Charlie Hebdo: No excuses – just murder

Those who use violence to silence those with who they disagree should never be appeased by the democratically-minded.

Those who use violence to silence those with whom they disagree should never be appeased

While undoubtedly a cliché, the saying that Islamic extremists ‘hate our freedom’ was never as silly as some people liked to pretend. Today we see why. There really are some who refuse to accept the basic premises of a liberal society and who are willing to impose their idea of virtue, however ruinously, upon the rest of us.

To blame Islam or Muslims for the murder of four of the best-known French cartoonists (along with as many as eight other innocents) would be to miss the point. Violent totalitarianism comes in many forms, and simply requires a belief, set out in Arthur Koestler’s dystopian novel Darkness at Noon, that wrong ideas are crimes committed against future generations – which must therefore be punished like other crimes.

Once you accept the idea of the perfect society almost any atrocity becomes theoretically possible in the name of the cause. But as the 20th century ought to have demonstrated, such ideas are not confined to the pious, although they may at times manifest themselves in that way.

In this respect, those who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris today, killing at least 12 people in the process, will have believed that what they were doing was good and proper. Indeed, in the perpetrators’ minds the barbaric actions were undoubtedly justified because they extinguished the perceived evil perpetrated by blasphemous French satirists. Notwithstanding pure power worship, that is how totalitarianism justifies itself.

And thus it would be a grave mistake to find a ‘root cause’ for today’s attacks in supposedly ‘offensive’ cartoons. Once you start down that road there really is no telling where you could end up. Indeed, if the problem is ‘provocative’ cartoons then it is also the existence of women and the LGBT community – because the killers probably don’t like those things either.

How do you compromise with that?

French President Francois Hollande put it best earlier today when he described France as “a country of liberty”, adding that “because of that we receive threats”. Quite. Or to put it another way, outpourings of totalitarian brutality are one of the prices we must occasionally pay for a free and open society.

We would all prefer the quiet life; no one wants to believe that they have in some way fuelled the actions of the fanatics. But be very uncomfortable with the notion, which we will no doubt hear in the coming days, that the carnage in Paris was in some sense ‘provoked’ by those who draw cartoons for a living. Satire uses mockery as a tool; but those it ‘provokes’ have willfully chosen their response: it is they who have reacted violently and it is with them – and only with them – that responsibility lies.

Remove the right to ridicule and satirise authority – religious authority in this instance – and everything else is detail, including the right of ordinary Muslims to satirise and ridicule their own despotic rulers. Those who use violence to silence those with whom they disagree should never be appeased by the democratically-minded. There are no excuses; today’s tragedy was cold-blooded murder, pure and simple.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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48 Responses to “Charlie Hebdo: No excuses – just murder”

  1. Rabah Jtl

    Brilliant article James. I especially like the reference in the end for satirists in the Middle East and Muslims themselves who use satire as a means to mock their own dictatorships. This attack was ridiculous, and goes against all principles of liberty.

  2. Just Visiting

    > This attack was ridiculous

    Your condemnation sounds half-hearted.

    Better words would be
    – evil, cowardly, despicable.

    And contradicts what you have said elsewhere.

    Things like:
    > Religion is irrelevant. Violence is there.

    When of course there is a problem of Islamic violence, when compared to other religions.

    > In Islam, one of the most prominent teachings is “there is no
    compulsion in religion”;

    But there is compulsion to disallow a Muslim from giving up that faith: apostasy is against the law in several Muslim countries.
    And there are plenty of things that Sharia law compels

    So that phrase is highly misleading – Islam is in many senses a religion of compulsion.

  3. Just Visiting

    > To blame Islam or Muslims for the murder of four of the best-known
    French cartoonists (along with as many as eight other innocents) would
    be to miss the point. Violent totalitarianism comes in many forms …

    That is strange logic James.

    Yes totalitarian violence exists.
    But in each case of violence we need to understand which totalitarian force is behind it: and understand the specifics.

    I think it would have been honest of you to have written this article with islam at its heart: asking what it is about islam that can have resulted in this act.

    Yes, you make the valid point that we should not bend to this violence by limiting free-speech.

    But it was heartless, on a day when people have died and free speech given such a blow: for you to skirt round the Islam question and instead to pontificate like a sixth-former in their first wordy blog:
    > Once you accept the idea of the perfect society almost any atrocity becomes theoretically possible in the name of the cause.

  4. Godfrey Paul

    The growth of islamofascism in our civilised liberal and democratic society is deeply worrying

  5. jenjon

    I would that newspapers all around the world feature Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed on their front pages tomorrow… Try to suppress freedom of expression, and this should be the response. Make terrorism backfire on itself.

  6. JoeDM

    “Islam is in many senses a religion of compulsion”

    A religion of oppression is more appropriate.

  7. Matthew Blott

    Well said James. I often disagree with him but Douglas Murray had a good piece in the Speccie. As others have said, the best tribute would be for the spineless editors to show the work of Charlie Hebdo over the coming days instead of hiding behind the pretence of not wishing to offend anyone. And please no more comedians pretending to be “edgy” and having a pop at Christianity and pretending like Steve Punt it’s because they don’t have the right to attack Islam when we know it’s because they are scared – for reasons we are all too aware of as today’s events have shown us.

  8. David Lindsay

    I have never seen such hypocrisy in all my life. Considering that I spent much of my youth around local politics, that is saying no small thing indeed.

    Neoconservatives love the French in general, and the French Left in particular? Do they hell! 10 years ago, they would have bombed Charlie Hebdo themselves.

    Or, rather, they would have sent some poor boy to do it for them, even if he had died in the act. They broadly wanted to wipe Paris as a whole off the map.

    But just as they mysteriously acquired an affection for the previously reviled Salman Rushdie after “9/11”, so they would have us believe that they had suddenly become admirers of the work of Charlie Hebdo.


    But then, we knew that, anyway.

  9. TN

    Can we NOW stop pretending that Islam is a uniformly peaceful and tolerant religion? There are simply Muslims who are good who moderate their stance and generally integrate and those who are not. The ideology itself is poison and is the chalice which feeds the minds of those with a propensity for extremism.

    There are commonly Muslims who don’t commit violent acts, yet try to find excuses or justifications for these killers’ actions. Those Muslims aren’t extremists in the true sense but they hold certain viewpoints which are abhorrent and indicative of a mentality that wants to absolve Islamists of any wrongdoing. Quite common seeing them on Facebook feeds.

    Every newspaper should reprint the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as an act of solidarity. Islamists can’t target them at the same time.

    P.S. I hope LFF stops acting like a cheerleader for immigration. You talk tough on Islamic extremism on here, but it’s odd that you take such a permissive attitude to a policy which has in part imported these brutal ideologies onto our soil.

  10. steroflex

    One of the very best characteristics of the Prophet Mohammed was his modesty. He flatly refused to do miracles and he was deeply concerned, to say the very least, about the first revelation. The first four Caliphs too were modest men despite their vast military conquests and their scholarship. Read al Bukhari and see how very down to earth the early Muslims were.
    What a tragedy that these barbarians know nothing about their idol.

  11. Alex McLeish

    Coming soon to a street near you, courtesy of the traitor left who flooded Europe with these subhumans.

    The liberal left have been shouting down any criticism of Islam and Muslims for decades. We saw that well enough with the antics of the Labour council in the Rotherham abuse scandal. Always ready to use your magic ‘racist’ word to shout down and silence anyone who disagrees with your policy of mass immigration and ‘cultural enrichment’. It doesn’t work anymore though, and it’s about time that you multiculturalist pc leftists realised that Muslims aren’t a protected species.

    Front National, Pegida, UKIP, PVV… – these are Europe’s last hopes to clear up the mess the extreme left have made. For the sake of native Europeans everywhere I hope they go from victory to victory.

  12. Matthew Blott

    Mehdi Hasan is coming out with his usual bollocks – not proper Muslims (fornicators and alcohol consumers) and they were inspired by Iraq atrocities. I stick up for him a lot on Harry’s Place and I find it bloody trying.

  13. ForeignRedTory

    ‘But be very uncomfortable with the notion, which we will no doubt hear
    in the coming days, that the carnage in Paris was in some sense
    ‘provoked’ by those who draw cartoons for a living.’

    It is not enough to be merely uncomfortable with such notions, rather, we should be highly resolved that whoever has the temerity to suggest such notions shall henceforth be our sworn enemy.

  14. Rabah Jtl

    What are you talking about?

  15. Glenys Conroy

    ED MILIBAND condemns the French tragedy of the slain cartoonists. But it has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

    We have to learn what we can safely say about the Prophet Mohammed to all Moslems. Never joke. Cartoons are meant to insult. Defending the name of their Prophet has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Insults are not included in that freedom of speech. If you insult the prophet Mohammed to any Moslem they are likely to become dangerous towards you.

    If HM The Queen was to tell them that Christians know that Mohammed, undoubtedly holy because his fervent worship of God, was arrogant and wrong to disbelieve that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he is leading all who cannot believe that God has a Son and are therefore too low to be Christians, then there would be an uprising because you cannot convert all Moslems. Any person becomes a Christian alone, one man or woman at a time, by religious revelation in his or her life, and it is a lone, personal journey and a rise in faith.

    And so what we have to say to Moslems is that we can analyse their prophet, Mohammed, and that when God told him he would be the leading one in the faith of Islam or he could choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Mohammed said to God “Why should it be that man (Christ)?” when it could be Mohammed and his family, the prophet to whom Moslems would now turn. And that was arrogance to the extreme; but Mohammed simply could not believe in Jesus as God.

    Because Mohammed was only a man,- and a very minor prophet in Heaven, where he is still too arrogant to say he will give all his heart and mind to Jesus Christ and give up his own rival beliefs entirely,- Mohammed leads all the ones who will not say that Jesus Christ, and not Mohammed, is the Truth, the Way and the Life. Even though Mohammed the prophet has now been told from God’s own mouth that Jesus is his son. A Moslem is arrogant because Mohammed was arrogant and he is only trying to be like a man; no doubt holy Mohammed was a good man to be a prophet. And when they don’t have one who died like Jesus did on the Cross to take our sins upon Himself, it looks as though Mohammed was only a success.

    What we should be telling all so-called religions, including Judaism, which is the old way, is that those are not religions other than Christianity; they are only wrong beliefs. There is only one true faith and that is Christianity, one religion and there are no others. This is not religious prejudice; it is the one Truth. And we know they can’t all be right. So simply only one can be, Christianity. It is higher to believe in Jesus Christ Our Lord as God. Why can’t God have a son? To believe in a good God is only half the battle; and Moslem people haven’t advanced sociologically or psychologically, or culturally etc., and are more primitive people. But only 0.1% of them are dangerous terrorists, and Christianity is not without its criminals.

    The Islamic religion is eroding our Christian way of life, and whilst they think we are less good than they are they will continue to over-dominate women, have Halal meat and Sharia laws. Christians will continue to evangelise to bring into the one true faith which Christianity is the one who can be salvaged for a higher Heaven with a love of Christ Jesus Our Lord. Moslems can otherwise continue to fall further behind Christians whilst we save a Christian Britain. Moslems must remain a minority wrong belief which cannot challenge Christianity. For the sake of our country.

    Our country is now in the hands of many strange people each with an enemy agenda to erode a Christian society, and attack our people on the basis of those strange, pagan beliefs. We have to take our Christian population and complaints much more seriously and listen to them on the grounds of Christianity about how they are being abused by people of other wrong beliefs in jobs empowered but inadequate and capable of ruining their lives for them. Save Britain now for Christianity. Or else there will always be Moslems bombers if they think that makes them all look strong.

  16. Gary Scott

    These murders, coming hot on the heels of marches in Germany, are designed to polarise and provoke the opinion of even the most reasonable. The aim is to push everyone who holds ‘liberal’ opinions into taking sides. They also want secular Moslems to be attacked or at least FEEL under attack. If the strategy were to succeed we would see widespread civil unrest and war on many fronts. Many have said that various Western governments are happy to use these fears to their own ends to justify draconian surveillance and security measures and unpopular wars overseas. The problem is that the government may sleepwalk us into continuing disorder using this strategy. Raising the security level gives government increased powers. How will they be used? How will this affect the General Election??

  17. Gary Scott

    It seems your day has come..

  18. BoyneBhoy

    Bit like Christians and atheists then

  19. Just Visiting

    You have just delivered a text-book ad-hominen attack.
    ( in case you’ve not come across that term before in debating: it means you criticised me as a person, and failed to comment on what I had actually written – because the truth or not of what someone says in debate does not depend one iota on who they are as a person).

    I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to wonder why you choose to respond in that style: and what the link is to your belief that:
    > Religion is irrelevant. Violence is there.

  20. ForeignRedTory

    ‘The aim is to push everyone who holds ‘liberal’ opinions into taking
    sides. They also want secular Moslems to be attacked or at least FEEL
    under attack.’

    And perhaps it is time for everyone, emphatically including secular Muslims, to stand up and be counted. Get off the bench and take sides. Being neutral is no longer reasonable or acceptable.

  21. Cole

    Any excuse to peddle this rightist claptrap. Typical of you lot to try to make cheap political capital out of this tragedy.

  22. IAS2011

    Can wearing such an strong bond of family and society influenced faith in a God ever able to gain the sort of balance or reason in your heart – when it is never tested or scrutinised in your mind to establish its real meaning to its core – be the reason for triggering such extremities?

  23. damon

    The two brothers who did this were petty criminal, weed smoking losers.
    One fancied himself as a rapper too.
    This type of person is quite common. Prisons are full of them, in the UK and France.
    Some of the Madrid bombers were from the same kind of demographic.
    If they’re not being bad, they’re mad.
    It’s not the end of civilisation, or even freedom of speech, but it is a problem that we are stuck with for the foreseeable future.

    Btw, from what I’ve seen it, the French magazine was pretty purile and offensive, seemingly for the sake of it.
    In these polarised times though, just saying that is too much for a lot of people.
    As it sounds a bit like what George Galloway says, and if you don’t agree with him you have to take the opposite partisan position.

  24. Just Visiting

    will be interesting to see if there are solidarity acts from other satirists like comedians.. Stephen Fry…

    Wouldn’t it great if every comedian made a point of doing anti-islam satire at the start and end of their shows, as a protest…

  25. Just Visiting

    Would be more helpful. if you want us to understand your views, if you were explicit about where specifically you disagreed with Alex.

    He wrote:
    > The liberal left have been shouting down any criticism of Islam and Muslims for decades.

    That is true, in my experience.

    I used to hang out on what was the Uks biggest left-leaning blog-forum: liberal-conspiracy.
    Just 3 or 4 years ago, people there were saying for example that ‘Jesus and Mohammed were equally violent’ !!

    > Rotherham abuse
    The Guardian was in denial about that event: until the very last minute.

  26. Just Visiting

    He is an unpleasant guy.
    He twittered:
    “Tragically/frustratingly, the #charliehebdo attack wasn’t even only / worst / bloodiest terror attack in the world today”

  27. Matthew Blott

    Did he? Yes I get the impression he’s not a very nice guy.

  28. Matthew Blott

    I wouldn’t pick on Stephen Fry to be fair as I don’t think he’s the sort of hypocrite I’m talking about. I don’t have a problem with people artists steering clear of mocking Islam if they admit as Grayson Perry does that it’s because they fear “having my[his] throat slit” (Perry’s words).

  29. Just Visiting

    > He flatly refused to do miracles

    Not so much … the miracle of him in one night visiting Jerusalem and back (huge distance away) in a some miraculous way, but not by literally travelling there and back.

    > his modesty

    Not sure that is relevant in comparison to the fact that he beheaded prisoners – a pattern seen today in Islamic acts round the world.

    He was so modest, that he changed the laws of adoption: so that he could un-adopt his adopted son in order to marry his wife!
    To this day in Islam: adoption is very weak, unleak in the West: where adoption is based on the pattern of the New testament: once adopted there is no going back.

  30. Just Visiting

    my fault -I wasn’t suggesting Stephen was any more or less hypocritical than your average comedian.
    Just recalled that off the top of my head, he’d already been (stupidly) accused in 2013 of being an islamophobe, for merely condemning Muslim violence.

  31. Just Visiting

    I see that since responding to my comment, saying.

    > attack someone … for their use of adjective

    That you have edited your comment, and change the adjective to:

    > This attack was disgusting

    Shame that at the same time you were not able to apologise for your ad hominen attack.

    That’s cowardly Rabah – it damages your own standing here in front of everyone reading, if you choose to act in that way.

  32. Cole

    Really? I think you just make this stuff up – or assume one person you talk to represents the whole ‘liberal left’, then use this as a reason to support far right parties like the Front National.

    It’s disgusting that you try to exploit terrorist murders to drum up support for your extreme views.

  33. Just Visiting

    > I think you just make this stuff up

    Not helpful of you if you don’t make clear which bit you refer to. is still online, you could have searched for yourself and found that what I said was true.

    One example:

    > if you’re not going to speak up against the prejudice and violence in the bible you have no right to single out the very few occurrences in the Koran and Hadith

  34. Guest

    Quite – the tiny proportion of Muslims who are Islamist. And of course, an equal threat – the near-identical views with only different targets espoused by the far right,

  35. Guest

    So you’re just like those you supposedly fight. Right.

  36. Guest

    Yes, I’m sure you’ll being your terrorism home, as you try and use this as another excuse to offer violence to people who’d not fight except in self-defence, as you try and deny your views and shut down discussion to show you’re worse than any mere Islamist.

    Your push for a monocultural society like North Korea, where your radical political ideology is the only one allowed, as you try and isolate the UK because of your fear of the Other, etc.

    You list out your anti-civilisation fifth columnists, no more.

  37. Guest

    Except for your posts.

  38. Guest

    And your views differ how?

  39. Guest

    Ah, so you’ll be carpet bombing lots of towns then, in Europe.

  40. Guest

    No, it isn’t. You’re standing against civilisation, for example.

  41. Guest

    Keep talking about your brand of Islam.

  42. Guest

    No surprise you need to carp so much about condemning views close to your far right’s.

  43. Just Visiting

    that’s too cryptic- spell out what you mean, if you want engage me and other readers to the message you want to get across.

  44. Cole

    You were defending some guy who was promoting the FN, Ukip etc.

    And you can’t generalise about the ‘liberal left’ by picking out a few quotes from a now extinct (i think) blog.

  45. Just Visiting

    I wasn’t defending anyone.

    What I wrote was:

    > Would be more helpful. if you want us to understand your views, if you were explicit about where specifically you disagreed with Alex.

    But you failed to expand on your criticisms of what Alex said.

    That is more like the behaviour of a troll: I hope you’re not a troll and I ask again: that you now please will come up with specific and detailed criticism of the words Alex wrote.

  46. Imran Khan

    I wouldl love that newspapers all around the world feature your mother’s nude pic on their front pages day-after tomorrow and you know what i have freedom of expression too, try some logic(lol) and make provocation backfire on itself

  47. bewildered

    i would like all the newspapers in the world to also feature a list of the victims of the chaos that the bombing Libya by France and Britain caused. And what about the victims in Iraq? they were innocent, and yet our democracies in the UK and US decided that a campaign of shock & awe was in order. And they told lies in the process of trying to sell that aggression. is that one of our sacred values too?

  48. Bonkim

    and submission – by definition.

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