Laïcité: An investigation into French Secularism surrounding the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks
By Jessica Crean (2016)
Dissertation in International Relations
Key words: secularism, laïcité, Charlie Hebdo, Islam, Republican values, Islamophobia
Since the 1905 law separating the state from the Church, France has been considered a secular state, with many of its core societal values embedded within the concept of laïcité (French secularism). The notion of laïcité has arguably evolved since 1905 and has morphed into something which looks very different to the original idea. This paper aims to understand those changes by looking at the evolution of laïcité over time, whilst using discourse surrounding the recent January 2015 attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo to analyse the relationship between laïcité and the French state, the French population, and the French press. It will investigate the current significance laïcité has amongst the other values of the French Republic in the aftermath of such a brutal attack in the capital city. With reference to an address from the French President on the evening of the attacks, 3 French newspaper articles from the day after the attacks, and the hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie”, this paper will argue that the current manifestation of laïcité justifies Islamophobic behaviour seen within France and rather than unifying the state, has fractured its population, causing France to be more divided than ever.
- Introduction 4
1.1 Methodology 5
- The Evolution of French Secularism 7
- An Address by the President of the Republic on the Day of the Attacks 16
- The French Press in the Aftermath of the Attacks 22
4.1 Article 1 (Le Parisien) 23
4.2 Article 2 (La Croix) 25
4.3 Article 3 (Le Figaro) 26
- #JeSuisCharlie 30
- Conclusion 37
- Appendices 40
7.1 Transcript of Hollande’s Address 40
7.2 Original Newspaper Articles 42
7.3 English Translations of Articles 49
- Bibliography 55
On January 7th 2015, at approximately 11.30 local time, two gunmen entered the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with rifles and other weapons, the two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi (Burke, 2016), first shot at a maintenance worker who was sat at his desk, then sought out Stéphane Charbonnier, who had been editor-in-chief of the paper since 2009, killing a total of 11 people, including several members of the editorial team and injuring another 11 people within the building before exiting the offices and killing a French National Police officer whilst shouting “Alahu Akbar. God is Great” (Burke, 2016).
The attacks have undoubtedly prompted a shift in France which has worsened the already Islamaphobic climate of the nation (Wolfreys, 2013). The use of laïcité and the other values of the French Republic have seemed to legitimise the nature of this behaviour (Dawes, 2015), causing much anguish within different areas of the public and causing divides to appear, which is arguably destabilising for the population as a whole.
This paper is divided into 4 chapters, each of a similar length. The first chapter reviews the literature and historical context of French secularism to identify the changes which have already occurred in the morphology of laïcité, allowing for its current manifestation to be better understood. The second chapter then begins to analyse the discourse surrounding the attacks, looking at one of the addresses made by the President of the Republic of the day of the attacks. In an attempt to understand the basis of his dialogue, the chapter makes references to Hollande’s 2012 presidential campaign and the main points of his manifesto in relation to unity and secularism to gain a better understand of the discourse used within his address to the nation. The third chapter then breaks down the various interpretations of the attacks, using three newspapers with differing readerships and political stances, in order to cover a range of bases and gain a full understanding of the ways in which different groups of people are represented and voiced within France. The effects this has had on those populations and the way laïcité is interpreted to accommodate for Islamophobia is also discussed. The final chapter analyses the use of the hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie”, first discussing the prevalence of social media in 21st century political commentary. The chapter analyses the origins of the tweet, what it may mean on the surface, the deeper meaning of being ‘Charlie’ and what it says about France in a postcolonial era, whilst again analysing the interpretation of laïcité, this time with regards to the use of social media.
Due to this incident having only occurred last year, there is limited scholarly debate or analysis of the elements this paper chooses to discuss. This paper therefore aims to build upon the debates which have already been made in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and hopes to add new interpretations of the relationship between politics and religion within France to that debate.
The methodology used within this paper is an empirical discourse analysis. Discourse refers to communication which can be spoken, written or even applied to actions (Jørgensen & Phillips, 2002). With the analysis of an address from President Hollande, 3 newspaper articles from theoretically differing political stances, and the use of social media in the aftermath of the attacks, this approach effectively facilitates a critical stance of the French republic with relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This allows for the attacks and the politicised aftermath to be examined through multiple conceptual lenses, allowing for multiple aspects to be interpreted and understood. Analysis of the discourse aimed to reveal inconsistencies and contradictions within the French Republic and the implementation of laïcité and liberal Republican values; it also aimed to interpret the manipulative character of each type of discourse, their effects on the French population and impacts upon the nature of Islamophobia within France. The analysis of these were then compared with the historical context of laïcité and the founding values of the French republic, as arguably the context of French secularism and the complexity of French values legitimises the relevance of the argument made throughout the paper. This therefore allowed for a shift in behaviour within France towards Muslims as well as societal divisions made as a result of the attacks, to be identified and for the concepts analysed to be recontextualised.
The Evolution of French Secularism
Secularism is closely identified with modernity (Taylor, 2011) as it essentially promotes enlightenment values of tolerance, so the West has, in modern times been considered as very secular (Smith, 2007). Yet the history of the term ‘secular’ in the West is complex and ambiguous (Taylor, 2011). Theoretically, political secularism is a doctrine which not only attempts to separate religion from politics and state affairs, but also allows for religious freedom, promoting freedoms and equalities for the religious and non-religious (Majumder, 2013). Secularism is a principle which can be defined in many different ways and holds no real universal definition. It could be argued, that this is due to the trajectory history of each nation in which it manifests being quite different from one another.
Liberal democracies are indisputably founded upon secular ideals which aim to separate the public sphere of state regimes from the private spheres of religion, something which dates back to the 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. Although liberalism accepts the first part of the Westphalian presumption in that religious and cultural pluralism cannot be accommodated in international public life, it does not entirely endorse the second part of the Westphalian presumption as it claims that the Westphalian settlement was a way of taking seriously religious and cultural pluralism in international society (Thomas, 2000). Consequently, secularism advances a view of religion as static and irrational, beyond the idea of tolerance.
Yet statistics show that a majority in the West believe in God and tend to describe themselves as religious and moreover, in the UK, which is often thought of as one of the more secular countries in Western Europe (Smith, 2007), in a 2011 government-conducted census only 25 percent of the population reported that they did not affiliate to any religion (Office for National Statistics, 2013). Although the United States, to many, may not be considered a secular state, in an address given by Barack Obama on Faith and Politics in 2006, the President said: “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated must translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. Their proposals must be subject to argument and reason, and should not be accorded any undue automatic respect” (Johnson, 2011) . This statement adheres to many definitions of political secularism and therefore puts the US in the same bracket as its European counterparts. The argument can be made that the origins of international society, or Western civilisation as we understand it, had been shown how religion was embedded in the practices of power and discipline regulated by an authoritative structure. In order for states to grasp a hold of their population, religion had to be made compatible with the power and discipline of the state, forcing the privatisation of religious beliefs and the secularisation of politics. Therefore the argument could be made that, based on a structure of religion to monopolise power within the state, no Western state is truly secular, and only in theory are religion and politics mutually exclusive from one another (Thomas, 2000).
The development of Western secularism can be understood as the exclusion of religion from the public sphere into a “private” sphere where is does not interfere with the running order of the state (Taylor, 2011). Secularisation is not an alternative ideology in opposition with any religious God, it is instead “the consequence of options” (Bowker, 2002); it is rather a means of existing which, in theory allows for different religions and ideologies to coexist alongside each other, with no religion more superior or more influential than any other, although within these “options” there are undeniably critiques of God (Bowker, 2002) which creates the assumption that secularism is more closely aligned with Atheistic ideologies than with those of Christianity.
Although theoretically secularism can be and is defined as “the separation of Church and State” (Taylor, 2011), in practice is manifests in many different forms. Kuru argues that the notion of secularism can be viewed on a spectrum between “assertive” secularism and “passive” secularism (Kuru, 2009) which Taylor would describe as secularism based on a “religious common ground” and secularism which depends on a “political ethnic independent of religion” (Taylor, 1999). “Assertive” secularism requires the state to play an authoritative role, excluding religion from the public sphere and to confine it to the private domain, whereas passive secularism demands that the state play a more submissive role, allowing all religions to be publically visible. Whilst it can be argued that states are neither entirely assertive nor purely passive (Kuru, 2009) it is easy to see where certain countries may fit on to such a spectrum. Assertive secularism, such as French laïcité is a “comprehensive doctrine” (Kuru, 2009) of rules and regulations in regards to how religion may be expressed in public, whereas passive secularist states, such as the USA, on the most part demonstrate a certain level of neutrality towards any sort of doctrine.
Laïcité, arguably one of the central philosophies of the French Republic, which describes itself as “indivisible, secular, democratic and social” (The Government of the Republic, 1958) can be defined as:
“The concept of denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as the absence of government involvement in religious affairs” (Rémond, 1999)
It is a form of secularism which involves a very strict separation of Church and State (Shani, 2014), arguably a legacy of the political conflict between the state and the Catholic Church during the Third Republic of France, which resulted in a law being passed in 1905, separating the State from the Church. Yet the ideological concepts embedded within laïcité can be traced back as far as 1789; Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen states that:
“No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law” (National Assembly of France, 1789)
This modern and forward thinking, allowing the right of every French citizen to follow his or her own religion was ahead of its time, especially in comparison to the states’ European neighbours. The 1905 law, and effectively the entire concept of laïcité were based upon three main principles which mirrored these modern ideas and the enlightenment values that inundated France in the aftermath of the French Revolution: the autonomy of religious practice, public powers and endorsements of the Catholic Church, and the neutrality of the state in religious matters. In addition to this law was The French Constitution of 1958 which in Article 1 stated:
“France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised on a decentralised basis.” (The Government of the Republic, 1958)
As one of the founding principles of the French Republic (Scott, 2010), laïcité has been described as ‘France’s idiosyncratic form of secularism’ (Kay, 2016). Whilst it presents itself as universalistic (Kay, 2016), it is unlike most other forms of secularism seen in the West and is unique to the character of the French Republic, not only due to the country’s historical political conflict with the Catholic Church but over time as the Republic has strengthened, laïcité has evolved into a Republican expression of a commitment to liberalism (El Sammaa, 2007) and freedom of thought and speech.
Laïcité can be seen as a form of ‘assertive secularism’ as opposed to ‘passive secularism’ which is seen in the USA (Kuru, 2009). This means that in order for secularism to continue within France, the state must assert its authority to ensure that religion is excluded from the public sphere and is confined to the private domain (Kuru, 2009), whilst also balancing the original ideas of the concept which allows for every man to follow their own religious thought. In France assertive secularism has coexisted with a multiparty democracy meaning that the opponents of assertive secularism have had the political means to criticize certain policies and the assertive secularists have made compromises from their utopian ideological views (Kuru, 2009). Yet as a policy, the state has frequently felt the need for negotiation and modification with varying sub clauses which waver from the principle of laïcité, suggesting it not always so ‘assertive’. For example, the state maintains Catholic churches built before 1905, whilst municipal councils find ways in which they can legitimise the construction of both Christian and Muslim places of worship (Ahearne, 2014).
France remains a predominantly Catholic society with 75.54% of the population affiliated with Catholicism (Cheney, 2005) but rather than the country’s national identity being defined by religion or ethnicity, it is based on a purely political cohesion embedded in the Republic values of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, which theoretically allow for a multitude of different colours and creeds to coexist harmoniously. Yet scholars such as Étienne Balibar challenge the “theological asymmetry” (Balibar, 2004) and have argued that contemporary France has a growing European and Christian identity, which seemingly privileges Catholicism above other religions within the state. This has been labelled as “Catholaïcité” (Baubérot, 2004) to illustrate the apparent complicity between the French state and Catholicism, which appears more accommodating towards Christian values in recent years, perhaps as a consequence of increased immigration from the French colonies.
The meaning of laïcité as a policy appears to have diverged from the ideas set out during the Third Republic, with significant change visible during the decade of 2002-2012, which has seen a “political mutation in the dominant understanding of the term” (Ahearne, 2014). This political realignment does not seem to bare any correlation to the attacks on 9/11, which initiated much of the Islamophobic tendencies seen in other countries; instead attitudes to Muslims among the French population appeared to have become move positive, in comparison to opinion polls taken in 1994 and shortly after the September 11th attacks (Ahearne, 2014).
Instead, the changes in the interpretation of laïcité appear to have been as a result of the work of three key players in the French political system: Régis Debray, member of the 2003 Stasi commission, Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic 1995-2007, and Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic 2007-2012.
In 2002, Debray issued a report on ‘The teaching of religion in secular schools’ (Debray, 2002) which recommended the implementation of the study of religion as part of history and philosophy amongst other subjects, as well as training for teachers on the philosophy of laïcité and the history of religions (Debray, 2002). This then gave birth to the European Institute of Religious Sciences in June 2002, which aims to educate teachers about different belief systems (Jackson, 2004). Instead of being anti-religious, the aim of the report was to demonstrate that laïcité guarantees the freedom of individuals to believe in any religion or none at all (Debray, 2002). If laïcité was going to be effective as a set of values it had to “signify a desirable way to live rather than an abstract legal injunction” (Ahearne, 2014). As a result the concept of laïcité has transitioned away from being a set of ideas which support freedom as a way of making the state separate from the church; its morphological value had increased its adaptability to make it relevant across the entire French political system.
The next big change to the meaning of laïcité came in 2003, when the Stasi Commission was established by Jacques Chirac in order to reflect upon the application of the principle of secularism with the French Republic. In a letter from Bernard Stasi to the President of the Republic, the ideas of the commission are clearly outlined, suggesting that up until that point France had been adaptable and respectful to the beliefs and religions of others but secularism had suffered as a result and was at “risk of a drift towards communitarianism” (Stasi, 2003). This report gave way to the law passed in March 2004, against religious symbols, which came into effect in September of that year which coincided with the start of the new academic year. Although the law did not specifically discriminate against certain religious symbol, therefore including the skullcaps of Jewish boys and the turbans of Sikh boys, the media focus, most likely as a result of the size of the Muslim population in comparison to the population of Jews and Sikhs, was on the headscarves worn by Muslim schoolgirls (Scott, The Politics of the Veil, 2007), which immediately skewed the representation of the Muslim community (Ahearne, 2014). This deviates from the ideas outlined in Debray’s report which argued that “Laïcité is an opportunity for Islam in France and French Islam is an opportunity for laïcité” (Debray, 2002). This new law, then embedded an understanding within French society that laïcité was primarily as repressive tool directed against Islam above any other religion (Ahearne, 2014), connoting laïcité with ideas of Islamophobia.
Whilst also in 2003, the colonial heritage of France was made more visible, with the reinstatement of ‘assimilation’, a model which was previously established in the French colonies, that suggested if one adopts the French language and culture, they become French (Betts, 2004). The French government decided that residency in France was to be earned, and uncovered a new action plan for integrating immigrants which required those arriving in France each year to sign an “integration contract” upon arrival if they wished to obtain a residence card (Zappi, 2003). By signing the contract, immigrants agreed to undergo language training and instruction on republican values. This it was thought, would “combat the threat of dissolution into culturally distinct communities”, particularly Islamic communities, that would threaten the national identity of the French republic. This distinct animosity towards Islam dates back to the conquest of Algeria, when the French saw a need to protect itself from other religions and the potential of subversion (Dawes, 2015).
The most recent development in the evolution of French laïcité came in 2007 when Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, developed the notion of ‘la laïcité positive’ (Baubérot, 2013) . In 2003 Sarkozy did agree that religious symbols should remain strictly private and unostentatious, stating:
“You shouldn’t see in it a humiliation for anyone. You shouldn’t see in it a lack of respect for your religion. You must understand that secularism is our tradition, our choice. […]There are no rights without duties, and if the Muslims of France have the same rights as other believers, they have the same duties.” (Sarkozy, 2003)
This new idea of positive secularism seemed to publicly recognise the importance of religion with France. Unlike his predecessor, Chirac, Sarkozy saw no incompatibility between participation in republican affairs and the practice of traditional religious belief such as Islam (Ahearne, 2014) and saw it as his role to positively promote the visibility of religion and integrate it into the culture of the Republic, which differs entirely from the established view of laïcité which confines religion to the private domain. Sarkozy contended that anti-clerical believers in laïcité had wrongly severed France from its cultural history, removing the Republic from its Christian roots (Evans & Godin, 2014), with a French history that seemingly began in 1789. Yet this new form of secularism which protects and respects its Catholic heritage is at risk of being deemed as repressive towards other religions that are not part of the Christian heritage, namely Islam, furthering the argument that laïcité is a way of legitimising Islamophobic tendencies (Kayaoğlu, 2012) and that ideas of “Catholaïcité” (Baubérot, 2004) are evident.
Since 2010 with the resurgence of the Front National under Marine Le Pen, the concept of laïcité has been used by the party as a means of defending the founding principles of the Republic, in opposition to Islamism, which was denounced by the party as “a totalitarian ideology that would seek to impose Sharia law in France” (Goodliffe, 2015) This identifies a fourth change within the recent evolution of laïcité and suggests that the meaning of the already ever complex principle will continually be modified in the future. It seems increasingly relevant due to its heavily intrinsic semantic links to the Islamic community of France, especially whilst the integration of Islam continues to be a prevalent issue in current affairs and state policy making, not just in France but throughout the West, explaining its apparent prevalence within French society in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
An Address by the President of the Republic on the Day of the Attacks
In the evening the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French President Francois Hollande delivered a statement at the Elysée Palace in relation to the attacks. The statement spoke of those murdered and injured in the brutalities, giving condolences to their families and announcing the following day as a day of national mourning. The speech also spoke about the need for unity and solidarity and claimed it was “the Republic as a whole that has been attacked” (Hollande, 2015), whilst it also referred to many of the Republican values. The speech also explained the next steps of the governmental response to the attack and ensured that the perpetrators would be “punished very severely” (Hollande, 2015).
The president spoke earlier that day of the “shock” (Hollande, 2015) at what had happened at the offices of the satirical newspaper, but arguably the attacks did not come as a shock at all, prior incidents show that this attack was far from spontaneous. Although the nature of terrorism is highly difficult to predict, especially in the ‘religious wave’ of terrorism which began 1979 with the Iranian Revolution and as a reaction to the greater significance of religion seen within politics (Rapoport, 2002), the attacks did not occur in a vacuum. Several smaller attacks and threats were made in the lead up to the shootings in January 2015; since 9/11 in September 2001 Charlie Hebdo, has been plagued by “Islamophobic neurosis” (Hasan, 2015) and had been a target of Islamic extremists since 2006, after reprinting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed originally drawn for a Danish newspaper which was subsequently targeted, later referred to as the “Cartoon Crisis” (Burke, 2016). This prompted outrage which was seen in the various demonstrations against the publication in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iran over the past decade. In November 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were destroyed in a firebombing attack the day prior to a ‘sharia’ special edition being released; in March 2013, the newspaper’s editor Stéphane Charbonnier was listed in Issue 10 of AQAP’s Inspire magazine as one of 9 men “wanted dead or alive for crimes against Islam” in an article under the headline “A bullet a day keeps the infidel away”, whilst in the same issue another article was published, which stated “On the dawn of 2013 France underestimated the catastrophic consequences it will face” (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, 2013); and in February 2014, a French Muslim group known as the League of Judicial Defense of Muslims attempted to sue Charlie Hebdo for blasphemy with regards to a series of images including one of a Muslim being shot multiple times through a copy of the Koran (The National Secular Society, 2014). All of these incidents suggest that it was well known to the French government that Charlie Hebdo was a well-known target at risk from an imminent attack, with Hollande even referring to such knowledge in his address: “…Charlie Hebdo and it’s editorial staff who have been threatened for years by obscurantism” (Hollande, 2015).
Yet the priority was to defend the values of the Republic, such as the “freedom of expression” (Hollande, 2015) and the notion of secularism, rather than to give into threats, as “freedom will always be stronger than barbarity” (Naumescu, 2014). In the presidential elections of 2012 Hollande made a promise to “gather, bring together, unite, all offspring of the republic who, despite a different background, belong to the same nation, share the same values, principles, culture, language, institutions and aspire to the same future- the French dream” (Naumescu, 2014). Hollande’s apparent determination to preserve the Republican values and French lifestyle signified that he was capable of defending the integrity and identity of the Republic. Whilst defending the freedom of expression encourages all those who ‘belong to the same nation’ to ‘share the same values’, defence of the type of expression applicable to Charlie Hebdo risks ostracising an entire group of people, which does not ‘unite all offspring of the republic despite a different background’. In 2012 Hollande advocated that solidarity and equality were possible with the rigorous respect of the Republican values, and that security was to be ensured by ‘gathering’ not ‘dividing’. One of the values he was referring to was laïcité, and he also argued that “religion must not be used as an argument in the public debate, because it would mean that religion interferes with politics” and that “religions must freely express themselves within the framework set by secularism, which must be scrupulously abided by” (Naumescu, 2014). Yet by endorsing a publication which does use religion as an argument for public debate, notions of French secularism seem to have been infringed, causing the values which are supposed to accommodate all to be made redundant for some.
The defence of such values are reiterated throughout the entire speech. The word freedom is used 5 times and within the address, Hollande states: “The Republic equals freedom of expression; the Republic equals culture, creation, it equals pluralism and democracy. This is what the assassins were targeting” (Hollande, 2015). He naturalises this interpretation as fact, yet at the time of the speech is was not actually explicitly known what Al Qaeda were targeting. It was clear that this was a direct attack on Charlie Hebdo, as opposed to a random attack on French nationals. However, the assassins, who shouted “we have avenged the Prophet” (Burke, 2016) as they shot at the cartoonists and columnists, although a clear reference to the caricatures of Mohammed published in the newspaper, did not shout “we are attacking republican values of culture and creation, pluralism and democracy”. At the time of the address at the Elysée Palace, it was not even confirmed by the French government that this was an act of terrorism, and it was not until January 14th, 1 week later, that the attacks were claimed by Al Qaeda in an online video address given by a leader within the AQAP, Nasr al-Ansi (Saul, 2015). The video specified that AQAP ordered the killings in revenge for caricatures insulting the Prophet Mohammed in the French satirical newspaper, stating that “the operation was carried out by heroes of Islam”, “France belongs to the party of Satan” and “more attacks are on the way”, foreshadowing the attacks that occurred in Paris in November of the same year. In a translation of the video under the heading “Our message to the Western nation” AQAP stated further “We have warned you before about the consequences of these deeds that your governments collude with under the pretext of ‘freedom of press’ or ‘freedom of ideas’. The freedom that is always tamed except when spreading vile and waging war on Allah and His Messengers and defaming the religion.” So whilst there is a categorical reference to French values of freedom, it is not the entirety of this freedom which was being attacked, nor was it any of the other values established by the Republic; the freedom of ideas in this case is very specific to the Islamophobic (Wolfreys, 2013) portrayals within Charlie Hebdo.
If it had been an attack on the freedom of the press in general, then the gunmen, the Kouachi brothers (Naumescu, 2014), would not have been so selective as to choose the satirical newspaper, and any publication would have sufficed. Yet, as detailed in an article headlined “Charlie Hebdo: A Military Analysis” in issue 14 of Inspire magazine, the attacks were planned to “high precision” with the article stating “Whoever looks at the steps of this military operation will conclude that it is among the difficult operations to be successfully executed” (Al Qaeda if the Arabian Peninsula, 2015). Therefore, it can be argued that ‘the attack on Republican values’ was a construct created by the French government in an attempt to ‘gather’ the population in collective solidarity, as by placing emphasis on Republican values, Hollande was ensuring the security of the French population, very similar to the means by which he won the 2012 presidential election (Naumescu, 2014).
Hollande also states in his address “Today it is the Republic as a whole that has been attacked” (Hollande, 2015) and refers to France and the Republic 11 times. This builds upon the Presidents ideas of unity and solidarity (Naumescu, 2014) as it suggests that if one element of the Republic is fractured, the entirety of it feels broken. This sense of unity is expressed even further with the use of inclusive pronouns such as ‘our’ ‘we’ and ‘us’ which are used throughout the speech as a way of bringing the recipients of the speech into the action of the incident to further unify the population in the face of extreme violence. This illustrates the way in which Republican values and the implementation of laïcité take the place of a state religion as a unifying force (Anns, 2015), which in less secular states may be used as a means of unifying the population after what is acknowledged as national catastrophe. The president uses modalities such as ‘must’ frequently throughout the speech to reiterate the importance of unity and solidarity as a Republic founded on secular liberal values in the face of barbarity, stating “nothing must separate us” and “that must be our response” (Hollande, 2015). This creates a sense of urgency, implying the need for the French to do exactly as they are told in order to remain safe from further attacks, demonstrating the assertive nature of French secularism (Kuru, 2009). This can be considered as a further ploy of unification used by the French government to ensure values such as laïcité are adhered to, with Hollande almost posing as a Hobbesian Leviathan.
However the imperative nature of the speech hits an anomaly whereby the President states: “There will be a moment of silence at 12:00pm in all government offices and I encourage everyone to join in” (Hollande, 2015). The use of the word ‘encourage’ as opposed to the imperative ‘must’ seen elsewhere in the President’s address lacks the same unifying presence as it suggests that partaking in the moment of silence is not essential. Yet an 8 year old boy who refused to partake in the silence was arrested for doing so, even though it was not obligatory. Furthermore, the defence of the freedom of speech was not upheld when the boy said “I am with the terrorists. The Muslims did well, and the journalists got what they deserved” (New York Post, 2015), demonstrating the hypocrisy of the French government and the privileging of those members of society who adhere to the values (Baubérot, 2004) in which Hollande is so insistent upon.
Along with the “national day of mourning” (Hollande, 2015), the way in which the victims of the attacks are referred to within the speech evokes a sense of martyrdom (Dawes, 2015). Hollande uses emotive language in descriptions of the victims, describing them as “highly talented” and “courageous”, arguing that they “died because of their vision of France, namely freedom” and calls them “our heroes” (Hollande, 2015). Whilst it is important for the President to acknowledge the barbaric murders of the Charlie Hebdo editorial, to recognise them as martyrs who died in the name of the freedom of speech could have severe impacts on laïcité and Islamophobia within France. To put a publication like Charlie Hebdo on a pedestal in this way, praising those who have anguished members of the population with controversial editorial stance does the exact opposite of unifying the population. It suggests to the native French that Islamophobia is acceptable and racism is guilt free, whilst simultaneously suggesting to the Muslim population of France that they are not of equal importance to their white Christian counterparts (Dawes, 2015). This effectively counteracts the foundations of laïcité, whereby every man is considered equal, regardless of their beliefs, and gives preferential treatment to those who are in favour of the state and in favour of Charlie Hebdo. This demonstrates the highly contradictory nature of secularism within France and how republican values of tolerance only seem to speak to a particular group of people (Baubérot, 2013). Where Charlie Hebdo has always defended the foundations of laïcité (Sourisseau, 2016), Islam within France has not, which effectively poses laïcité as a commitment to liberalism above any other belief system (El Sammaa, 2007).
The French Press in the Aftermath of the Attacks
The French read half as many daily newspapers as the British (Kelly, 2001) and although the print media continues to decline in popularity in France with only around a quarter of the French population reading daily newspapers on a daily basis (Drake, 2011), it can be argued that people are more inclined to engage in news items following a national tragedy or a big political story (Scupola, 2009). All three of these newspaper articles were produced on the same day, Thursday, January 9th 2015, the day following the attacks on the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and are in response to the attacks. All three of the articles are from online editions of various French press, originally written in the French language and have been translated to English by myself.
Many scholars argue that state intervention in the media is likely to impede upon critical journalism, especially within articles that refer to the running of a state (Shoemaker & Reece, 1991). In the most recent World Press Freedom Index, France ranks 38th, behind many of its European counterparts with a score of 21.15 (Reporters Without Borders, 2015) and the French press has traditionally had closer relations with its government than their British or America counterparts (Thogmartin, 1998). Since the German occupation ended in 1944, the French press has received subsidies and support from the state (Thogmartin, 1998), a system which still exists at present. Currently, state subsidies amount to about 13 percent of newspapers’ total revenues (Benson, 2010). With this being the case, it may be argued that much of the French press will portray ideas that have been shaped by the values of policy makers within France, as under the logic of Capitalism, corporate interests are likely to obscure the desire to present critical information. Therefore, the extent to which a state that intervenes so heavily within the press can really promote the freedom of speech becomes questionable (Proffitt, 2006), suggesting that the press and the French population are not as “free” as Hollande claims them to be. These 3 articles will therefore be analysed with that in mind to investigate whether or not the arguments portrayed mirror the values of the state, and in particular, the concept of laïcité.
4.1 Article 1: “Charlie’s Spirit Must Continue” (Val, 2015) is a 380 word article in the form of an interview, from the largest French national daily newspaper, Le Parisien. Le Parisien is a tabloid paper with a supposedly neutral political alignment although has at times had a reputation for right-wing bias and even racism (Thogmartin, 1998). Aimed at the mid-market it appeals to a similar readership to British tabloids such as The Daily Mail, and although it is circulated nationally, it aims to be the local paper of Paris and the surrounding region (Thogmartin, 1998). It is devoted to human interest stories and sport with a largely downmarket readership and tends to concentrate on sensationalism and interviews with celebrities (Kuhn, 1995).
The readership for this news article seems apparent just in translating the article. It was noticeably more difficult to translate word for word than the two latter articles that this chapter will analyse, possibly because it has been written in a more colloquial manner to appeal to its mid-market as a tabloid. The second most visible attribute of the article, once it had been translated, was its high use of emotive sensational language in comparison to referential language, clearly used to engage and play on the feelings of the reader. The entire article draws on language which portrays the journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo to be “good”, “intelligent”, “respectful” people who “despised nobody”, which defends Charlie Hebdo’s ‘right to offend’. This ‘right to offend’ has been criticised by many that have taken offence to the publication, such as Medhi Hasan, the British political journalist who published an article in The New Statesman shortly after the attacks, entitled “As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists” (Hasan, 2015). Whilst Hasan agrees that the murders of the staff at Charlie Hebdo were “inexcusable” (Hasan, 2015), the article argues the fact that Charlie Hebdo has not chosen to publish cartoons “mocking the Holocaust” or “caricatures of the 9/11 victims” (Hasan, 2015), yet it is acceptable to offend an entire community of people who already receive prejudice in the West. Therefore with Article 1 describing these individuals in such a positive light, it almost condones the degradation of the entire French population, whether or not it is branded as ‘satire’. This goes against the concepts embedded in laïcité which are meant to be founded on ideas of tolerance and respect for the beliefs of everyone within the Republic.
The structure of the article is quite cyclical, with Phillip Val, former director of the editorial of Charlie Hebdo both beginning and ending his commentary with pronouns such as “my” “we” and “you”, which convey a sense of communal distress among the French population, as it tells the readers how they should feel and think about the attacks. Val also uses phrases such as “it is not necessary that these exceptional people have died for nothing” to evoke a sense of unity among the French population, whilst the repeated use of linguistic modalities such as “must” portray a level of urgency, almost creating a collective call to action against radical Islam within France.
There is a distinct lack of religious language within the article with only one use for each of the words “Islam” and “Muslim”, instead putting more emphasis on the values of the French Republic, referring to “freedom of expression”, the “dialogue of democratic speech”, and the “values of secularism and freedom”. Val argues that “we must protect our Muslims” and that “all those with a public voice must continue to be heard”; Muslims in France do currently not have a voice (Macdonald, 2006), so this suggests that they shouldn’t be given one, but instead be “protected” from the indoctrination of extremism.
The main point of the article is not made until the very last line: “we were very timid in defending the values of secularism and freedom in recent years. And now, we are paying for it.” This argument is very much in line with the political stance of President Hollande, and suggests that the reason for the death of his former colleagues at Charlie Hebdo is due to a lack of importance being placed upon such values. Whilst it criticised the actions of the state, it is also influencing the readership of Le Parisien to believe that in order to prevent further atrocities of this kind from happening again, there is a need to place more emphasis on the values which the French Republic was founded upon.
4.2 Article 2: “Religious leaders call for prayer and peace” (Houdaille, 2015) is an 800 word article in the form of a report, which was published in the French daily general-interest Roman Catholic newspaper, La Croix. La Croix is not explicitly left or right on major political issues, and although it is not a religious newspaper, it is “sympathetic to the reformist tendencies within Roman Catholicism” (Kuhn, 1995). It is one of the only daily newspapers within France with a growing readership and is respected as a “serious, efficiently run quality paper” (Thogmartin, 1998) and is not as heavily focused on the Paris area as its competitors are (Kidd & Reynolds, 2000).
Article 2 is structured in 5 parts, with subheadings guiding the mood of the article: “deep emotion”; “convert the heart of cruel people”; “united to defend republican values”; and “indignation”. The use of emotive language tells the reader how they are expected to feel throughout the course of the article, which doesn’t necessarily allow for the freedom of thought, which is supposedly a value of the French Republic.
There is quoted speech throughout the article, yet it only directly gives a voice to Catholics, whilst grouping Islam with the other named religions of Buddhism, Judaism and Protestantism in with quotes from interfaith committees such as the ‘Conference of Leaders Worship in France’. This inertly creates an ‘us vs them’ atmosphere to the article that the reader may not even pick up on, privileging Catholicism above other religions, expressing the level of “theological asymmetry” (Balibar, 2004) within France and displaying the collusion of the French state and Catholicism, or “Catholaïcité” (Baubérot, 2004).
Religious language is used consistently throughout the article, explicitly referring to “prayer”, religious leaders, religious organisations, although it is all terminology associated with Catholicism. The article even chooses to include a Christian proverb from Saint John: “Whoever said love God and has hatred against his brother is a liar”, which again is a statement which may anger those of the same opinion as Hasan, as there is an apparent double standard when it comes to expression of hatred (Hasan, 2015), with the ‘right to offend’ being deemed acceptable where violence is not, yet both are varying degrees of hate crime (Roulstone & Mason-Bish, 2013) and all should be acknowledged accordingly.
Whilst there is explicit reference to “Republican values” within the article, there is a lack of acknowledgement for any concept of secularism within France, with quotes from Father Michel Aupetit, Bishop of Nanterre, and Father Pierre Whalon, representative of the Anglican Communion in Europe, who both refer to “freedom of expression” alongside “religion” and the “freedom of worship”, which seems to go against the values of laïcité which acknowledges and respects only the private manifestations of worship as opposed to complete the freedom of worship (Kuru, 2009). This suggests that La Croix, as a publications is of the opinion that religion, in particular Christianity, should be able to play a more prevalent role within the public life of society.
4.3 Article 3: “Charlie Hebdo: Muslims fear new misperceptions” (Quinault Maupoil, 2015) is a 450 word article in the form of a news item, which was printed in Le Figaro, the second largest French national daily newspaper. Politically, Le Figaro is “extremely conservative” (Moores, 1998) and is considered to be a quality Parisian daily, which is highly influential amongst many of the key economic and political decision makers in France, appealing to an “affluent bourgeois readership” (Thogmartin, 1998) and those employed in the private sector, similar to the target audience of British broadsheets such as The Times and The Daily Telegraph. It also acts as a “major forum for the discussion of new ideas in social and cultural matters” (Kuhn, 1995) due to its in-depth coverage, explanation and analysis that rivals radio and television broadcast (Kuhn, 1995).
The article starts with the use of emotive language: “Between weariness and fatalism”, a device used by writers to engage their readership with their work, persuading them to continue reading by eliciting an emotional response. The words “weariness” and “fatalism”, encourage the reader to feel compassion for the subject matter of the piece, which in this case is the Islamic population of Paris. Yet the choice of those two words also imply that the Muslim community in Paris are inferior to the French as they employ connotations of desperation and weakness.
Linguistic modalities of the hypothetical situation in which Muslims in Paris will have to fight against further misperceptions in regards to their beliefs create an exaggerated sense of fear surrounding the situation. Yet this sense of fear is not necessarily aimed at further alarming the Muslim population, regardless of the title of the article, as they are not the target audience for this publication. Instead the article, aimed at an “affluence bourgeois readership” (Thogmartin, 1998) creates an awareness that a need for urgent change is necessary with regards to people’s perceptions of Islam within France.
Religious language throughout the article supports this, as it appears to go against state values of laïcité, as it is removing Islam from the private sphere and entering it into the public sphere. This is particularly notable in the two headings within the article: “You have to go out in the street” referring to the need for Muslims to go out and preach their beliefs to ensure that the French population aren’t misconceived are aware that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical beliefs, and “Read the Koran!” which refers to a Muslim man believing it is necessary to tell the French that they need to read the Koran gain a better understanding of Islam. Both points unquestionably going against the Republican values of freedom and secularism, completely disregarding Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen: “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law” (National Assembly of France, 1789) as the encouragement of preaching would definitely “disturb the public order” and take religion out of the private sphere.
Unlike the previous two articles, article 3 gives a voice to Muslims, with several instances where direct quotes are given from certain French Muslims within the Paris area, for example “Everyone must know that Muslims are not there to harm” and “We are also victims”, both quotes which indicate a certain level of support for the Muslim community within France whilst also acknowledging the fact the Muslims are “poorly represented”. This portrays Le Figaro to be more inclusive and broadminded towards differing beliefs than Le Parisien or La Croix, which is most likely an accurate representation of its readership who are, generally speaking, a more educated clientele.
Nevertheless, whilst the article does not appear Islamophobic in any way on the surface, there is a heavy use of pronouns throughout the article which create an opposition, conveying a sense of ‘French vs Muslims’ with repeated use of words such as “we” “us” and “they” which express a distinct divide amongst the French population. A quote from a shopkeeper ‘Khaled’ refers to the “State and Muslims” and he also states that he “trust(s) the French”, which whilst he does not explicitly say that he does not feel French, identifying a distinction between the two entities in a supposedly “united” France, suggests that he feels like an outsider as a Muslim amongst French. He points out what may be a widely shared opinion amongst the Islamic population of France, despite the values set out in the French Constitution which state that France “shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.” (The Government of the Republic, 1958).
In terms of the analysis conducted on just these three articles, it appears that the extent to which the Muslim population of France are given a voice within the media is extremely limited, which inertly influences how those who practice Islam feel alienated from society, and how the ‘French’ look upon the Islamic community as not really being French (Rosenthal, 2008), even within the European country with the largest Muslim population (Gemie, 2010). This is especially prevalent with the use of pronouns in Article 1 and Article 3, which creates an ‘us vs them’ mentality when reading the articles from an analytical perspective. This counteracts the original point of laïcité, which is meant to be inclusive of all ideologies and religions (Kuru, 2009), allowing for every man to follow their own desired religious thought, and has instead turned laïcité into an expression of commitment to liberal ideas (El Sammaa, 2007), but only those ideas which correspond with Christianity (Balibar, 2004), which makes Islam appear to be incompatible with the foundations of the French Republic (Perry, 1997).
It has been argued by many scholars that the prevalence of social media as a form of communication is highly intrinsic to the development of 21st century political commentary and is becoming increasingly “prominent in the contentious politics of the contemporary era” (Bennett & Segerberg, 2012). Social media provides a platform which accommodates for the “expressions of identity at multiple layers” (Giglietto & Lee, 2015) which are more inclusive than traditional means of political and social engagement, making political content more accessible for the masses and enabling individual identity to become a collective identity with little more that the press of a “retweet” button.
Twitter is a free, “internet-based microblogging service” (Auvinen, 2011), on which users can post publicly visible messages, of no more than 140 characters, which are commonly known as “tweets”. Because of the “speedy and unstructured” (Giglietto & Lee, 2015) nature of twitter, with its compact posting system, it makes for an very interesting platform when discussing societal concerns, as there is no room for justifications or to reference information, making it “more heated and critical” (Auvinen, 2011) than other forms of social media which allow for lengthy blogs to be posted.
A “hashtag”, usually a key word or phrase linked to a certain topic, such as “#JeSuisCharlie” can be used within a tweet to connect the tweet to a series of other tweets sharing the same hashtag, making it easy for users to follow regional or global trends of certain themes or events and enter the debate by voicing their own opinion. According to Bruns and Steiglitz, hashtags are “shared conversation markers” (Bruns & Stieglitz, 2013) that allow users to partake in already established conversations. Different hashtags can be associated with different patterns of behaviour, with crisis related hashtags, similar to “#JeSuisCharlie”, receiving more retweets than spectacle related hashtags which receive more original posts from users (Bruns & Stieglitz, 2013).
At its height, the hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie”, which translates as ‘I am Charlie’, concerning the attacks on the editorial staff at Charlie Hebdo on January 7th 2015, was tweeted at a rate of 6,500 times a minute and featured in 3.4 million tweets in just one 24 hour period (Whitehead, 2015) making it one of the most popular tweets in the 10 year history of Twitter. Users reacted immediately to the attack and the hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie” immediately became an “explicit endorsement of freedom of expression and freedom of the press” (Jisun An, Mejova, Oger, & Fortes, 2016). Whilst conflicting hashtags, such as “JeNeSuisPasCharlie”, which translates as ‘I am not Charlie’ soon followed as a manifestation for those who felt “a statement of identification with the satirical magazine was not in order” (Leone, 2015) and instead, whilst still feeling empathy for the victims involved in the attacks, wanted to express their dislike towards the offensive content and tone of the publication Charlie Hebdo, in particular towards Islamism (Leone, 2015). This type of counter-speech contrasts hugely to the French media coverage, and the articles analysed within Chapter 3, which failed to address people’s unwillingness to identify with the publication (Dawes, 2015), instead only depicting the solidarity of the French nation.
The first tweet was an image simply bearing the words ‘Je Suis Charlie’ in white and grey on a black background (Roncin, 2015), with the grey ‘Charlie’ using the same font as the publication it was revering. It came from Joachim Roncin, an artist living in the same neighbourhood as the publication (Giglietto & Lee, 2015), at 11.52am on 7th January, less than half an hour after it was announced that 12 people were murdered at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The artist said that he came up with the slogan due to being “speechless” and “flabbergasted” at the events which had just taken place (Roncin, 2015). At the time of writing this (April 2016) Roncin’s tweet has 3,280 retweets and 2,414 likes (Roncin, 2015), yet it is not the artist’s personal reach which made the most impact, but the resonance of the hashtag which followed it, which was used 1.5 million times that day and about six million times during the week which followed across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (Devichand, 2016); it has since been branded by Patrick Pelloux, a columnist at Charlie Hebdo as “the century’s first leitmotif” which “goes beyond Charlie Hebdo to signify secularism, democracy and non-violence” (Boinet, 2015).
The hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie” was a familiar expression of solidarity for the French (Paunksnis, 2015) with two previous expressions of a similar format dating back to 1963, with John F. Kennedy’s notorious “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin, followed by the student occupations of May 1968, when posters were printed of the leader of the revolt blazoned with the headline “Nous sommes tous des Juifs-Allemands” which in English translates as ‘We are all German-Jews” (Paunksnis, 2015). The latter was later mimicked after 9/11, when the newspaper Le Monde printed an issue bearing the headline “Nous sommes tous Americains” (Paunksnis, 2015) as an expression of French solidarity with its Western ally, against extreme Islamism and terrorism. The latter, Roncin has argued was one of the references, along with “Où est Charlie?”, the French version of “Where’s Wally?”, used when creating the basis of the slogan (Boinet, 2015).
On the surface, the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’ appears to be nothing more than an endorsement of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press (Jisun An, Mejova, Oger, & Fortes, 2016). To begin with, those reposting the hashtag or endorsing the statement did so as a reflex of identification, a “spontaneous expression of solidarity” which they felt was “the right thing to do” (Paunksnis, 2015). The highest proportion of those expressing this solidarity were of course French, making up 30% of the total posts on Twitter bearing the hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie” (Giglietto & Lee, 2015), using the slogan as a means of acknowledging the tragedies which had occurred and empathising with the victims due to sharing an identity of proximity with those who had been attacked. To many, the use of the slogan was a symbol of human compassion for the deaths of people who were brutally murdered whilst in the middle of their everyday routine.
In a similar way to the attacks on 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo shootings effected the sense of security of the population, as it was perceived as an attack on a previously assumed state of safety and with Charlie Hebdo resonating as a well-known household name for much of the population, the sense of personal trauma created by the event was immediately amplified (Paunksnis, 2015), pushing people to express how they felt emotionally. Yet, as it was originally difficult for Roncin to put in to words how the attacks had made him feel, it was equally as difficult for others, therefore the ready-made slogan, accessible in the form of a hashtag became an easy way to communicate this without the need for individual expression.
For the French, and the other millions of people who used the hashtag in those few days, ‘Je Suis Charlie’ it could be argued, became a badge of honour which represented the ability of republican enlightenment values to triumph over barbarism and illustrated the communal strength of the West in the face of perceived adversity (Paunksnis, 2015). With the adversity perceived being the attempted assassination of free speech and a desecration of freedom of thought, not only in France but in the West as a whole (Hasan, 2015). According to Roncin, the ‘Je’ was the most important word in in the slogan as it “offered a vehicle through which every individual expressed themselves vis-à-vis threats to the freedom and tolerance underpinning the participants” (Giglietto & Lee, 2015), exemplifying the powerful effect that Twitter has to almost instantaneously change many ‘I’s into a ‘we’, as an individual identity becomes a collective identity.
Whilst many of those who shared the slogan with their friends and followers may have done so as “spontaneous expression of solidarity” identifying with ‘Charlie’ is much more than just a simple display of solidarity. In the first instance, expressing that ‘I am Charlie’ condones the editorial stance of Charlie Hebdo, and may suggest that ‘I am mean and nasty’, the motto of the publication being “bete et mechant” which in English translates to “mean and nasty” (Devichand, 2016), not usually the characteristics people would display as an expression of themselves. By putting Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper which since 9/11 has been plagued by “islamophobic neurosis” (Hasan, 2015), on a pedestal and praising the publication in the name of ‘freedom of expression’ would be absurd for someone who disagrees with the editorial stance of the paper, which means to identify with ‘Charlie’ goes beyond identifying with a “misogynistic and islamophobic publication” (Paunksnis, 2015).
Despite the fact that there is absolutely no justification for the gunning down of journalists and cartoonists, no one truly believes in an unrestricted right to free speech (Hasan, 2015), and Charlie Hebdo only exemplifies one very particular aspect of free speech (Dawes, 2015). There are boundaries when it comes to what can and can’t be said in modern society, therefore with the ‘right to offend’ comes a responsibility to respect, especially in a Republic apparently founded on a concept which encourages the respect of every man’s beliefs. Yet a lack of respect for Islam, one of the main targets of Charlie Hebdo’s ‘political satire’, is what is voiced when one identifies with ‘Charlie’. Widespread discrimination against Muslims is seen in education, employment and public life, throughout the Western world, but especially in France, and is predicted to worsen (Adida, Laitin, & Valfort, 2015). The widespread vilification of Islam is ignored across the continent and corroborating with the arguably Islamophobic editorial stance of Charlie Hebdo endorses attacks on “members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power” (Hasan, 2015).
In 2008 Maurice Sinet was sacked from Charlie Hebdo for making an anti-Semitic remark (Burke, 2008), yet each week the paper asks the French population to laugh at cartoons of a prophet, to mock a religion which has the same Abrahamic basis as Judaism and Christianity, whilst the majority of its readership are more than likely part of the 75.54% of the population affiliated to Catholicism (Cheney, 2005). This suggests that there is an assumption that Muslims should be thicker skinned than their Christian and Jewish counterparts (Hasan, 2015), and furthermore, religious prejudices informed by notions of laïcité, which see other cultures as a threat to Republican values have produced the view that caricaturing Muhammad is both acceptable and a stand against the potential for subversion, as opposed to “the stigmatization of an already disadvantaged minority” (Dawes, 2015).
This reveals a great deal about the configuration of French society and the integration problems seen within France. To say ‘I am Charlie’ suggests ‘I am civilised’, it implies ‘I am French’ which signifies moral superiority in the face of barbarity. This is a familiar identity to the French, dating back to the colonial empire and the French model of assimilation which was established in the French colonies, which taught their subjects that if they were adopt the French language and culture, they could eventually become French (Betts, 2004). In this case, that ‘culture’ is the shift towards guilt free racism and Islamophobia (Wolfreys, 2013); one is not French if they do not identify with ‘Charlie’, one cannot be recognised as civilised or respectful of the values of the French republic if they do not identify with ‘Charlie’.
Regardless of the fact that ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is meant to symbolise the right to free speech, refusing to be ‘Charlie’ in a France full of ‘Charlies’ bears the risk of losing the right to freedom, as the concept of laïcité controls the conditions of equality, meaning that being identical is required to be equal (Dawes, 2015). The ‘assimilation’ mind-set of the French (Betts, 2004) can be seen clearly with the counter hashtag “#JeNeSuisPasCharlie” which was criticised by politicians and the mainstream media in France as both a rejection of Republican values and ignorance of French culture and humour (Dawes, 2015). And those who adopted a critical position of the content of Charlie Hebdo along with those who refused to say ‘Je Suis Charlie’, to attend one of the rallies or to respect the minute’s silence for the victims were accused of not sharing republican values, and in some cases people were even arrested for such opposition to being ‘Charlie’ (Dawes, 2015).
“No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law” (National Assembly of France, 1789). This is the supposed foundation of laïcité and the other Republican values, yet Charlie Hebdo has arguably infringed these grounds, as the opinions they have shared within the weekly newspaper, especially during the last decade, have ‘disturbed the public order’, and on multiple occasions. And as a result, those that the publication has mocked, have been disquieted of their opinions and religious views, illustrating how the concept of laïcité is so highly complex and contentious.
It is clear that the prominence of Islamophobia within France has been exacerbated as a result of the aftermath of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, and the state which is founded on Republican values of equality, secularity, democracy and sovereignty intended to unite the entire population, is at risk from breaking down and dividing. As a result of Hollande placing so much emphasis on the publication of Charlie Hebdo, and the great work they have done to ‘protect the freedom of speech’ within France, the weekly paper, which prior to the attacks was on the brink of bankruptcy before the attacks, has enjoyed an increase in circulation; “subscriptions are up to 180,000 and newsstand sales reach about 100,000 every week, up from a circulation of 30,000 before the attack” (Chassany, 2015). By turning the victims of the attacks into martyrs as a means to defend the freedom of speech, Hollande has effectively impeded upon the main points of his manifesto from his presidential campaign in 2012. Not only does praise of the publication from the governing body of the country ostracise the Islamic community, but the use of laïcité as a mechanism to impose liberal views upon each member of society forces the exclusion of any members of the French population that do not agree with the editorial stance of Charlie Hebdo. This creates not just a division between Christians and Muslims, but fractures the whole of French society, creating divisible communities with opposing views, explicitly inhibiting the founding principle of the French Republic of being “one and indivisible”.
The French press have too exacerbated the problem of Islamophobia within France since the attacks, having seemingly turned laïcité away from its original sense and into an expression of commitment to liberal ideas (El Sammaa, 2007) as opposed the privatisation of religion from public life. The French press draw upon the conflicted religious viewpoints within France, intensifying the disparities between the Islamic community and the ‘French’. From the analysis conducted, it would appear that the extent to which the Muslim population of France are given a voice with in the media is extremely limited, forcing that population to feel alienated from the society it is meant to be equal to. This also causes a cycle of fear amongst the non-Muslim population, as their ignorance to the Islamic faith, as both a result of the practice of laïcité and lack of exposure for Islam within the press, barricades one culture from another, again dividing the nation rather than uniting it. This forces the French population, Muslims included, to believe that Islam, unlike Christianity, is incompatible with the foundations of the French Republic (Perry, 1997), counteracting the original notion of laïcité, which was based on the inclusivity of all ideologies and religions.
Subsequently, and debatably as a result of indoctrination from the state and the press, the French population are too placing barricades between groupings of people within their quickly disintegrating society. Whilst the proclamation of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ was intended to symbolise the right to free speech, it arguably only symbolises the right to a very particular type of free speech, which does not accommodate for those who have adopted a critical position of the content of Charlie Hebdo. This again shows evidently how the concept of laïcité has diverged from its original meaning of inclusivity to a logic which requires the French to be identical to be considered as equal, demonstrating the ‘assimilation’ mind-set of the French (Betts, 2004) which has encapsulated the values of French society.
It is evident in each of these cases that laïcité is no longer a construct of the principle of tolerance towards multiple religious expressions, but it is the enforcement of the absence of religious expression which does not constitute as being ‘French’. As a result, the already Islamophobic climate has been aggravated by the Charlie Hebdo attacks; The National Observatory of Islamophobia in France recorded a 281 percent increase in Islamophobic attacks in the first quarter of 2015 compared with 2014 (Kaleem & Blumberg, 2015). The notions of laïcité and Republican values have been distorted into a justification of the absence of recognition of cultural differences, which may be exacerbated by “martyrizing the Charlie Hebdo victims as symbols of Republican freedom” (Dawes, 2015). Whether or not the proclamation of “Je Suis Charlie” was a spontaneous expression of solidarity, it reveals what may be described as the racist, Islamophobic tendencies (Wolfreys, 2013) of a post-colonial France, and the clear revival of the assimilation policy.
There has been no effort made to represent those who find the content of Charlie Hebdo offensive, instead such opinions have been dismissed as contrary to Republican values. All of this exhibits how the current manifestation of laïcité under Hollande, justifies the Islamophobic behaviour seen within France, and facilitates an understanding within French society that laïcité is primarily as repressive tool directed against Islam above any other religion (Ahearne, 2014). And regardless of the Presidents intentions, the implementation laïcité has done little to unify the nation, instead forcing more and more divisions to arise, risking the delegitimisation of the foundations of French democracy and the destabilisation of the entire nation.
Word Count: 11,182
7.1 Statement by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the Elysée Palace
My dear compatriots,
Today, France was attacked at its very heart in Paris, at the offices of a newspaper. This extremely violent shooting killed 12 people and injured several others; highly talented cartoonists, courageous columnists were killed. Their impertinence and independence influenced generations and generations of French people. I want to tell them that we will continue to defend this message, this message of freedom, in their name.
This cowardly attack also killed two police officers, the very ones who were responsible for protecting Charlie Hebdo and its editorial staff who have been threatened for years by obscurantism and who defended the freedom of expression.
These men, this woman, died because of their vision of France, namely freedom. I would like, on your behalf, to express our wholehearted gratitude to the families, to those affected, to the injured, to the friends, to all those who were deeply hurt today by this cowardly murder. They are now our heroes and that’s why I have decided that tomorrow will be a day of national mourning. There will be a moment of silence at 12:00 pm in all government offices and I encourage everyone to join in. Flags will be flown at half-mast for three days.
Today it is the Republic as a whole that has been attacked. The Republic equals freedom of expression; the Republic equals culture, creation, it equals pluralism and democracy. That is what the assassins were targeting. It equals the ideal of justice and peace that France promotes everywhere on the international stage, and the message of peace and tolerance that we defend – as do our soldiers – in the fight against terrorism and fundamentalism.
France has received messages of solidarity and fraternity from countries around the globe, and we must take their full measure. Our response must be commensurate with the crime committed against us, first by seeking the perpetrators of this act of infamy, and then by making sure they are arrested, tried and punished very severely. And everything will be done to apprehend them. The investigation is now moving forward under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.
We must also protect all public spaces. The government has implemented what is known as the Vigipirate Plan on “attack” level, which means that security forces will be deployed wherever there is the hint of a threat.
Finally, we ourselves must be mindful of the fact that our best weapon is our unity: the unity of all our fellow citizens in this difficult moment. Nothing can divide us, nothing must pit us against one another, nothing must separate us. Tomorrow I will convene the Presidents of both assemblies as well as the political forces represented in Parliament to demonstrate our common resolve.
France is great when she is capable of rising to the test, rising to a level that has always enabled her to overcome hardships. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarity. France has always vanquished her enemies when she has stood united and remained true to her values. That is what I ask you to do: to join together, all of you, in every way possible; that must be our response. Let us join together at this difficult moment, and we shall win, because we are fully capable of believing in our destiny, and nothing can weaken our resolve.
Let us join together.
Vive la République et vive la France!
(Hollande, F. (08/01/2015). Charlie Hebdo – Statements by President Hollande. Retrieved 01/02/2016, from France in the United States: Embassy of France in Washington DC: http://ambafrance-us.org/spip.php?article6408)
7.2 Original Articles:
«L’esprit Charlie doit perdurer»
8 janvier 2015
Philippe Val, ancien directeur de la rédaction
Philippe Val a présidé aux destinés de l’hebdomadaire de 1992 à 2009. Anéanti par la mort de ses amis, le journaliste nous a confié son émoi.
«L’équipe de Charlie Hebdo, c’étaient mes amis et la plupart sont morts ce soir.
C’étaient des gens qui voulaient avant toute chose faire du lien. Ils ne méprisaient personne. Ils exerçaient leur liberté d’expression, sans haine. Ils la mettaient à l’épreuve, pour des raisons intelligentes et profondes. Ils essayaient de faire rire avec des choses graves. Régnait au cœur du journal un espace de discussion. Sous des dehors déconneurs, ce qui était notre marque, nous avions des débats importants, qui reflétaient ceux de la société.
Moi, j’étais pour l’Europe et la défense du Kosovo par exemple, d’autres avaient des avis différents. Mais ces échanges se passaient dans le dialogue et la parole démocratique. C’est une façon de penser, d’écrire qui est morte ce soir. Une façon de présenter les choses avec plaisir et avec joie. Je pense notamment à Cabu, qui était mon ami depuis quarante ans. C’était l’homme le plus joyeux du monde. Et le plus gentil de la Terre. Il n’a jamais méprisé personne, respectant toujours les gens d’où qu’ils viennent ou d’où qu’ils soient. C’est ça qui a été assassiné ce soir.
Mais il ne faut pas que la terreur gagne. Aujourd’hui, l’esprit Charlie Hebdo doit perdurer dans chaque titre de la presse française. Même si c’est difficile, il ne faut pas avoir peur. Sinon, on est foutus. Il ne faut pas que ces gens exceptionnels soient morts pour rien. Tous les journalistes et tous ceux qui ont une parole publique doivent continuer à la faire entendre et s’en servir pour des bonnes raisons. Il ne faut pas laisser aux extrêmes l’analyse du terrorisme et de ce qu’il se passe dans une partie de l’Islam. Notamment pour protéger les musulmans.
Le Parisien, vous qui êtes un journal qui parle aux gens, vous êtes investis de quelque chose de plus qu’hier. Il faut rester groupé sur des thèmes fondamentaux, au-delà de nos divergences de vue. Nous avons été bien timorés à défendre les valeurs de laïcité et de liberté ces dernières années. Et maintenant, on le paie. »
(Le Parisien. (08/01/2015). L’esprit Charlie doit perdurer. Retrieved 03/15/2016, from Le Parisien: http://atelier.leparisien.fr/sites/Je-Suis-Charlie/reactions/lesprit-charlie-doit-perdurer)
Les responsables religieux appellent à la prière et à la paix
De nombreux évêques ont appelé les catholiques à la prière pour les victimes de l’attaque terroriste contre l’hebdomadaire Charlie Hebdo, mais aussi, pour certains, pour les auteurs de cet attentat.
À midi, jeudi 8 janvier, les cloches des cathédrales françaises se sont mises en branle, égrenant la sonnerie du glas, à l’unisson du deuil national décrété par François Hollande.
Une façon, pour l’Église catholique, de témoigner de sa prière et de sa compassion après la mort de 12 personnes lors de l’attaque terroriste de Charlie Hebdo.
Une profonde émotion
La plupart des diocèses ont relayé le communiqué de la Conférence des évêques de France (CEF) exprimant la « profonde émotion », l’« horreur » provoquées par l’attentat. De nombreux évêques se sont aussi exprimés.
« Nous nous inclinons devant les victimes innocentes et assurons leurs familles de notre compassion », a déclaré Mgr Stanislas Lalanne, évêque de Pontoise (Val-d’Oise), tandis que le cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archevêque de Paris, exprimait depuis Rome son horreur et sa profonde compassion pour les familles et les amis des victimes.
« La France se soulève comme un seul homme contre cette barbarie, a affirmé mercredi 7 janvier au soir, lors d’un rassemblement à Lyon, le cardinal Philippe Barbarin. Ceux qui veulent nous déclarer la guerre trouveront en face d’eux des hommes et des femmes qui se battront pour la paix. »
De son côté, redisant « l’attachement indéfectible de l’Église à la liberté de conscience qui inclut les libertés d’expression et de religion », Mgr Michel Aupetit, évêque de Nanterre, a tenu à rappeler « cette phrase de saint Jean : ”Celui qui dit aimer Dieu et qui a la haine contre son frère est un menteur”. »
« Bouleversés par cet acte criminel, nous réaffirmons que ce sont seulement des valeurs d’amitié, de justice, de respect, de liberté, de tolérance qui peuvent construire un vivre-ensemble fraternel », affirme de son côté lemouvement Pax Christi. La communauté de Sant’Egidio s’inquiète de « cette violence inouïe »qui « nous pousse à vouloir parler avec force en faveur de la paix qui est un bien précieux mais fragile, qu’il importe de préserver ».
Convertir le cœur des personnes cruelles
Au-delà des diocèses et mouvements, les marques de soutien sont venues du Vatican lui-même. Après que L’Osservatore Romano eut consacré sa «une» au drame parisien, le pape François lui-même a prié « pour tous ceux qui ont été frappés par le féroce et cruel attentat terroriste à Paris », au cours de sa messe matinale de jeudi 8 janvier.
Il a déploré « cette cruauté humaine dont l’homme est capable », « ce terrorisme, que ce soit un terrorisme isolé ou un terrorisme d’État ». Il a appelé aussi à prier « pour les personnes cruelles, afin que le Seigneur convertisse leur cœur. »
Quelques instants plus tard, @Pontifex, le compte Twitter officiel du pape, écrivait simplement #PrayersforParis (« Prières pour Paris »). Le Saint-Siège a également publié le télégramme de condoléances envoyé au nom du pape par le cardinal Pietro Parolin, secrétaire d’État du Saint-Siège, au cardinal André Vingt-Trois.
Unis pour défendre les valeurs républicaines
En Alsace, les membres du comité interreligieux auprès de la région ont invité de concert leurs membres à « être d’une extrême vigilance pour contrer toute violence et pour promouvoir le civisme républicain, le respect absolu de toute personne, et la fraternité ».
Dans la région Midi-Pyrénées, meurtrie il y a trois ans par les crimes de l’islamiste radical Mohamed Merah, le Conseil régional du culte musulman, l’Église catholique, la Fédération protestante, le Grand Rabbinat de Toulouse et l’Union bouddhiste régionale ont uni leurs voix pour se dire « plus forts et unis que jamais, et déterminés à œuvrer pour l’unité nationale et la défense des valeurs républicaines ».
Au niveau national, d’une même voix interreligieuse, les membres de la Conférence des responsables de culte en France en ont appelé « à la fraternité », « à la conscience et à l’engagement de tous les citoyens de ce pays ». Ils ont appelé à s’associer au rassemblement dimanche et à « observer un temps de jeûne, chacun selon sa tradition. »
Le Conseil œcuménique des Églises a de son côté condamné « rigoureusement les justifications religieuses avancées, quelles qu’elles soient ».
Il affirme prier « pour que l’idéologie extrémiste qui a inspiré cet attentat soit écrasée et pour que l’indignation, si justifiée qu’elle soit, n’entraîne pas de représailles à l’encontre des musulmans et n’alimente pas l’islamophobie ».
Certes, Charlie Hebdo est une revue satirique « qui se moque des religions, y compris la mienne », a reconnuMgr Pierre Whalon, représentant la Communion anglicane en Europe, mais « ils sont dans leur droit », a-t-il affirmé : « La liberté d’expression est le seul garant de la liberté elle-même, y compris la liberté de culte. »
(Houdaille, C. (08/01/2015). Les responsables religieux appellent à la prière et à la paix. Retrieved 22/032016, from La Croix: http://www.la-croix.com/Actualite/France/Les-responsables-religieux-appellent-a-la-priere-et-a-la-paix-2015-01-08-1264297)
Charlie Hebdo : les musulmans craignent de nouveaux amalgams
Par Tristan Quinault Maupoil
Au lendemain de l’attaque du siège de Charlie Hebdo, la communauté musulmane tient à rappeler les fondements pacifiques du Coran. Les croyants s’apprêtent à combattre les amalgames.
Entre lassitude et fatalisme. Vingt-quatre heure après l’attentat qui a frappé la rédaction de Charlie Hebdo, la communauté musulmane de Paris s’inquiète des répercussions à venir. «Ce sont des affaires barbares. Et les gagnants, ce ne sont pas nous! Tout ça se retourne contre nous…», s’exclame Ahmad, un grossiste de produits orientaux du quartier de Barbès (XVIIIe arrondissement). «Tout le monde doit savoir que les musulmans ne sont pas là pour faire du mal», s’empresse d’ajouter son collègue tandis que des clients s’agrègent à la conversation. «Le problème c’est que nous sommes mal représentés. C’est le néant», lance un jeune homme qui compte sur les médias et les responsables politiques pour «garder la tête froide» afin d’éviter les amalgames.
«Il faut sortir dans la rue»
Khaled, un commerçant du boulevard Ornano dit «avoir les boules». La situation «est grave» et elle aura «des répercussions lors des prochaines élections», prédit-il. Arrivé en France il y a 30 ans, le quinquagénaire estime qu’il pèse une lourde responsabilité «sur l’État et les musulmans» car «il faut mettre des moyens pour mieux assurer la réussite scolaire et mieux former les imams». La recette, selon lui, pour éviter de nouveaux évènements dramatiques. Khaled, qui indique que son fils est policier, «a envie de dire aux musulmans de sortir dans la rue» car, juge-t-il, «nous sommes obligés de passer par là pour faire barrage aux mauvaises interprétations».
Issa, son voisin boucher de viande halal âgé de 22 ans, note «que si dans le quartier, les musulmans et les chrétiens se connaissent, ailleurs c’est la peur de l’autre» qui présente le plus grand danger. Lui veut rappeler que deux victimes étaient des condisciples d’Allah. «Nous sommes aussi des victimes!», commente alors Sonia, une cliente du même âge. Et Issa de partager son vécu: «Dans la rue, certains font des grimaces quand on passe ou les petites vieilles du métro changent de place quand on s’assoit».
«Lisez le Coran!»
Tout en servant une femme venue faire ses sources, Khaled l’épicier ne cache pas son inquiétude: «C’est vrai que la mosquée attaquée (jeudi au Mans, Sarthe, ndlr), ça donne l’impression que le climat peut se dégrader». «Ce matin un client français pleurait devant moi. Je fais confiance aux Français, ils ne tomberont pas dans le piège», tente-t-il de se convaincre. Dans un commerce adjacent, un homme très religieux a déjà une réponse à donner à ceux qui douteraient des valeurs portées par son Dieu: «Lisez le Coran! Ne vous arrêtez pas à la barbe. Il faut rester optimiste, les musulmans le sont».
(Quinault Maupoil, T. (08/01/2015). Charlie Hebdo : les musulmans craignent de nouveaux amalgames. Retrieved 25/03/2016, from Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2015/01/08/01016-20150108ARTFIG00241-charlie-hebdo-les-musulmans-craignent-de-nouveaux-amalgames.php)
7.3 Translated Articles:
“Charlie’s Spirit Must Continue”
January 8th 2015
Philippe Val, former director of the editorial
Philippe Val has chaired over for the weekly newspaper from 1992 to 2009. Devastated by the death of his friends, the journalist shares his thoughts with us. “The team of Charlie Hebdo, they were my friends and most of them are dead tonight.
They were people who above all, wanted to unite. They despised nobody. They exercised their freedom of expression, without hatred. They put it to the test, for intelligent and profound reasons. They were trying to make people laugh, even around serious issues. At its heart, the newspaper was a space for discussion. Aside from satire, which was our brand, we debated important issues which reflected the views of our society.
For example, I was in favour of Europe and the defence of Kosovo whilst others had different opinions. But these exchanges were taking place in the dialogue of democratic speech. It is a way of thinking, of writing, which is dead tonight. A way of presenting things, with pleasure and with joy. I am thinking of Cabu, who was my friend for forty years. He was the happiest man in the world, and the kindest man on Earth. He has never disrespected anyone, always respecting people regardless of where they come from or where they are. It is this that has been murdered this evening.
But do not let terror win. Today, the spirit of Charlie Hebdo must endure in each title of the French press. Although it is difficult, it is not necessary to be afraid. Otherwise, we are screwed. It is not necessary that these exceptional people have died for nothing. All the journalists and all those who have a public voice must continue to be heard and to use them for good reasons. We must understand this extremism and terrorism happens only in one part of Islam. We must protect our Muslims.
Le Parisien, you are a newspaper that tells people you’re invested in something more than yesterday. We must remain grouped on fundamental topics, beyond our differences of opinion. We were very timid in defending the values of secularism and freedom in recent years. And now, we are paying for it. ”
Religious leaders call for prayer and peace
Many bishops have called upon Catholics to pray for the victims of the terrorist attack against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, but also, for the perpetrators of this attack.
At noon on Thursday 8th January, the bells of the French cathedrals were set in motion, with the ringing of the death knell, in unison with the national mourning pronounced by Francois Hollande.
It was a way for the Catholic Church, to bear witness to prayer and compassion after the death of 12 people in the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Most dioceses and many bishops have relayed the statement of the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) expressing “deep emotion”, and “horror” caused by the attack.
“We bow to the innocent victims and give our sympathy to their families,” said Father Stanislas Lalanne, Bishop of Pontoise (Val-d’Oise). Whilst Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, spoke from Rome of his horror and deep sympathy for the families and friends of the victims.
“France is raised as one man against this barbarism” Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said on Wednesday evening, of January 7th, at a rally in Lyon. “Those who want to declare war on us find in front of them men and women who will fight for peace.”
Reiterating: “the Church’s unwavering commitment to freedom of conscience includes freedom of expression and religion,” Father Michel Aupetit, Bishop of Nanterre, recalled this phrase of Saint John: “Whoever said love God and has hatred against his brother is a liar.”
“Shocked by this criminal act, we reaffirm that these are only values of friendship, justice, respect, freedom, tolerance that can build a fraternal living together,” says the International Catholic movement, Pax Christi. The community of Sant’Egidio is concerned about this “unprecedented violence” that “pushes us to want to speak with force, in favour of peace, which is valuable but fragile and important to preserve”.
Convert the heart of cruel people
Beyond the dioceses and movements, marks of support came from the Vatican itself. After L’Osservatore Romano had dedicated the front page to the Parisian drama, Pope Francis himself prayed “for those who were struck by the fierce and cruel terrorist attack in Paris” during his morning Mass on Thursday 8th January.
He deplored “the human cruelty of which man is capable,” “this is terrorism, whether an isolated act of terrorism or state terrorism.” He also called to pray “for the cruel people, that the Lord may convert their heart.”
Moments later, @Pontifex, the official Twitter account of the Pope, wrote simply “#PrayersforParis”. The Holy See has also published the telegram of condolence sent to the Pope’s name by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois.
United to defend republican values
In Alsace, the members of the interfaith committee to the region invited their members to “be extremely vigilant to counter any violence and to promote the republican citizenship, with full respect for all persons, and brotherhood.”
In the Midi-Pyrenees region, damaged three years ago by the crimes of the radical Islamist Mohamed Merah, the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith, the Catholic Church, the Protestant Federation, the Chief Rabbinate of Toulouse and the regional Buddhist Union joined their voices to say “we are stronger and more united than ever, and determined to work for national unity and the defence of the republican values”.
At a national level, with a similar demonstration of inter-faith, the members of the Conference of Leaders of Worship in France have called for “brotherhood” and the “consciousness and commitment of all citizens of this country.” They called to join the rally Sunday and to “observe a time of fasting, each according to their tradition.”
The World Council of Churches has condemned the “religious justifications, whatever they may be “.
They pray “that the extremist ideology which has inspired this attack is crushed and for that the indignation, if justified as it is, does not result in reprisals against the Muslims and does not feed the Islamophobia”.
Certainly, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine “who mocks the religions, including mine,” said Father Pierre Whalon, representative of the Anglican Communion in Europe, but “they are in the right,” he said: “The freedom of expression is the only guarantor of the freedom itself, including the freedom of worship.”
Charlie Hebdo: Muslims fear new misperceptions
By Tristan Quinault Maupoil
Following the attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, the Muslim community wishes to recall the peaceful foundations of the Koran. The believers are preparing to fight the misperception.
Between weariness and fatalism. Twenty-four hours after the attack that struck Charlie Hebdo, the Muslim community in Paris is concerned about the future impact. “They are barbarians. And they are not with us. They are against us … “exclaims Ahmad, a wholesaler of oriental products in the Barbès neighborhood (eighteenth arrondissement). “Everyone must know that Muslims are not there to harm,” quickly added his colleague while customers are aggregated in the conversation. “The problem is that we are poorly represented.” “It’s nothing” says a young man who has faith in the media and politicians to “stay cool” to avoid further misperceptions.
“You have to go out in the street”
Khaled, a shopkeeper of the Boulevard Ornano says “have the balls”. The situation “is serious” and he foresees that it will have “repercussions in the next election”. Arriving in France 30 years ago, the 50 year old believes there is a heavy responsibility “of the State and Muslims” because “it is necessary to ensure the academic success and better training for imams.” Which, according to him, is the recipe to avoid further dramatic events. Khaled, who says his son is a police officer, “wants to tell the Muslims to go out on the street” because he considers, “we have to go through it to block the bad interpretations.”
His neighbour, 22 year old halal butcher Issa, noted that “in the neighborhood, Muslims and Christians are known to be in the fear of the other” and that presents the greatest danger. He wants to remind that two victims were classmates of Allah: “We are also victims!”. He then commented on Sonia, a client of the same age, sharing their experience: “In the street, some make faces when we pass or switch places when we sit down on the Metro.”
“Read the Koran!”
While serving a female customer in his shop, the grocer Khaled does not hide his concern: “It is true that within the already contested mosque, the consensus is that the attitude towards us may deteriorate “. “This morning a French customer wept before me. I trust the French, they will not fall into the trap” he assures. In an adjacent store, a very religious man already has an answer for those who doubt the values held by his God, “Read the Qur’an! Do not stop the beard. We must remain optimistic, Muslims are. ”
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