Real and vicious Islamophobia

January 12, 2015

THE TERRIBLE recent violence in France has, predictably, triggered an eruption of Islamophobia across the West, and especially in France itself. So I was very glad that chose to publish a series of statements in response to the events ("Don't let this horror be used to stoke bigotry").

However, the article by Dave Kellaway, a member of Socialist Resistance in Britain, is politically misleading and, in my view, did not deserve to appear in SW.

Kellaway writes: "Already on Facebook and elsewhere, some left-wing people are using similar arguments to the ones we heard around the time of the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses--i.e., that the magazine sort of had it coming to it for its virulent secularism and its supposed Islamophobia."

Of course, a person can expect to find just about anything they wish to on social media if they look hard enough. But I haven't seen a single instance of any leftist attempting to rationalize last week's violence in France on social media.

Image from

To be frank, it is hard to interpret Kellaway's accusation as anything other than a sort of vague slander aimed at those who've refused to ignore the very real and viciously bigoted treatment of Islam that regularly appeared in Charlie Hebdo in recent years.

And let's be clear about one thing: It was a real and vicious Islamophobia, not a "supposed Islamophobia."

Had the equivalent of such images appeared "satirizing" Jews instead of Muslims, would Kellaway refer to this as "supposed anti-Semitism"?

Images such as these, regularly featured in Charlie Hebdo especially after 9/11, draw on a perverse racist iconography that, while often purportedly meant to mock the bigotry of the political right, in fact enthusiastically reproduces this bigotry in extreme form for the consumption of a more "liberal" audience.

Whatever other targets the magazine mocked, nobody has honestly contested that Islam was given special treatment.

The point of drawing attention to Charlie Hebdo's Islamophobia is not, however, to rationalize or legitimize these terrible events, as Kellaway--without any evidence--seems to infer.

What else to read readers are debating the response of the left to the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris. The discussion began with an International Socialist Organization statement titled "Don't let this horror be used to stoke bigotry."

Further contributions include:

Aaron Hess
Real and vicious Islamophobia

Sofia Arias and Wael Elasady
No tolerance for Islamophobia

Alan Maass and Todd Chretien
Resisting the tide of racism and repression

Keith Rosenthal
How far does free speech go?

Mike Friedman, Mike Healy and Daniel Factor
Views on Paris in brief

Don Lash
Who do we trust with our rights?

Joe Allen
Free speech and the state

Joel Reinstein
Is free speech the issue?

The real reason should be clear enough. A political campaign is presently underway, right across the Western media and political establishments, to parlay legitimate sympathy for the victims of this atrocity into political identification with Charlie Hebdo and its supposedly "free-thinking" spirit. This is the meaning of the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag and the decision made by major media outlets to re-run the magazine's vile cartoons.

In response to this blackmail, the Left must insist that sharing a genuine sympathy for the victims of this atrocity does not mean we must offer solidarity with the magazine many of them worked for.

Mourn the dead, but #JeNeSuisPasCharlie.
Aaron Hess, Florence, Mass.

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