In the name of “respect” of religions

Maryam also rejects the claim that the people at Charlie Hebdo brought the massacre on themselves or even perhaps deserved it.

A quick look at the English-speaking media shows that whilst many condemn the violence itself, they also assert that Charlie Hebdo courted (and maybe deserved?) a strong response from “Muslims”. Charlie’s regular cartoonists did not spare Islam, any other religion, nor fanatics and bigots.

This trend in the media requires our attention. Apparently secularists, agnostics and atheists must keep silent and do not deserve the kind of respect that believers are entitled to; nor can they enjoy free speech to the same degree.

Religion and religious figures deserve respect; people with no religion and thus no religious figures – they’re on their own.

In the name of “respect” of religions and of the religious sentiments of believers, it is indeed the fanatical religious-Right that is being supported and given centre stage. Meanwhile, those who are on the forefront of countering armed fundamentalists are left to their own devices. It is high time to give these secularists prominence, to recognise their courage and their political clarity and to stop labelling them “Islamophobic”.

In October 2014, secularists – including atheists, agnostics and believers from many countries, in particular many Muslim-majority countries, met in London to denounce the religious-Right and to demand being seen as its alternative. It is high time to learn from their analysis and lived experiences.

The tragic massacre in Paris will undoubtedly give fuel to the traditional xenophobic far-Right and the immediate danger is an increase in racism, marginalization and exclusion of people of Muslim descent in Europe and further.  We do not want to witness “anti-Muslim witch hunts” nor do we welcome the promotion of “moderate” Islamists by governments as official political partners. What is needed is a straightforward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-Right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilisation, not by giving extra privileges to any religion.

Their persistent demand for the extension of blasphemy laws around the world is a real danger for all. France has a long – and now growingly endangered – tradition of secularism; which allows dissent from religions and the right to express this dissent. It has had a rich tradition to mock and caricature powers that be – religious or otherwise. Let us keep this hard won right which cost so many lives in history, and, alas, still does – as Charlie Hebdo’s twelve dead and numerous wounded demonstrate.

There follows a list of signatures. You can add yours in the comments.


  1. quixote says

    Is there a named fallacy for this nonsense of assuming the-enemy-of-my-enemy-must-be-my-friend? Argumentum ad bipolar thinking?

    Just because white right wingers hate browner people does not mean that Islamists are never to blame for anything. Hello?

    Part of me can’t believe that such idiocy can even surface in a free speech case. When it’s about women, then it happens all the time. But free speech? I thought that was important.

    And why is it so hard to think one step further? If it’s okay for fundamentalists to take people out because they’re cross, then it’s okay for me too. I’m hugely offended by Westboro Baptist. So we should all lay each other to waste like some kind of sci-fi robots that lost their programming about when to stop fighting?

  2. Seth says

    What smacks me is how disrespectful to religions (or, rather, religious people) this attitude is. Alleging that a significant minority of religious believers are prone to homicidal violence at the merest criticism of their ideas doesn’t seem to be very respectful, at any rate. (Whether the allegation is true or whether one cares to be respectful to religious institutions or the people who make them up is neither here nor there.)

  3. John Horstman says

    @quixote #2: I would call it a form of false dilemma – the assumption that there are exactly two ‘sides’ leads to the conclusion that if someone isn’t on the same side as an enemy, ze must be on one’s own side.

  4. lorn says

    My principle objection to religion is that, as its core, religion fails to respect reality. They offer simplistic parables to explain complex and nuanced structures and histories. Religion fails to treat reality, and so humanity, with respect.

    Humans deserve respect and understanding, religion, because it fails to understand and/or show respect, not so much.

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