Why it’s wrong to blame western policies for the Paris attacks

Blasphemy and critical evaluation of Mohammed’s character have always been forbidden, and have been a highly sensitive issue throughout the history of Islam.

Blasphemy and critical evaluation of Mohammed’s character have always been forbidden, and have been a highly sensitive issue throughout the history of Islam

It is quite appalling to see how some western media figures have responded to the Paris attacks.

Some have blamed the cartoonists for provoking Muslims and inciting religious hatred, while others like Robert Fisk have blamed historic western policies for the murders.

Fisk claimed that the disenfranchisement of youth, economic deprivation, and past atrocities experienced by Algerians led to the Paris events.

Others on the far left like the inveterate anti-American journalist Glenn Greenwald started with Soviet style whataboutism and connected the Paris events with Israel, while the annoying Assange, still languishing in the Ecuador embassy, tweeted some five-year-old Telegraph report to obfuscate the Paris shooting issue.

It’s beyond absurd to blame French occupation of Algeria for the shootings. This is the kind of apologism that facilitates radical Islam. This strategy only results in appeasement of puritanical radical Islamic ideology and only offers one solution: ‘the West is evil’.

If past grievances and atrocities are considered to be the reasons behind these attacks then by this logic all Indians living in the UK would be retaliating to avenge the suffering their ancestors faced during British Colonialism. Bangladeshis would carry out attacks against Pakistan since they once ruthlessly persecuted Bengalis, killing more than a million of them and raping 200,000 of their women.

If Fisk were right, Vietnam and Japan would not be some of the most pro-American countries in the world today.

However the most pathetic and dismal response that came from the western press was from those who castigated Charlie Hebdo and blamed the cartoonists for provoking Muslims.

If one follows this flawed narrative then all liberal Muslims struggling against radical Islam on a daily basis in their own Muslim majority countries should only have themselves to blame whenever they are brutally attacked by extremist clerics and their zealot followers.

The Saudi writer and activist Raif Badawi who is currently being publicly flogged by repressive Saudia Arabia should be denounced for criticising the rabid misogynist clerics of the Wahabbi sect. All Pakistani liberals fighting against draconian blasphemy laws should also be condemned for inciting the wrath of terrorists.

Even a cursory examination of blasphemy killings in Pakistan can tell us that the real reasons why the cartoonists were attacked were not because of Western foreign policy, the Iraq War, or colonialism, but because of an ideology that has always been fanatical and dogmatic in nature and that is responsible for the misery of thousands of people, particularly in Pakistan.

This ideology has the power of igniting vigilante justice and provoking mobs into indulging in violence and vandalism. It’s the same ideology which sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade, and that burnt 37 people to death after a mob set fire to a hotel building in Turkey.

It’s the same ideology that killed prominent Pakistani politician Salman Taseer after he questioned the concept of the country’s brutal blasphemy laws.

According to this ideology, any person who doubts the origins of Islam, draws caricatures of Prophet Mohammad or satirises revered Islamic figures is liable to be punished by death. The basis for this blasphemy belief is not the Quran but the Hadith, the second main source of Islam.

Many sects within Islam have varied views in relation to the blasphemy issue but almost all sects believe in the prohibition on images of Mohammed.

Apart from images, many sects of Islam also consider even questioning or doubting the origins of Mohammed as blasphemous. British Historian Tom Holland had his academic documentary on the origins of Islam cancelled by Channel 4 after he and his family received death threats and over 1200 complaints were received by Ofcom and Channel 4.

To blame this ideology on recent western policies is nothing short of the murder of history. Blasphemy and critical evaluation of Mohammed’s character has always been forbidden and a highly sensitive issue among Muslims in the history of Islam. It is not a new issue.

In 1929, Ilm-ud-din, a Muslim living in British India, took offence at a book published about Prophet Mohammed. He killed the publisher and was sentenced to death by the Indian Penal Code.

Consequently he was considered a martyr; 200,000 people attended his funeral and he was praised by the ideological founder of Pakistan Allama Iqbal. Even today in Pakistan, Ilm-ud-din is used as an inspiration for those who would kill in the name of Islam.

As Douglas Murray said on BBC Big Questions, the attack on 7 January was an attempt to introduce blasphemy laws in Paris.

In the aftermath of this attack, the western media has two options. The first is to reprint these cartoons and continue the unflinching quest of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, as a way of paying tribute to their legacy. The second option is to take a step back and not criticise Islam or Mohammed, to accord Islam different treatment to other religions.

If the media follows the latter option, it will be a victory for the attackers and their ideology of blasphemy, and will set a dangerous precedent. I hope that the steps we take and our future course of action will not defer to this ideology. But as the responses so far have shown, not everyone is ready to stand up to it.

Anas Abbas is an accountant and investigative Counter Terrorism analyst. Follow him on Twitter or read his blog

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145 Responses to “Why it’s wrong to blame western policies for the Paris attacks”

  1. Just Visiting

    > If the people you are criticising are only blaming imperialism and are
    not prepared to criticise Islamic teachings then you have got a point.
    Otherwise, you don’t.

    Can you list where they are criticising Islamic teachings?

    If you haven’t got such a list: then your statement can only be read as you saying that Anas interpretation must be correct.

  2. Chris Speedy

    OK, take Greenwald as a case in point. Watch this TV discussion and you’ll hear him (several times) acknowledge the point that Islam is partly to blame.


    Or how about this from Fisk “Tribal feuds often provoke “honour” killings in Iran and Afghanistan. In Iran, for example, a governor’s official in the ethnic Arab province of Khuzestan stated in 2003 that 45 young women under the age of 20 had been murdered in “honour” killings in just two months, none of which brought convictions. All were slaughtered because of the girl’s refusal to agree to an arranged marriage, failing to abide by Islamic dress code or suspected of having contacts with men outside the family.”

    As I said, Anas’ interpretation is deeply flawed and one-sided.

  3. Jen

    You confuse fear with reality and indoctrination with wisdom.

  4. Guest

    Maybe Pakistan wouldn’t STILL be under attack if they took care of their own dirty laundry themselves instead of counting on the rest of the world. Bin Laden. Al Qaeda, ISIS and now it’s IS? Who can keep all the BS straight? Believe me, I hate that anyone is murdered. But you should have cleaned up your country 30 years ago.

  5. Jen

    Bull shit. Total bull shit. Pakistan played both sides of the fence for 30 plus years. I knew on 9/12 that Pakistan supported Bin Laden when the lunatic shop keepers son, who was here on a education visa but was NEVER in school ranted on about how the US deserved the attack. You want the murders to stop? STOP SUPPORTING MURDER. I laughed out loud when Hillary Clinton called you out on Bin Laden a year before we killed him. Your nation is two faced. No pity from me. Chicken shit two faced murdering lunatics. Come on, gut up and clean your own filthy house.

  6. Leon Wolfeson

    You don’t look, okay, as you make it plain that your issue is it discriminates on sex and not religion.

  7. Guest

    Yes, your claims really are sad. You’re the one taking offence here, trying to blame me for your views, and I’ll happily report your offence, if that was a confession.

    Was it?

  8. Guest

    Ah yes, “UR MENTALLY ILL”. Nope, I understood just fine, that’s your issue, as you lash out in the name of your intolerant faith, for your good old permitted killing and maiming.

  9. Guest

    No, I don’t. You are telling them most people are evil, etc.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re unaware of Christian violence…right. Wilfully so, no doubt.

    The problem is extremism, plain and simple.

  11. Todd Fewer

    what intolerant Faith? iM AN ATHIEST ? perhaps you should look up the meaning of the word Leon. i certainly dont condone any killing or maiming …that is the whole point ….that those of us that are free from outgated ancient myth and the belief in a magical being living in the sky that condones slaughtering people be they from any religion or mystical ideology in its name is in fact a form of mental illness . killing or hurting another human being is wrong period …but its even worse when its for a invisible magic man in the sky that nobody has ever seen or for which there is absolutely ZERO evidence it even exists . Any educated person that understands the slightest how religion developed cronologically in history orr for that matter has the tiniest incaling of intelligence or common sense knows this. the civilized world has had enough of religion and its killing and im simply saying their is no room in our future for this anymore . welcome to planet earth ….you must be this intelligent to ride . And sure go ahead and report me or whatever you want to do …that is your right and i believe in free speech . youre not very bright are you Leon ? its ok god still loves you even if you are a neanderthal!

  12. Todd Fewer

    sure …whatever you say Leon …i have complete confidence that any semi intelligent person would have the ability to see what ive said here…well anyone but you apparently !

  13. Todd Fewer

    please clearify exactly what it is you disagree with or find offencive Leon and maybe i can help walk you step by step through to understanding ok . maybe if you actually discuss something then you might learn something or at least gain some capacity to learn instead of chest thumping and grunting.

  14. Just Visiting

    Firstly, that is just another Greenwald rant: and he doesn’t really say that islam is partly to blame: he really just means that the USA is ‘only ‘99% to blame and the rest maybe something else, Islam.

    The evidence that he doesn’t blame Islam: is that he uses the debating cheat of whatabbouterry – to suggest that Christianity is just as bad.

    He really is ‘just blaming imperialisim’ in that video.

    It is not a reasoned style or approach Greenwald takes, he offers no measured references to evidence: just emotional.

    Secondly: even if the video counted as evidence of Greenwald blaming Islam (which I don’t think it is): I had asked for a list of such evidences: so coming up with just one falls short.

  15. Just Visiting

    Feel free to point out where the 57 nations of the OIC have united to run an ongoing campaign for free speech and supporting the rights of the Danish cartoonists/ Charlie Hebdo etc.

    Trust me Leon: I have looked. But found silence.

  16. Just Visiting

    Show me the terrorism done by christians against Muslims where the perpetrators make public statements that they it because they were offended by the portrayal of Jesus by Muslims.

    That is spelling out very plainly, what I said above about the lack of the christian mirror -image of violence like the paris murders, danish cartoons and so on.

  17. Just Visiting

    So you do not provide evidence of your statement:

    > They do condemn it. It’s generally not considered newsworthy, though

    by the 57 Muslim nations members of OIC.

    If you post another time and again provide no evidence: than all us readers will know that your claim was simply a lie.

  18. Just Visiting

    Oh, s’funny there’s a new bit in your response, about Fisk: did you edit and add it: or did I miss it on first reading.

    But reading what Fisk wrote he is making a very specific localised case about some Muslim on Muslim violence. He describes it as ‘Tribal feuds’: which means he is not saying the root cause is Islamic teachings.

    He does mention dress codes as being one of several reasons the tribal feud uses as a pretext- yes a pretext for their violence.

    So if that dress code is ‘Islamic’ – is relevant.

    Fisk’s whole article is not putting a root-cause blame on Islamic teachings at all!

  19. Chris Speedy

    Or perhaps he has some grasp of history? Christianity is (or rather was) as bad. In our more enlightened era it has lost its power to coerce, that’s all. He is certainly giving emphasis to the contribution of America’s ability to bully less wealthy countries but don’t you have to do that when debating with people who are in denial about this?
    Pot calling the kettle black – surely your ignoring the Fisk quote is a debating cheat?

  20. Guest

    Ah yes, I need to provide “proof” of basic google searches, which you don’t do, as you scream your multiple personalities KNOW that everything anyone else says is a lie. You, nobody else, as you speak purely for your own hate and fear.

  21. Guest

    Yes, I’m sure you can fool a few people of sub-standard intelligence. But most people dismiss it, as you resort to spewing garbage because that’s all you have.

  22. Guest

    I don’t have your learning issues, as you try and avoid your post, and offer further insults as a “walk through”, and try and say that your attacks are discussion.

    Was it a confession, yes/no?

  23. Guest

    Faith, not religion, of course.

    You keep pretending, of course, that your extremism isn’t a problem, as you preach your intolerance and hate – as you attack all theists under your brand of social darwinism.

    Keep spewing that only people who agree with you can be educated, that only people who agree with you can have common sense…that you – claiming to speak for the “civilized world”, as you call for the extermination of all theists.

    As you say, must *agree with you entirely* to be allowed on Earth, your creed speaks! And then you spew eugenicist bullshit about “neanderthal”s.

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah, so as long as it’s not 100% identical, you’re fine with it. What a surprise.

  25. Leon Wolfeson

    Makes as much sense as blaming Protestants for the Pope.

  26. Todd Fewer

    you are an angry hot mess Leon…lol calm down and tell me exactly what you have issue with…you refuse to show …only bark out nonsense that i am not saying ,making huge leaps to rediculous statements …what are you trying to get me to confess exactly …and to whom? lol please dont put a Fatwa on me for my opinions ok?? No one especially me is suggesting genicide you insufferable twat! go read a book or something maybe animal farm or something … or the Age Of Reason by Thomas Paine….the only hate anyone here sees is yours! if you havent notice no one has upvote a single comment youve made …maybe theres a reason for that hey??? if you dont like OR UNDERSTAND what ive said …simply dont read it ok! HUGS! lol

  27. Todd Fewer

    “There is no polite wayto suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly” – Daniel Dennett

  28. Todd Fewer

    “the problem with todays world is that everyone believes they have a right to express their opinion AND have others listen to it.
    The correct statement iof individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion , but cruially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsence!” – Professor Brian Cox

  29. Just Visiting

    > Christianity is (or rather was) as bad.
    Which one of those alternatives do you believe?

    Fisk’s article?
    It clearly does not show Fisk criticising Islamic teachings!

    He clearly says he’s talking about:
    * tribal feuds of Muslim on Muslim violence
    * which sometimes latch on to pretexts
    * one among other such pretexts concerns dress sense
    * specifically whether girls wear what the locals consider ‘Islamic dress’.

    No criticism of islamic teaching there – on the contrary: Fisk is making clear the root cause is something else: Tribal feuding.

  30. Todd Fewer

    first off I do not “confess” that is a religious term…I would gladly admit to something if its indeed true though as Ive asked you 3 or 4 times now what you are asking me to “confess” to??? Ive read over a most everything ive written …still can not in the slightest , see what you are asking me to admit … sorry confess to ? anyways this will probably be the last time i respond to you Leon …I wish you well and hope you get the help you need to rid yourself of whatever it is that blocks your ability to comprehend without the bias that someone has poisoned your confused little mind with. youve brought me down to your level when i was having an intellectual conversation and …im afraid after the confessing clearification i wont respond to you again. perhaps you should take some anger management courses or deprogramming or whatever is available in your cave 😉

  31. Chris Speedy

    In my opinion all religion is an irrational escape into the comforting arms of authority figures. It divides people against each other and fuels mutual distrust, fear and hatred. My point was just that the priestly class in Western counties have (to varying degrees) been stripped of their power by the rise of rational, scientific ideas.

    On the contrary, you have not responded on the Fisk article. In that article he is angrily drawing attention to the barbaric crimes perpetrated by the strong against the weak in backward Islamic countries. Is it not very interesting that many of the most repressive of these regimes are propped up by the United States?

    The killings in Paris were carried out by deranged fanatics with hate in their hearts. It seems obvious that the authorities and opinion formers within the most conformist, illiberal counties of the Middle East bear huge responsibility for the actions of the terrorists. That is a very far cry from saying that Islam is the cause of all the world’s problems.

  32. Just Visiting

    A) Regards the Fisk article – I had replied, I thought, but seems to have vanished – maybe I did it wrong: I’ll post again above, now.

    B) There’s little point us having this exchange if we don’t listen to each other.

    I asked a simple question, merely to clarify what you had written: if you want a sensible, reasoned discussion, it would be helpful if you responded to such clarification questions.

    > Christianity is (or rather was) as bad (as Islam)

    Does that sentence mean your view is that ‘Christianity is as bad’ or ‘Christianity was as bad’.

  33. Just Visiting

    Concerning the Fisk article you quote: the question is: whether it is, as you claim, evidence that Fisk sometimes criticise Islamic teachings.

    So, let’s look at it:
    a) Fisk says that there is a common root cause of a type of Muslim on Muslim violence known as honour killing
    b) that root cause is Tribal Feuds
    c) the honour killing that results from the feuding, is based on 3 various pretexts for the violence
    d) for only 1 of the 3 pretexts does Fisk us the word ‘Islam’
    e) he uses the phrase ‘Islamic dress code’
    f) he does not use the phrase ‘islamic teaching’.

    Conclusion: Fisk attributes the honour killing not to Islamic teaching: but to tribal feuding.
    He mentions no Islamic teachings at all: let alone criticises any!

    Conclusion: the passage you gave is NOT evidence that Fisk does also criticise Islamic teachings.

  34. Chris Speedy

    I thought I had made my view clear but for the avoidance of misunderstanding I will put it differently. I regard all religions as power structures which exert a malign influence over the thinking and behaviour of their adherents. But they are not monolithic. In fact they are just communities of people who share certain common beliefs. Some of the people involved in them are good people and some are bad people. They devote huge amounts of energy to arguing among themselves. As the wider society of which they are a part makes progress towards greater freedom of thought religious leaders become less arrogant and more accountable and this reduces their malign power to tell people what they should think and do. Because most majority Christian countries/societies have made great strides towards freedom of thought and expression and the influence of the churches has waned it is fair to say that Christianity is not as bad as Islam which is a religion which wields huge power within most majority Muslim societies. I’m not an expert on this subject but I’m not aware of any Muslim country where females have equality with males, for example. So Christianity has improved (ie weakened) while Islam is still capable of giving legitimacy to all kinds of wickedness. We can only hope that the West will stop giving support to oppressive regimes in the Middle East (including Israel) and that chaotic region can move in a democratic direction. Maybe one day peaceful coexistence will be possible and majority Muslim countries will enjoy the freedoms that our predecessors fought for at great cost here in the West.

  35. Just Visiting

    > Christianity is not as bad as Islam

    Thanks, that’s made your view clear.

    Now about your claim that Fisk is wiling to criticising Islamic teachings – the situation you gave, I responded to, and shows was not an example of that.

    I’d be interested to hear of anywhere that Fisk has really done what you say.

    Any chance you can point out some examples?

  36. Chris Speedy

    I didn’t see your response on Fisk. What is there in the extract that demonstrates he is an apologist for Islamic religious norms as you seem to be implying?

  37. Chris Speedy

    And there I was thinking you mock Islam because you are a nasty racist with too much time on his hands but now that you’ve explained it all so clearly I can see that you are in fact a genius!

  38. Chris Speedy

    Ah, your final solution, eh?

  39. Chris Speedy

    Now it is you who are using a debating trick to avoid accepting my point.
    Your contribution above is just nit picking. It is one thing to criticise a religion or culture that you find abhorrent but you don’t want to stop there. You cross a line when you advocate attacks on people who belong to the religion you dislike. Just because a small minority of Muslims commit unjustified violence in the name of their religion does not provide a justification for attacking the others who are innocent of such crimes. By responding to terrorism in that way you become no better than the terrorists.

  40. Just Visiting

    I’m out.
    You blow your own credibility when you claim I have said things that everyone here can read above and see I have not said:

    > you advocate attacks on people who belong to the religion you dislike

  41. Chris Speedy

    OK but just think about what I said. It is wrong to blame whole sections of society for the actions of a tiny minority of mentally unstable individuals.

  42. FrederickRhodes

    The history of Mohammad and his claims to having the word of God and to create laws in God’s name is repeating itself. It’s as if Mohammad has been reincarnated as Kim Jong-un who is convincing the North Koreans that he is also god’s mouthpiece, and in their future they will begin to exterminate anyone who does not believe in their prophet. Religion is a psychosis of mass paranoid schizophrenia.

  43. nikrubik

    “Those who annoy Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter..truly, if the Hypocrites…who stir up sedition in the City, desist not…then will they not be able to stay in it as thy neighbours for any length of time.They shall have a curse on them: whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain (without mercy).”-— Quran 33:57–61. Please note the error in the article that says the blasphemy laws are not rooted in the Quran- because they are.

  44. glennwire

    YOU obviously have a major witch-hunting manichean project about things which you have designated “leftism”.

    Possibly it’s driving you completely mad and deranged. Most self-obsessed agenda driven projects of severe hygiene are recipes for mental haywire.

    The answer you are looking for I think pertains to France’s post-colonial legacy. For both France and those inhabitants of its former colonies.

    If examining this very real and material historical legacy is too “left-wing” for you, then that is obviously YOUR weird, neurotic and far-right witch-hunting problem.

    “The immigrant population has remained “colonized.”
    Decades of this colonial legacy and state and public reinforcement of
    the “separateness” of the immigrant population has been coming home to
    roost for several years now. Riots in the immigrant fringe of Paris
    broke out 10 years ago. The marginalization did not end. Today, some of
    that unintegrated population has found its way to radical Islam. The
    younger generation of these immigrant families lives in France but is
    not “of France,” and France is not inclusive of them; they speak French,
    but employment opportunities are rare, and upward mobility even rarer.

    Clearly Islamic extremism is a proximate expression of this
    underlying rage of the colonized, a message and text that gives voice to
    that humiliation and the desire to stand up against it. And the
    consequences are frightening. But religion is only part of the problem;
    overcoming the colonial legacy is an even bigger part.”

    “Sadly, France has adapted badly, even not at all, to this migration.
    The colonizer has not been able to adapt to the presence of the
    colonized. The French concept of nationhood was rooted in becoming
    “French,” adopting French symbols and French culture, not in widening
    the sense of what is French to include other cultures, races, religions,
    and values. Discrimination grew. The damnés were condemned to shoddy
    housing in the banlieues and were treated poorly in the education
    system; their religion was ignored or criticized (lay France rejects the
    wearing of headscarves), and their employment opportunities were few
    and far between.”


  45. Tom

    Yes, I’m sure that the marginalisation of often poor, ethnic minority communities in France magically avoids those with totalitarian beliefs…

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