by Pakistani military, or the killing of Pakistani military families by the Pakistani Taliban?
which is more serious - the kidnapping of Boko Haram's women & children by the Nigerian military, or the kidnapping of the Nigerian military's women & children by Boko Haram?
I find it far more serious when my so-called "western" country gets into the act and then defends its murder by labeling our victims "murderers". Way more serious!


The question may come natural but it is false and cannot be answered. Is the violence of an occupying force more odious than that of the oppressed? Instinctively, yes. But pretty soon for every killing of children on Palestinian beaches there is a ten-year old used as a human bomb by Boko Haram. The cycle is infinite. The only solution is to condemn both equally.


Boko Haram is armed by the US. the "west" trains and arms extremists when they want to overthrow Libya & Syria & Afghanistan & Iraq, and guess what.... the "west" does not arm Palestine. you could probably tell this just from the statistics if you knew what that was.
what was your point? yes, the violence by the occupying forces are way more odious. how many Palestinians are killed by the occupiers? get it?
really odious.


France's authorities are showing their true colors when they condemn attacks on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression yet here they've turned around and arrested this 16 year old student for expressing an opinion they disagree with. This is called Fascism.


Good article; the Islamophobia has been deafening over the last week in the UK too. People insist there's no such thing, but then how else are we meant to refer to the hatred and fear of Muslims? The common viewpoint seems to be that as those carrying out these attacks are Muslim, all Muslims should deservedly face discrimination and isolation from the rest of society (who sees itself as more enlightened).

I'm sure in reality, like most people, British Muslims are mainly concerned about their own day-to-day lives, rather than working as some fifth column for a foreign entity as Nigel Farage suggests.


The false flag Charlie Hebdo incident is supposed to be about the suppression of free speech in France?

So what about the hundreds (soon to be thousands) that the repressive free speech unfriendly Hollande regime are arresting, quickly trying (in many cases under three days) and imprisoning for political opinions expressed on their face book and twitter pages?

When will Hollande's hypocrisy and lies end?


Tabloid article written by someone not objective and who used the word jailed instead of auditioned at police station! ! Once again a proof of hypocrisy from someone who really thinks that those cartoonists got what they deserved... sad. WE the french people think that noone should be killed by such violent ways anywhere in this world!! War is a crime innocents die every day and we should all do something in our own countries to stop these injustices. Unit instead of fighting the wrong causes or worst creating new conflicts like some bad persons try to.


Calling the article “tabloid” does not render it inaccurate and you haven’t challenged any of the facts. The French media says that the boy was arrested and placed “en garde a vue,” which translates as policy custody. He was jailed. Reports say that he was released on supervision pending trial. To be placed in custody for any amount of time for an alleged speech “crime” is pretty extraordinary.


The article is opinionated where obviously Islam is victimized for the mere act of being Islam.

I have read the article in the French news and this article cherry-picked it all to demonize the French authorities.


I am glad you are here to voice your opinions obviously you make some good points, underline some glaring contradictions and some fundamental hypocrisies of France and the West (Z.E.P. does so with a wicked beat). BUT you are yourself undermined by a fundamental hypocrisy. None of the historical and geopolitical analysis can obscure the fact that you are advocating for freedom of religion. When you say “expression” you really mean free adherence to religious dogma. But your freedom to do that in public life inherently diminishes that of those who do not want religion in theirs.

The fact that you advocate for one of the many ancient superstitions that are ravaging our planet and have done so for centuries makes me implicitly mistrust you. And the fact that you blend some historical truths into you argument simoply demonstrates your fallacy. As a member of the human race I have suffered the consequences of religious zealotry long enough. I am a secularist and I demand the freedom to live free of religious law for those societies who so choose. Everyone can follow their ritual beliefs and glorify their One True Prophets at home and in their holy places. But this obviously never enough for faithful who are convinced of their own only true faith. It is not enough for Christian fundamentalists, Scientologists, Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and all others for whom their beloved idols are reasons to despise the infidels. We secularists demand freedom from all zealots and their prophets.

Neoliberal capitalism is imperialist, racist and unjust? That is not news. To secularists religious fundamentalism is no better. If anything its been torturing, killing and burning people at the stake for much longer. To “reinvent” it now as the voice of freedom is as fundamentally dishonest as the Western leaders marching for freedom of expression.

You can conflate liberal secularism with globalization if you want, but it is just another obfuscation.


Can someone translate this? It's good to see that dissent still exists in France.


Fuck France
And its colonial past
Its smell, stench, and paternalist reflexes

Fuck France
Its imperialist history
Its walls, its ramparts and its capitalist delirium

OK, it’s settled
It’s been formalized
It’s been confirmed
Through ministerial channels
The little Nazis have been let loose
The uninhibited idiots
Carte Blanche for the rednecks
Who hate strangers

Small bourgeois
Republican democrats
Your country is foul-smelling racist and murderous
The Enlightenment of human rights
So-called universal
A myth, a mirage, an official lie

You love to teach lessons
You little native Gauls
Quit your arrogance
Stop opening your mouths
You judge, you criticize
Arabs and Black Africa
But sweep your own doorstep
Look at yourself in the mirror

[refrain x2]

What I think
Of their national identity
Of their Marianne, of their flag
Of their cheap hymn
Well I won’t draw a picture for you
It could be indecent
To see how I wipe myself
With their sickening symbol

It’s pathetic
The change over 60 years
Look at the [national] assembly
There are only white asses
They want integration
Through Rolexes or ham
Here they love you
When you’re rich and you eat pig

When you subscribe to their projects
When you support their crap
Their laws, their expulsions
And their love of the homeland
Admittedly they love couscous
And Cheb Khaled
But they freak out when their daughter comes home with a Mohammed

Don’t act all surprised
Like a frightened virgin
A little fussbudget
Who pretends to be shocked
Like you’re just discovering
That you live with bastards
With racist people
Who never took off their colonist garb

Racism is in our walls and our schoolbooks
In our memories, in our history
Of which we’re so proud
It’s banal and ordinary
It’s in our memory
Impossible to get rid of it


And what about you
You little hypocritical Socialist
I have a few rhymes for you
Written in bitterness
You told us that your cause
Was that of undocumented migrants
That it was anti-racist
You promised equality

In glowing colours you painted
Made us dream of a better France
But you cheat
You hijack
Like you did with the “March of the beurs” [second generation North Africans]
You chase voters
We’ve unmasked you
You and your party of usurpers

And then our intellectuals
Our little bespectacled fascists
Our shit faces
Like that bitch Fourest
Who propagate, feed
The hatred of Muslims, of people from the banlieues
With their stigmatizing discourse

Their arrogant, insulting and contemptuous discourse
Their propaganda is omnipresent in dominant media
It’s a sacred union
Against the invaders
The Barbarians, the savages
Against the enemy within

But we won’t let ourselves be pushed around
Let ourselves be gagged
We won’t let it slide
Like Eli of the LKP [strike in the French West Indies]

It’s my duty of insolence
My duty of irreverence
My duty of impoliteness
My duty of resistance

[refrain x2]


I consider your comment overly ironic. If I were a blue uniform wearer, you would have to prepare for a good feel of the "law". You sound "colored" too. Arrest!


Great piece. Ali Abunimah always maintains his composure with a bitingly sarcastic tone, and everything he says is true. The hypocrisy of France is unbelievable here.


Drunk people should not be arrested , they are not aware of what they say or do....


Hi there,
Charlie Hebdo is pro-palestinian.
Victor Reutenauer


Cyran’s piece is not the only heckling which Charb was subjected to by former friends and colleagues over the years. Delfeil de Ton, a founder of Charlie Hebdo, also criticized and warned Charb repeatedly in the pages of Le Nouvel Observateur, to which De Ton migrated after leaving Charlie, including in 2011 (after the firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices) and in 2012 (when a Charlie Hebdo cartoon placed French embassies on a state of alert). The content of the critique resembles Cyran's so I'll only highlight the warning here.

In the 2011 piece De Ton reported the words of his friend Wolinski (who was killed in the attack on 7 Jan): “I think we’re reckless and idiotic people who took an unnecessary risk. Period. We think we’re invulnerable. For years, even decades, you provoke people, then one day this provocation backfires on you. We shouldn’t have done it.”

But as De Ton recently wrote in the 14 Jan 2015 edition of The Nouvel Observateur, “We shouldn’t have done it but Charb did it again” (one year later, in September 2012). De Ton continues:

“Charb told a journalist of Le Monde: ‘I don’t have children, or a wife. I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.’… Everyone saw Charb’s last cartoon: ‘Still no attacks in France?’ And the jihadist in the cartoon, armed like the one who killed [people at Charlie Hebdo], answers: ‘Just wait! We have until late January to give our best wishes…’ [a reference to the French custom that makes it possible to wish someone a good year until Jan 31] Did you see Wolinski’s last cartoon? It ends on: ‘I dream of returning to Cuba, to drink rum, smoke cigars and dance with beautiful Cuban women.’ Charb who’d rather die and Wolin who’d rather live. I really hold it against you, Charb. Rest in peace.”

The Nouvel Observateur article is not available on line, but this is Le Monde’s reporting on it:


I've put a link to this article at the bottom of this "We are not Charlie" page on my site here:

But it's not just the current organisers of the state which should be shown up for their sick double standards. As I say in the introduction to 2 translations: "In Paris, a friend – a radical – went round various groups of people chatting about the situation, amongst which included some from the French Communist Party. They angrily responded to what he said with “People like you should be prevented from expressing your ideas”. So much for “Freedom of expression”, the watchword of those who have nothing to say but repeat the clichés spewed out by the masters and ideologists of this society. In this society “freedom of speech” does not exist: speak out against your boss, or a cop, or your teacher if you’re a kid, and you’ll discover how far this “freedom” gets France there’s a law against “outrage”, which means that you can be prosecuted for insulting anybody who’s a paid civil servant. I myself was once threatened by a colonel of the gendarmerie with this for insulting Sarkozy (though he didn’t carry through with the threat). ... This of course, is different from being killed for producing a cartoon of Mohammed fucking a goat (a cartoon that reminded a pied-noir French guy I know, a guy born in Algeria, of the fascist OAS’s depiction of sub-human Arabs). A sick cartoon, which, however, does not deserve being killed for (moreover, despite the fact that the international media focus almost exclusively on the journalists killed, in a society divided into the scene and the unseen, the male cleaner and proof reader who were killed have been – with a few exceptions – photochopped out of the picture)..."


You say: "Massad argues that “American and European missionaries of liberalism” are engaged in a campaign to remake Islam and Muslims in their image, that is to say in the image of “liberal Protestant Christianity. Muslim resistance to this benevolent mission is represented as rejection of modernity and liberal values of freedom, liberty, equality, the right-bearing individual, democratic citizenship, women’s rights, sexual rights, freedom of belief, secularism [and] rationality,” Massad writes."

My question then becomes: If Muslims in the West don't take up these values, how will they live in Western democracies which are founded on these very ideals?

If you don't believe in modernity and liberal values, how can you live in a modern, liberal society?


We can add too that the article was not about the muslims in the West but with the muslim world in general. You have a lot of pressure on muslim society on an international level for them to adopt liberal value and worldview.

It is not fair. Like if the muslim world was powerfull enough to do it, it would be unfair to pressure the non-muslim world to adopt sharia law or face economic sanction.


to "anonymous": "If Muslims in the West don't take up these values, how will they live in Western democracies which are founded on these very ideals?"

I have not read Massad yet, but it sounds like you might want to also. You are saying those things in earnest, I think. You may find answers if you open your mind and want to know.
It does strike me as ironic that when Egyptians or Bahrainis or Yeminis rise up in numbers for their human rights (that we claim to value), the "west" tightens the undemocratic nooses around their necks. When their countries become too self-sufficient or independent (Iraq, Libya, Syria), the "west" literally destroys modernity in order to get what it wants. On a larger scale, "western" values spell the destruction of the entire planet all the while claiming to be superior to indigenous people (they seem so outdated). In my opinion (and I am not done learning either), when people ask why a culture can't live alongside their own, it is usually because the dominant one doesn't like them and not much else.


Hi karen,

interesting arguments. i am a european and the article was concerning france, so i am writing from a european perspective here. the issues with iraq and syria have been devestating, and the "west" has a lot of blood on its hands here. i'm not sure if the reasons for going into iraq was 'because it was too self sufficient'. some say it was based on a complete misunderstanding of the region and a belief that western democracy could simply be 'exported' there. it may also have had to do with the military industy and the oil reserves in iraq. either way, big mistake i think.

my main concern is for the situation in europe, how to promote better integration and co-existence. many in europe base their opposition to 'islam' on their idea that traditional muslims are against important liberal values e.g. women's absolute equality, sexual freedom, gay rights.. all of which were very hard faught values in the west and that still have to be defended here


dear john,
I think you have answered your own question. How do you integrate with people that you believe are to blame for your inability to integrate with women and gays and other minorities? You cannot.
I am "european" (white!!) and the people who prevent human rights in my country and invade others to do the same (whether health care, education, racial equality, you name it) are ALL EUROPEANS. And you want to blame that on Muslims?
that is so european.


Anomymous, are you suggesting that Western democracies are indeed founded on women's rights? If so, please give me a general time-frame for the "founding" of these democracies, as you see it (Hint 1: The last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote was Appenzell Innerrhoden, in 1991).

It's difficult to develop arguments with someone who has not even revealed his/her sex (Hint 2: Please put at least a little arrow or cross next to your name, so I can target my thoughts next time).

However this may be:
If you're a Western man, then please pick your own fights and leave me out of this.

If you're a Western woman, then I urge you to look beyond the tabloid reporting on the occastional "honour killing" by Mulsims in Europe, and study carefully the horrific statistic of beatings, strangulations and so forth of Western girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, lovers and wives, at the hand of Western men (Hint 3: start in Spain and work your way upwards, geographically speaking, for Europe at least).

Thank you.


Living in a modern country don't mean that you have to adopt every side of modern ideology. If not it would be totalitarism.

In the same way you could totally be an monarchist living in a republic, in France you have monarchist party. You have in the same way a lot of nationalistic party or far-left party who won't be truely liberal either.

Society are much more organic and moving than the fiction of constitution and official MOTO would make us believe.


in muslim countries there should be no pressure for muslims to accept secularism, liberalism and rights to free speech, etc. i personally think they should, but that would be a domestic issue.

but this article is about france and muslims living there. france will never be a muslim country, like it will never be a christian country again, or a buddhist country. are you saying it's good for european muslims to live in societies where they disagree with the fundamental aspects? freedom of religion is of course protected. but when it comes to daily life, i ask myself, would i want to work in an office with a woman wearing a niqab, for example, where i couldn't see her face? no, i wouldn't.

i think european islam is also changing through young muslims who are born and raised here, and who perhaps experience some sort of pull between the more traditional values of islam and those of the society they live in. i want european muslims to thrive and succeed and have the same level of finance and employment, etc. i think that is important for integration and to avoid violent etremism. but i think there is an issue where different value systems, as well as prejudice and racism, is still holding parts of the muslim community back.


Thank you for this article; it is extremely fair and balanced
I am French myself although lived in UK for last 37 years; France was and still is very racist against North Africans ; it ""ran"" Algeria from 1830 to 1962 and treated the population as a servant race. They also were in Morocco and Tunisia and pretty much did the same there

but >>>

we have a problem here:

france is a secular country which has laws enshrining separation of church and state
in Islam nothing can be separated ; it all has to be islam : state laws family everything no option to separate

so how are the 2 communities ever going to be able to coexist? That is the crux of the matter here surely plus the colonial past and the reasons why 5 million french are from north african islamic background and how and why they got there



Mostly de facto materialist atheists these days [5% church-goers]
Love wine
Love pork (have specialized pork butchers: Charcuterie)
Love Naturism and Nudity
Think Arab women are slaves
Most analytic rational positivists to be found on earth


Overwhelmingly Muslim
Alcohol Haram (Forbidden)
Pork Haram (Forbidden)
Nudity Haram
Many Think Western women are whores
Faith-based learning and education favoured

And yet 5+ million citizens of Arab descent live in France ... how is it EVER going to work? mixing oil and water surely? Anyone sees an obvious way to make things work?


dang, it must be awful to live in France.
how do you stand it? religions that don't like pork, won't show their boobs or drink, that sucks.
maybe the Mormons and Jews should "flee" to the US where it's safe! I suppose if your nuns wear veils, they should also...


What we call "modernity" is simply the dominant culture/ethos at this time. Why shouldn't Muslims look forward to becoming a majority in the West, and to establishing their own "modernity" (which wouldn't necessarily be a re-creation of 7th-century Arabia, as Islamophobes allege)?


Hmmm...maybe for the same reason Westerners should not aspire to become a majority in, say, Saudi Arabia and open pork stores in Mecca?


hi alan,

i can't see muslims becoming a democratic majority in the west. currently, the muslim population is around 4-6% in europe i believe. this is exactly the kind of 'scare tactics' used by the islamophobe right-wing: "the muslims are coming to take over our land and establish sharia". it will not happen in europe, and the idea of it is hindering european muslims' integration into western societies.


Nice article. France is behaving very badly, though can't tell if prosecutions are collectively crazy or intentionally evil - can't rule out either, and both are scary.


This is the country that thinks Jerry Lewis movies are the pinnacle of sophisticated humour. Of course they don't get irony.


Th French Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, precisely defines the appalling Charlie Hebdo as it routinely is full of “words or wrongdoing, hatred or contempt, uttered or committed against someone because of their religion". So why has it never been "fought and pursued with great vigour”?


ZEP means "Zone d'Education Prioritaire". Not "Expression Populaire".
(Priority on Education)



So this is how much freedom of speech France has left.
The very same caricature reversed on the author is no longer just a caricature, its no longer a joke, its no longer freedom of speech, but open advertisement of terrorism.
There was already a lot of hypocrisy and double standards with the caricature debate, but now you managed to top it all. Send children to the prison because of the very same caricature in reverse.

I can only congratulate to everyone involved. You managed to pull the entire argument onto a subhuman level.


The cover of Charlie Hebdo was making fun of hundreds of victims killed by Egyptian junta, so it was an apology of mass murder committed by the state. The mockery of that cover was making fun of the victims of medium-scale terrorist attack, hence it was an apology of terrorism.

The rules seem to be clear, so it is not a double standard.

That said, I have mixed feeling. I see nothing inherently wrong in insulting religion, but doing it to glorify a fascistic junta that is even not secular suggests that it was done by idiots or fascists, and I am fond of neither.


The western/liberal/jewish/french media is just a f*cking brainwashing machine.

They say that they protect the freedom of speech. But this is a lie! There is NO freedom of speech, even in the western/liberal conturies.
And the people who support Charlie Hebdo are braindead sheeps.