The killing of 12 journalists and cartoonists is an atrocity, however marching in solidarity with tyrants who oppress human rights and free speech in their own countries sends an appalling message to the world, writes Dr Martin Hirst.
THE KILLING OF 12 JOURNALISTS from French magazine Charlie Hebdo was a horrible murder carried out by crazed ideologues, which I condemn unconditionally — however expressing solidarity with mass murderers and the enemies of freedom of speech is undoubtedly a backward step.
Read this statement from Paris-based socialist John Mullen on why the better sections of the French left marched separately and at a distance from the world leaders.
This letter from another French leftist also sets out some very cogent and nuanced arguments that non-French people should probably read. It outlines the difficulties of fighting fundamentalism and fascism at the same time. But it is the necessary form that solidarity must take — not the perverted version of marching with ghouls.
This is the difficult argument I am having with my French friends: we are all aware of the fact that the attack on Charlie Hebdo will be exploited by the Far right, and that our government will use it as an opportunity to create a false unanimity within a deeply divided society. We have already heard the prime minister Manuel Valls announce that France was “at war with Terror” – and it horrifies me to recognize the words used by George W. Bush. We are all trying to find the narrow path – defending the Republic against the twin threats of fundamentalism and fascism (and fundamentalism is a form of fascism). But I still believe that the best way to do this is to fight for our Republican ideals. Equality is meaningless in times of austerity. Liberty is but hypocrisy when elements of the French population are being routinely discriminated. But fraternity is lost when religion trumps politics as the structuring principle of a society. Charlie Hebdo promoted equality, liberty and fraternity – they were part of the solution, not the problem.
How do you Charlie’s feel marching for peace alongside mass murderers and those the RSF calls “predators” of free speech? Confused? Stupid?
— Ethical Martini (@ethicalmartini) January 11, 2015
Solidarity is a fine and welcome human emotion. It shows that we are not all Ayn Randian sociopaths who will always place our individual comfort and wealth above the problems of others.
Solidarity is an expression of hope that the world can be a better place and it is a recognition that by coming together in collective action we can and we will change the world.
While the murder of journalists in cold blood by crazed Islamic terrorists can never be condoned and is rightly condemned by anyone of conscience; we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into displays of solidarity unthinkingly and based only on a gut reaction to horror.
Think before you walk, zombie-like in the footsteps of the damned.
For two good accounts of this read Lindsay German’s piece at Stop the War Coalition in the UK:
Why is the presence of the Saudi ambasador such a disgusting slap in the face for the memory of the Charlie Hebdo journalists? Well, apart from being the largest state sponsor of Sunni terrorism and banning women from driving, there’s the slight problem of the Saudi state sentencing a young blogger to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes from a cane. The first 50 lashes was administered on Friday last week when all the Charlies had their backs turned.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Friday began the public flogging of a blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 blows, 10 years in prison and a large fine for starting a website that featured content critical of the country’s religious establishment, the rights group Amnesty International reported.
The floggings are to be administered with a cane over a period of months.
The blogger, Raif Badawi, was arrested after starting a website called “Free Saudi Liberals,” and he was later convicted of charges that included cybercrime and parental disobedience.
The case has drawn attention to the strict limits on freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, a close Arab ally of the United States, and prompted unusually direct criticism from the American government.
Oh yeah, did you notice, Saudi Arabia is a “close ally” of the USA and what is “direct criticism”? Does it hurt as much as, let’s say, 1,000 whacks with a cane?
Award-winning foreign correspondent Peter Greste was arrested in Cairo on December 29, 2013. He had been in Egypt only weeks, working on a short relief posting as a journalist for an international TV news network.
After a trial which attracted worldwide attention, on June 23, 2014, Peter was convicted of reporting false news and endangering Egypt’s national security. He was sentenced to seven years jail. He remains in Cairo’s Tora Prison.
“We must demonstrate our solidarity with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world’s other Charlies,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo.”
The authorities have announced the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Gabonese President Ali Bongo.
However, this is only a partial list. There are several anti-democratic regimes who sent representatives to Paris who are not on this list. If you want more names and backgrounds check out this Storify by @DanielWickham93.