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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Charlie Hebdo Deserves the PEN Honour and Why the Critics are (...)

Charlie Hebdo Deserves the PEN Honour and Why the Critics are Wrong

Wednesday 29 April 2015, by siawi3


by Karthick Ram Manoharan

Huffington Post UK - 28 April 2015

PEN American Center has decided to give Charlie Hebdo a long overdue
recognition - its Freedom of Expression Courage award. On its website,
PEN justified its decision arguing, quite legitimately, that "Only a
handful of people are willing to put themselves in peril to build a
world in which we are all free to say what we believe" and that the
journalists of Charlie Hebdo belonged to this category.

Unfortunately, but predictably enough, few writers have decided to
boycott the event where the Hebdo journalists will be awarded. One of
them, American writer Rachel Kushner, defended her decision arguing
that Charlie Hebdo promoted “cultural intolerance”. The others too
gave similar arguments.

A most honorable and courageous exception, Salman Rushdie slammed
these writers for their “very, very bad move.” He further said that
"This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged
minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical
Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to
terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence."

Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a moral and intellectual courage that most
media in the Anglo-Saxon world refuse to show - the willingness to
stand up to bigots of all types and colors. While the liberal-left
here mostly only engage in White-guilt trips blaming Europe for all
ills in the world, the Hebdo journalists, in the true spirit of the
tradition of Voltaire and Moliere, mercilessly lampooned all those who
wielded power, be it the French government, the Le Pens, or the

Now, the Islamists might hail from ’marginalized’ communities but they
definitely are not an ’oppressed’ community. A group which has the
ability to strike journalists at will, which is responsible for the
vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks creating a climate of fear
causing an exodus of Jews from France, which intimidates members of
its own community to follow archaic cultural practices is neither an
’oppressed minority’ nor its representative, but a death cult.

And the writers who are boycotting the PEN event are inadvertently
legitimizing the ideology, politics, and actions of this group. This
only serves as an encouragement to Islamists that instead of being
hauled up for their crimes, it is rather their victims who will be
targeted for being ’racist’, ’intolerant’ and what not. This also
discourages genuinely progressive intellectuals from both Muslim and
non-Muslim communities from having a much needed dialogue on the
structural problems within Islam. By placing Islam beyond criticism,
the liberal-left may pander to their own guilt, but they are doing
nothing to help the oppressed.

Europeans should not be guilty about the claims of discrimination that
Islamists and their apologists frequently shell out as an excuse for
Muslim extremism. We must be bold enough to recognize that Islamism is
not a legitimate reaction of an oppressed group, but a powerful world
movement funded by petrodollars, arms trade, drug trafficking and sex
slavery. If there is anything writers in the West should be guilty
about, it is the sordid history of how the Western powers funded these
movements in the past to counter secular and socialist movements in
the Middle-East and in the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

Unfortunately, what the liberal-left is practicing here is a worse
form of Islamophobia - the fear of offending Muslim extremists. And
White writers assuming that all Muslims get offended by Hebdo’s
cartoons - as if there are no secular, sober and sane individuals and
political movements in the so-called Muslim world - is also a form of

But to further contemplate on Kushner’s comment that Charlie Hebdo
promoted “cultural intolerance” - should we tolerate primordial
savagery that is anathema to all forms of civilization? Can the French
Partisans in World War II also be accused of “cultural intolerance”
towards Nazism? GK Chesterton’s statement holds true here - tolerance
is the virtue of those who believe in nothing.