Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - Page 9 News List

No comfort found in Charlie and the anti-Muslim media factory

By Sami Mahroum

It is easy to discuss the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo as an attack on freedom of expression.

However, should there be surprise that a global terror organization known for its brutal disregard for human rights and humane values would attack a media outlet that has specialized in provoking it?

Just as much of the social media in the Arab and Muslim world has routinized anti-Semitic rants, there is a global industry of outlets dedicated to all things anti-Muslim.

In any given week, French, European — and increasingly Indian — journalists, bloggers, tweeters and others regularly express all sorts of things that are offensive or provocative to Muslims — or at least the most devout and fanatical among them.

There are hundreds of Web sites, radio programs and TV networks that specialize in anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic propaganda. The Twitter hashtag #killallMoslems has been around since 2011.

While this abundance of offensiveness may comfort those concerned about freedom of expression, it does not give me — a European Muslim — any comfort.

Europe’s suspicion of Islam is not new, of course, and one could say that the feeling is mutual.

However, the level of anti-Muslim provocation has become unprecedented recently. In Germany, the so-called PEGIDA movement now holds weekly anti-Muslim marches in several cities — though, in fairness, even bigger rallies and almost all of Germany’s political elite have opposed the PEGIDA marchers.

Last year, the mayor of Sarge-les-le Mans, a French town of 3,500 people with 180 Muslim students, sought to impose pork meat on all schools. A couple of years earlier, then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy joined in a campaign to ban halal meat branding, which became an election issue. The Swiss, meanwhile, have banned minarets. The list goes on.

Minorities are easy targets everywhere. Certainly, Christians and Jews do not have an easy time nowadays in Muslim-majority countries. And, given the fear campaign propagated by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, on the one hand, and right-wing racists, on the other, many people are unaware that Muslims are actually a very small minority in all European and Western countries. That is why Charlie Hebdo’s mockery of the sacred beliefs of minorities — Jews, Muslims and gays alike — is not an act of bravery. Most people abstain from such provocations not because they are cowards, but because they believe, quite reasonably, that such behavior serves no good or useful purpose.

European Muslims are no less peaceful than their non-Muslim neighbors. Almost all terrorist acts carried out by Muslims in Europe and other countries have been the work of affiliates of one umbrella organization — al-Qaeda.

Though this organization’s far-reaching influence is worrisome, it is also comforting to know how limited violent ideology is among Muslims, particularly in the West. Indeed, there are no real homegrown Muslim terrorist organizations of any significance in Europe. Radicalized European Muslims must look elsewhere.

To be sure, Muslim-majority nations are not known for their affection for free speech. However, in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, it is worth noting that, apart from war-torn Iraq and Syria, more journalists are killed each year in the largely Catholic Philippines than in any Muslim-majority nation.

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