Nov 06 2011

Sorry but Islam and Mohammad are not off-limits

Charles Hebdo, the French publication that was firebombed a few days ago for mocking Islam and Islam’s prophet Mohammad is gathering messages of solidarity to publish in its next issue, which will be out this Wednesday in France. Here’s mine:

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo’s office but the attack does bear the hallmarks of the political Islamic movement as – for them – this is business as usual and all in a day’s work. They bomb offices, threaten anyone who criticises Islam and Islamism, and where they have political power they slaughter those who speak their minds in cold blood and in broad daylight.

Those who condemn the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo’s office whilst also criticising the publication for mocking Islam’s prophet Mohammad are (at best) missing the point (and more likely apologists for the Islamists).

Saying that certain types of expression offend is a tool for suppressing society and is an attempt to limit rights. And it’s linked to the undermining of freedoms, rights, and social welfare world-wide. After all what is the point of free expression if you cannot criticise that which is deemed to be taboo?

Saying Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t criticise Islam is basically saying that Islam is off limits. It’s saying that the victims and survivors of Islamism are not allowed to resist the inquisition of our era, particularly since free expression, including the right to mock, is often all we have to fight back.

If you’re not angry, you’re just not paying attention.


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  1. 1

    I’m paying attention and yes, it really pisses me off !

  2. 2

    I think there’s definitely an element of boasting to the Muslim outrage. The more angry their response the more devout they look, and they can advertise to everybody just how pious they are. I don’t believe for a second that they are genuinely deeply offended by a caricature. We have plenty of religions with equivalent love for their main prophet and we never see this ridiculous response.

    What really gets me is when they automatically categorize satire as racism. Racism is about privilege as well as discrimination – if negative portrayal of Islam is racist, by their logic so is giving Islam special positive treatment, which they do everyday by following it. If drawing an anti-Muslim caricature is racist, what does that make burning all non believers? If Islam is a race, isn’t the concept of heaven for the believers racist?

    1. 2.1

      I just wanted to point out that Islam isn’t a race. It is a religion. You can’t be racist about a belief. It is racist to think all people of Arab descent are muslim. But Islam is a religion. Religions need to be criticised because they make claims of moral superiority that are in fact just ways to oppress people for control.

      This with the fire bombings seems to be about seeing what they can get away with. Who they can make afraid. The best outcome I can see is that they hunt down the people who threw the fire bomb and they make them feel the full weight of the law. Religious violence should be taken very seriously and if these people are testing boundaries it needs to be made clear that their behaviour is not acceptable and that the rights of expression of the people of that country will be protected.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    I heard a really annoying – and utterly predictable – item in a BBC World Service report on the story from their Paris correspondent – “moderate” Muslim groups condemned both the bombing and Charlie Hebdo. That’s so stinking typical of the Beeb.

    1. 3.1

      So? What’s wrong with that? As long as they didn’t excuse the attacks, I see no problem with their actions. They’re muslims, of course they’re going to condemn a negative portrayal of their faith! If someone makes fun of something I like, I’ll condemn them! Of course, blowing them up is bugfucking insane.

  4. 4
    Ed Brayton

    I think pointing out that mainstream Muslim groups condemn this kind of violence is an important thing to report. I absolutely agree that Islam should not be off limits and I gleefully blast those who claim that Charlie Hebdo had it coming for daring to insult Muslims. Maryam is absolutely right to criticize such people. But we have two dangers here simultaneously and both must be opposed — the violent tendencies of the reactionary Muslims who believe that they have the right to kill anyone who dares to offend them and those who think that all Muslims support such violence. That’s why I write continually on my blog against both of those groups, and there is no inconsistency in those positions at all.

    Islamophobia is a real thing, at least in the United States. People like Robert Spencer, Pam Geller, David Yerushalmi and Frank Gaffney are crazed bigots who want to overturn the constitution on the basis of their demonization of all Muslims. They like to pretend that anyone who calls them Islamophobes is on the side of the terrorists and that any criticism of their position means that one wants to insulate Islam from criticism. That is utter nonsense. I am every bit as critical of reactionary Islam as they are, and probably even more opposed to the imposition of Sharia law (for the obvious reason that I would be the first one with his head on the chopping block should that happen). But these paranoid lunatics keep telling their followers that Sharia law is going to take over America, which is about as farfetched as worrying about a Martian invasion (the situation in Europe, where the Muslim population is much more radicalized than here, may well be different — I can only speak about my own country).

    In order to be consistent with Enlightenment values, we must oppose both the violent and barbaric tendencies of fundamentalist Islam and the attempts to violate the constitutional rights of Muslims at the same time.

    1. 4.1
      Maryam Namazie

      I think it is more important to make a distinction between Muslims and Islamists. I have a huge problem with the term Islamophobia since I too have a phobia against Islam and religion, thought it’s a rational one. Moreover phobias against ideas are not racism and freethinkers should be the first to say so. That doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist. Of course it does and it is important to oppose racists and fascists. In my opinion, the far-right, like Stop Islamisation of America, are actually the other side of the coin of Islamism, since the latter is also a far-right movement. There is too much to say on this issue, so I will leave it at that but will blog on this more soon.

      1. fatpie42

        Surely the term “phobia” suggests an irrational fear.

        When we talk about “homophobia” that does not include the situation where a man who happens to be gay is brandishing a knife and threatening you. The issue of homophobia concerns people who feel threatened by gay people – because they are gay.

        Now I think you’ve made very clear in the past that you are not frightened of Islam because it’s a “foreign” religion. In fact, it is not Islam but rather Islamism which worries you. As was said, figures like Pam Geller and groups like the EDL are very definitely Islamophobic. The term fits them well and saying “I’m a little bit phobic of Islam, but I’m rational” does you no favours whatsoever.

        You are not phobic of Islam, you are frightened of Islamism (as are people in general). This distinction is important because there are people out there (on both sides of the argument) who are unable to tell the difference.

        You normally make this distinction very clear and I am making this comment because I am concerned that criticising the term “Islamophobia” will give newcomers to your blog the wrong impression about you.

        I think Ed’s point is that setting out to intentionally insult a religious minority in such a trivial way as depicting their religious leader (any religious leader) in a cartoon is quite tacky. It is actually rather threatening to Muslims and those identified as such when these kids of cultural symbols are made into figures of fun using crass stereotypes.

        I still agree with Ophelia Benson that calling a group that ‘condemns’ a publication, straight after they are firebombed over a dodgy drawing, “moderate” is extremely worrying. I must note that I don’t know what Muhammad is being depicted as saying and that could make all the difference (or it could make things worse), but nevertheless my gut feeling is that this cartoon is not the sort of thing I would want to encourage (even if I think “condemning” is an absurdly poor choice of words when the cartoonist has just been violently attacked by extremists).

        1. Maryam Namazie

          There is a difference between Islamophobia and homophobia because one is against a belief and the other is against a group of people. I may be more concerned with Islamism because this is first and foremost a political fight – getting rid of the Islamic inquisition will do wonders for making Islam seem cuddlier like the enlightenment did for Christianity. However this does not mean that Islam shouldn’t also be targetted or that it should be off-limits. It is after all the banner of Islamism. I fear and hate religion – all religions – as I do any superstition. My point is that rationalists shouldn’t be using the term Islamophobic as that term is used to silence criticism of Islam by equating it with racism. It’s like saying much of the criticism on this blog is christianity-phobic and racist. that’s absurd. So first I have a problem with the use of the term, which is inaccurate. If you insist on using the term, well I will also then insist on showing how a fear – rational or irrational – is not racism. I think the crux of the problem is that you and Ed start with the far-Right rather than with principle. I oppose the Islamic regime of Iran. I will oppose it even if US led militarism (which I am also opposed to) is against it. How I explain my opposition separates me from others and US led militarism just as how what I do defends the rights of muslims and others against Islamism. The problem I have with atheists who are so very frank criticising christianity and never worry about offense, suddenly try to limit speech (because that it what it is), by saying we shouldn’t intentionally offend. You may think the cartoons or Charlie Hebdo’s issue on Sharia are trivial but they are not to me. Especially not when I received death threats every day for what I say and do. And there is a racism in assuming that Islamists represent Muslims and that Muslims and Islamists are one and the same. Why do you think all Muslims are offended by the publication; you choose sides with those who are offended enough to bomb a place by stating it is an offence against all. Most Muslims don’t do that and many Muslims are actually languishing in prison for saying very similar things. I think it’s time for atheists to side with them.

          1. fatpie42

            “There is a difference between Islamophobia and homophobia because one is against a belief and the other is against a group of people.”

            I think you already know full well that this isn’t true, but just in case you don’t, I’ll quickly make it clear. To say Islamophobia isn’t about a group of people because it’s against a belief is like saying that Homophobia is about about a group of people because it’s against a sexual orientation. The point is that it’s not the belief or the orientation, but rather the people who hold that trait which are the product of the irrational fear and hatred.

            Genuine Islamophobia is when people are feared and hated because they hold cultural traits linked with the religion of Islam. The reason why this is important is because there is now a very specific kind of racism pointed not against a certain skin colour, but against what are viewed as characteristically “foreign” cultural traits.

            What’s more Muslims aren’t the only ones to feel the brunt of it, since a very clear example of Islamophobia was the attacks on Sikhs after 9/11. In that particular case the foreign trait associated with Islam was the turban, but the hateful reaction was wholly presumptuous and prompted by a very irrational fear.

            “this does not mean that Islam shouldn’t also be targeted or that it should be off-limits.”

            Recognising Islamophobia is not the same thing as putting Islam off-limits. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that any religion should be put out of range of criticism. I think it’s very important not to misuse the term “Islamophobia”, but I think denying its validity entirely is an error worth avoiding.

            “My point is that rationalists shouldn’t be using the term Islamophobic as that term is used to silence criticism of Islam by equating it with racism.”


            When your argument is identical to the one used by the BNP, you need to rethink things… I’ll agree that the term “Islamophobia” is often misused, but there are certain contexts where it is particularly important. Groups like the BNP and the EDL thrive on the idea that they can speak as harshly as they like about Muslims on the grounds that “it’s not racism”. It is vital that rationalists make very clear how they differ from that rhetoric.

            “The problem I have with atheists who are so very frank criticising christianity and never worry about offense, suddenly try to limit speech (because that it what it is), by saying we shouldn’t intentionally offend.”

            I think the concern is a possible victimisation of minorities. There’s times when this concern is valid and there’s times when it is not. There are occasions when people misuse the term “racist”, but that does not mean we should never use the term at all.

            “You may think the cartoons or Charlie Hebdo’s issue on Sharia are trivial but they are not to me. Especially not when I received death threats every day for what I say and do. And there is a racism in assuming that Islamists represent Muslims and that Muslims and Islamists are one and the same. Why do you think all Muslims are offended by the publication; you choose sides with those who are offended enough to bomb a place by stating it is an offence against all. Most Muslims don’t do that and many Muslims are actually languishing in prison for saying very similar things. I think it’s time for atheists to side with them.”

            I want to confirm that I am in agreement on this quote. I do not think Charlie Hebdo being firebombed is trivial and I stand behind you on this issue. Regardless of how offensive the cartoon may or may not have been, siding with the bombers is sick and absurd.

            How I would respond to the cartoon if the paper weren’t being firebombed (which has nothing to do with their right to print it, but only with their reputation) is a separate issue (which, especially since I don’t understand the language of the cartoon or know much about the content of the paper, seems far from clear-cut to me).

          2. Maryam Namazie

            I have to rush and can’t address this in full now – suffice it to say that my argument is not identical to the BNP. In the same way that my opposing US Led militarism doesn’t make me one and the same with the Islamic Republic of Iran! Why I oppose, how I oppose, for what aims I oppose, what means I use – all of that matters. I oppose sharia because it is inhuman. The BNP opposes it because they are anti-Muslim, immigrant, and for a Christian Britain. I oppose it to defend the rights of Muslims and others. They oppose it to show how barbaric Muslims are. I show how Muslims and immigrants are not to blame for Islamism; they blame Muslims and immigrants for islamism. and on and on. The more I read your response the more annoyed I get and will have to stop here and write a post on this. But I have promised an article that is already two days late so must go now. Will respond to other comments too later today.

          3. Derek McCue

            I don’t fear islam I just don’t respect stupidity.

        2. pascale

          In the cartoon Mohammed is saying “100 lashings if you don’t die laughing!”

  5. 5
    Tom Reinold

    Flood the world with Mohammed pictures to piss off those Islamist Idiots!

    1. 5.1

      I strongly agree. Also, Brilliant post by Namazi.

  6. 6

    There are good magic books and there are bad ones. The good ones are make believe and are known to be and are enjoyed for this. The bad ones are make believe but are thought real by some and are then used as tools of destruction.

    1. 6.1
      Tony! The Queer Shoop

      So, Harry Potter=Good

  7. 7

    Yes I’m paying attention and yes I’m etremely pissed off! [2]

  8. 8

    These people are savages and need to get out of the 7th century!

    1. 8.1

      Islamism is a very recent thing, having surfaced in the sixties aproximatedly(forgive me if I’m wrong, I’m kinda shaky on the topic). Muhammad would’ve been quite confused about it, just as Jesus would be if he knew about modern christian fundamentalism.

  9. 9

    I agree with the sentiments above but feel uncomfortable with the “us and them” implications of the line “and more likely apologists for the Islamists”. Condemning a disproportionate response by Islamic extremists does not automatically make the actions of the magazine correct. The first event can be judged on its own by people without it affecting their distaste in the reaction to that event.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of religion and think satire is a great tool we can use to beat it but I don’t expect others not to be offended by it, I just expect them to behave like adults and not to throw their bombs out of the cot.

    Here’s something I wrote on a similar subject a while ago: http://stevewheadon.blogspot.com/2011/04/terry-jonestown-massacre.html

    1. 9.1
      Maryam Namazie

      Steve, it’s not about an us and them position. Charlie Hebdo’s office was firebombed simply for expressing their views. To get into whether you like their views or not is frankly, the wrong answer because it’s irrelevant. Just as it’s irrelevant what the woman who was raped was wearing or what the person being executed for actually did – that is if you think rape and execution are wrong… This is my problem with those who say it’s wrong but… they are not realising the scale of the matter and how important freedom of expression is primarily for those living under and resisting Islamism. And they are making excuses for the Islamists. Full stop.

      1. Cwayne

        Agreed. With respect, it is hard to understand Ms Namazie’s position if you have not lived under oppression.

        1. Maryam Namazie

          Thanks for commenting here but what’s with the Ms Namazie. I feel older than I am when you do that – LOL

      2. Steve

        I see the point you are making more clearly now and totally agree. Thanks for responding.

  10. 10
    Luke Scientiae

    When things like this come up, it’s fashionable to make the distinction between “moderate” Islam (or “moderate” religion in general) and extremist Islam (or extremism in general).

    But the fact is that the tenets of Islam are as ridiculous and nonsensical as any myth, and the moderates give cover to the extremists by giving the impression that it’s okay to belive in bullshit on some level. They also do us all the disservice of pretending that the less morally palatable Koranic verses, like those about homosexuals, Jews or unbelivers can be interpreted metaphorically, allegorically or in some nuanced historical way that saves the whole religion from looking medieval, primitive and crazy. But the fact is that these things ARE in the Koran and Hadith and ought to be criticised for the stupidity they represent.

    I heartily recommend Sam Harris on this subject. The problem of fundamentalist Islam is the fundamentals of Islam. Blaming it on extremism per se is crazy: there are religious extremists who are extreme pacifists (e.g. extreme Jains), so extremism in itself is not a bad thing. It very much depends on what the doctrines are. Moderates cherry-pick and attempt to give credibility to intellectual dishonesty. The fundamentalists are consistent, but take their ugly delusions to a level no one should tolerate.

    1. 10.1
      Maryam Namazie

      Yes Islam’s tenets are horrible as are that of all religions. The only difference between Christianity today and during the inquisition is not that its tenets have changed for the better but that Christianity social and political status has changed as a result of the enlightenment. What Sam Harris misses in his argument is that Islam is like this today because of Islamism and that the fight is not ideological alone but political.

      1. agnostic atheist

        I am tempted to say: “All religions are not made equal”.

        The tenets of some, like Jaïnism and the Baha’i faith seem to me to be inherently more peaceful than those of Judeaism, Christianity, and Islam.

        At this year’s World’s Atheist Convention in Dublin you said “Religion should come with a health warning like cigarettes: religion kills”. I would say: some do, some don’t.

        I know that this remark is only a tiny detail in the larger context of your honorable struggle against islamism and for secularism. And I also agree that the social and political status of a religion in a given society could be of far more importance than the specific contents of it’s doctrine. But i still think there is no need to compromise on the truthfulness (as i see it) of your powerfull message on this minor issue by insisting on the equal horribleness of áll religions.

        1. Maryam Namazie

          Well give any of them political power and let’s see how peaceful they really are…

          1. supermanlives

            Let’s clarify, then…

            All religions, which contain an ambiguous interpretation of what some supernatural agent wants from its adherents (as is stated in that religion’s ‘good book’), are bad for humanity.

            That should cover it. :)

        2. huzzah

          Well if we want to know, by far the worst is christianity, with islam giving it some healthy competition in second place. Buddhism and hinduism have also been responsible for some pretty fucked-up shit, but I’m not versed enough in what they have done to put them in a greater context. BTW, Sam Harris is an ignorant moron that does more harm than good to the atheist cause.

  11. 11


    There ya go, my very own drawing of Mohammed.

    To think that I could be the target of death threats, or worse, just for the above stick figure makes me weep for humanity.

    1. 11.1

      Thank you! I enjoyed the drawing!

  12. 12

    I’m a muslim. I never heard of this paper. I don’t care what it publishes. Don’t flatter yourself into thinking that I’d even bother considering fire bombing your paper. You’re just a lowly little worm trying hard to sell some papers, and baiting the crazy people is an easy way to do it.

    1. 12.1
      Maryam Namazie

      Err this is not a paper; it’s called a blog.

    2. 12.2

      hass (12)

      I’m a muslim…I don’t care what it publishes. Don’t flatter yourself into thinking that I’d even bother considering fire bombing your paper.

      If you are a Muslim and you have no desire to use your faith to commit violence then you aren’t the problem. The problem are those humourless lunatics who think that violence is a way to secure special privilege in society. It isn’t. All it will likely do is cause public feeling to work against Islam and cause legislators and police to target members Muslims in order to prevent further civil unrest. Largely innocent and peaceful Muslims included.

      You’re just a lowly little worm trying hard to sell some papers, and baiting the crazy people is an easy way to do it.

      Are you sure that you aren’t a humourless lunatic? Take an event like Draw Mohammed Day. Thousands of people across the world decided that they were going to demonstrate how they weren’t afraid of a few violent bullies masquerading as a religion. They did this in a peaceful way that was largely free from open abuse. It is through solidarity that violent reactions are restricted. We will no kowtow to bullies. We will now grant automatic respect to a religion or to a religious founder. If you want respect as a faith then go out and earn it by doing something good rather than fire bombing those who don’t agree with you.

    3. 12.3
      Derek McCue

      Glad that you can admit Muslims are crazy people

      1. Maryam Namazie

        Islamism is a far-Right political movement. It’s like the British National Party. You can’t say all Brits are crazy because of what the BNP or the English Defence League do so please don’t start scapegoating all Muslims or immigrants for Islamism’s crimes.

  13. 13

    Wednesday’s cover of Charlie Hebdo: http://yfrog.com/nz17pakj

    “Love stronger than hate”

    1. 13.1
      Maryam Namazie

      oh no it’s just too good. I guess that is the issue where they are publishing solidarity messages including mine.

  14. 14

    If you have any doubt that this attitude of callous disregard for human life is part of Islamic culture, look up the holiday they are celebrating in Iraq today. They actually set aside a three day holiday to commemerate and honor and celebrate the fact that a man was willing to kill his own son and set fire to the body because he thought his god wanted him to.

    1. 14.1

      DOn’t you think it’s a cop-out calling them out for Eid al-Adha when they’re celebrating an event that is quite important in ALL three abrahamic faiths?

  15. 15
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    So it that sort of like Easter, a three day holiday to commemorate and honor and celebrate the alleged fact that a god had his son/self tortured and killed? Except that it’s about Abraham & Isaac/Ishmael – which is common to several religions, except for the exact identification of which son.

  16. 16

    If you’re not angry, you’re just not paying attention.


  17. 17

    Great insight… I caught the link on Twitter, you should add a button to link your posts.

  18. 18
    Danny Sichel

    I would say that the original illustration was in dubious taste. But that’s not a crime. Setting fire to someone’s office is a crime.

  19. 19

    Oh sweet tap-dancing Christ!

    I simply cannot fathom how some religious folks can say their Icon is somehow untouchable, and cannot be mocked by others, but apparently it is okay to mock any other Icon. In fact, it’s okay to desecrate those Icons all they like, because They are the True Faith.

    Yep. You sure are, Sparky.

    Look, I’m a religious person. I just don’t judge others who might think my beliefs are wrong, because they are entitled to their own opinion. Go ahead, make fun of my beliefs! I’m cool with that. And I’ll make fun of your beliefs to, because – strangely enough – they are simply beliefs. This is not life and death, folks. Just religion.

    Anyone who would threaten violence, let alone actually commit violence against another, simply because they ‘mocked’ your Icon is a horrible human being. You want respect for your beliefs, but threat others if you don’t get that respect. In my book, all that will earn you is more ridicule.

    Gee, maybe I should post something insulting Islam on my blog today? Not as an insult to those who honestly believe in that religion, and are not crazed zealots, but instead to tweak those zealots. Because they deserve it.

    If we as a people are cowed by threats from zealots, then we do not deserve to live in a free society. Instead, we should meet their threats with continued insults. Let them freak out, civilized society does not need them.

  20. 20
    Derek McCue

    If all the free press in the west were to, on the one day, publish a picture of mohamed then these barbarians might realise that we will not be censored by force.

  21. 21

    Freethought blog! Sorry isn’t Freethought the rejection of faith and doctrine as a base of morals? Marxism is a doctrine. Marxist is not a Freethinker. Namazie is a Marxist she not a freethinker.
    Have you given up Marx? or do not blacken Freethought with your doctrine

    1. 21.1

      Oh. A troll….

      1. Stevarious

        Didn’t you know? If you call someone a Marxist in the comments section of a 3 month old blog post, sometimes they magically become a Marxist!
        Then their skin turns purple and they run around shouting ‘Gnap!’ and biting other smurfs on the tails, to turn THEM into Marxists!
        It’s not a very smurfy thing to do if you ask me.

  1. 22
    Is Islam and Mohammad off-limits? « The Godless Monster

    [...] Maryam Namazie’s answer to that question. Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditTwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  2. 23
    Love not Hate, Charlie Hebdo’s Brilliant Response | Maryam Namazie

    [...] In this week’s issue, the publication is printing messages of solidarity including mine. [...]

  3. 24
    Question, Criticize… uh… okay, I’m out of witty alliteration. « The Price of Reason

    [...] First of all, let me say that this is in response to and in support of the sentiment espoused by Maryam Namazie, with her blog entry on the reactions of Muslims to the caricature of Muhammad on the cover of Charles Hedbo. [...]

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