Remarks at Oxford Union debate with Tariq Ramadan on 29 February 2016
I was Charlie 6 years ago; today Je Suis Charlie and I will always be Charlie.
Saying one is Charlie has never meant approving of everything it has said and done, though I must admit that I do approve of much of its Leftwing, anti-racist and anti-clerical satire.
I think poking fun at religion and blasphemy – in the age of ISIS – when one can be killed for it is an historical task and necessity.
That is one of the main reasons why I helped found the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain – to break the taboo that comes with questioning and leaving Islam and to challenge the Islamists who strive to deny us the right to think and speak freely, including in secular societies.
You don’t have to like Charlie or any other acts of blasphemy to defend the right to blaspheme and free expression. That is what Je Suis Charlie means.
Think about this for a moment. The Charlie cartoonists were killed in broad daylight, in cold blood, merely for their cartoons.
Those who refuse to stand with them, imply that they got what they deserved. They should not have been killed BUT what did they expect?
The “culture of offence” and accusations of Islamophobia are smokescreens. They serve to legitimise Islamist terror and violence and blame the victims.
They miss the point.
Islamism is an international far-right movement that has murdered innumerable Charlie Hebdos over several decades across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, including many “Muslims,” who have dared to speak or mock or just live 21 century lives prohibited by the brothers.
Being a woman, a freethinker, being gay, being unveiled, improperly veiled, an atheist, going to school, driving a car, having sex, falling in love, laughing out loud, dancing… “offends” them. And violence to all this is the usual Islamist response.
Calling for civility, censorship, silence or “respect” for the “offended” is merely heeding the Islamist demand for blasphemy laws at the expense of dissenters.
So, yes, I am Charlie as I am also the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and none who criticise and question Islam and Islamism across the globe day in an day out at great risks to their lives.
Mr Ramadan says he is not Charlie or Paris. Instead he says he is perquisitionnable or “under investigation.”
That I show solidarity with the cartoonists murdered for blasphemy and he shows solidarity with those “under investigation” is telling enough.
As Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says: in all of this ‘terror’ itself is being ‘disappeared’ from the discourse, it loses reality, it becomes just an illusion… It is conjured away and all we are left with is blaming the victims.
“…The refusal to be intimidated is the greatest challenge faced by today’s generation, a generation which is globalized, hyperconnected, confronted by instantaneous and worldwide exchanges of ideas between internet users of different religions and temporalities,” says writer Caroline Fourest. She goes on to say: “The rules we are at present putting in place will determine whether we want to live in a world of violence and terror or a world of emancipation. It must be clear to all: the “yes, but…” will lead to a society where religion will once more be taboo, where believers will be more privileged than non-believers, where majority religions will take precedence over minority religions, where intimidation and violence will have won.”
Those, however, who state “I don’t agree with you but shall fight for your right to say it,” will according to Fourest “create a world where people are able to engage in dialogue despite their disagreements, where believers and non-believers are equal, where all religions are considered equal, where we can laugh at our fears and stand united against those who promote violence. There is no other alternative. We either stand firm or back down. Those who think that by backing down they will avoid war are making a serious mistake. The war has already begun. Only courage will restore peace.”
For those who want more information on Tariq Ramadan’s “double-speak,” read Caroline Fourest’s book Brother Tariq.