[Published 19 January 2015]
The sale of seven million copies of the magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring a front page cartoon depicting an image purporting to be that of Muhammad has brought forth its first bloody response from the Islamic world — Niger — where reportedly three people have been killed and six churches attacked and looted.
Riots and protests in Algeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Jordan have added fuel to the rapidly growing feeling of resentment and hostility that Charlie Hebdo has inflamed.
Niger’s President - Mahamadou Issoufou - was one of six African heads of state who attended the unity march in Paris last Sunday in the aftermath of the horrific massacres in the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket - that saw 17 people murdered in cold blood by terrorists identifying themselves with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Niger, Algeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Jordan are all members of the 57 States comprising the Organisation of Islamic Co-Operation.
President Issoufou — reacting to the outbreak of the violence in Niger - angrily declared:
“Those who loot these places of worship, who desecrate them and kill their Christian compatriots… have understood nothing of Islam,”
“Understanding nothing of Islam” could however be equally applied to those seven million readers (with possibly still more to come) who eagerly snapped up the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo—a publication that normally sells 60000 copies — supposedly in support of the right of “freedom of expression” — as proclaimed by French President Francois Hollande:
”...France has principles and values, in particular freedom of expression.”
Hollande had apparently abandoned the moral high ground he initially took on January 7 - following the attack on Charlie Hebdo — when he gave this response:
“France is in shock—the shock of an attack, because it’s a terrorist attack, there’s no doubt about that—against a newspaper that had already been threatened on several occasions and had consequently been under protection. At such times, we must stand together as one, show that we are a united country and that we can react properly, with firmness, but always with concern for national unity.“
Shooting civilians in cold blood in their offices and in a supermarket needed to be condemned and swiftly ended. No State can possibly permit such conduct within its borders nor can any such conduct be justified on any grounds whatsoever — no matter who or what is the target.
But was cocking your nose an appropriate response to the sensitivities and feelings of 1.4 billion Moslems around the world - 4.7 million of whom were estimated in 2010 by the Pew Report to live in France and comprise 7.5% of France’s population - by publishing another depiction of Muhammad contrary to what many Moslems believe to be the precepts of Islam?
Hollande seems to be whistling even further into the wind when he proclaims:
“There are tensions abroad where people don’t understand our attachment to the freedom of speech. We’ve seen the protests, and I would say that in France all beliefs are respected.”
How can Hollande claim that France respects all beliefs when his own Prime Minister is photographed holding a copy of the front page of the latest Charlie Hebdo magazine leaving the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysses Palace in Paris?
There surely is a big difference in supporting the freedom of expression whilst at the same time disagreeing strenuously with the views those people are expressing.
Would the better response have been to leave those seven million copies on the newsstand shelves unsold and its contents condemned for fuelling racial hatred?
Jewish citizens of France certainly don’t believe Hollande and have been voting with their feet in increasing numbers - following more than 20 anti-Semitic incidents — some fatal — committed against French Jews in the last twelve months. 7000 Jews left France and emigrated to Israel during that period.
Those Jews still remaining will view the following words of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on 21 November 2014 last year with utter cynicism and disbelief after last week’s horror at the Kosher supermarket:
“Every time you feel the violence exercised against you, when you are afraid for your children, when you are worried about this rising violence, remind yourselves that the republic protects you and [you have] an interior minister who loves you and who is your friend,”
Hollande’s unity march - led by more than 40 international leaders locking arms in solidarity — should have concentrated solely on calling for the eradication of those responsible for the terrorist attacks — Islamic State and Al-Qaeda — rather than marching ahead of a sea of “Je suis Charlie” banners hoisted defiantly aloft behind them.
Collective international military action is undoubtedly needed to degrade and destroy these enemies of humankind engaging in unimaginable acts of violence all around the world and threatening its peace and security — including groups such Boko Haram, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah.
The message should be clear and unyielding — no State will tolerate under any circumstances the deliberate targeting of its civilians for any reasons whatsoever.
Hollande’s march should have been just the first stage of a world unity march by all world leaders to the United Nations in New York - demanding the passing of a Resolution by the UN Security Council to take military action against Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Until 193 world States identify and eradicate their common enemies - Charlie Hebdomania will remain an incurable illness with frightening consequences.