Tehmina Kazi counts some ways not to respond

Tehmina tackles nine false assumptions about the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

False Assumption One

‘Charlie Hebdo magazine was needlessly provocative’

Manufacturers of outrage and assorted agitators do not need any kind of ‘provocation’ for their actions. When Jyllands-Posten published the Danish cartoons in September 2005, protests in Muslim-majority countries did not start until four months later.

The outrage and the resulting protests (and riots and killings) were worked up. They were worked up by some reactionary clerics, one of whom has since publicly regretted what he did.

False Assumption Four

‘Not in Our Name campaigns are helpful’

As well-intentioned as these undoubtedly are, the ‘Not in my name’ campaigns spearheaded by Muslims send out a problematic subliminal message to non-Muslims: that Muslims are unwilling to sort out the problems in their own back yard.

No-one is expecting us to eradicate all gender segregation in public events overnight, or to change the minds of all homophobic preachers in a few months, or to re-introduce music lessons in all Muslim-majority schools that have cancelled them. No-one is saying that we have to devote several years of our lives and careers doing this (as I have).

However, we are expected to make some effort to condemn obscurantism from all quarters, or as much as we are able to within our own circles of influence. Given that the Qu’ran takes such a strong line on humans challenging injustice wherever we find it, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

If only there were a million Tehminas.

False Assumption Six

‘Condemnation is sufficient’

Sombre press releases and widely-shared Facebook updates are better than nothing, but many of their authors have inadvertently contributed to the problem in the past.


By endorsing blasphemy laws, treating the words of Zakir Naik and Junaid Jamshed as gospel, or turning a blind eye when feminist or progressive Muslim activists (like Sara Khan of Inspire) are viciously attacked for their work on Twitter.

Maajid Nawaz is another who is viciously and endlessly attacked for his work.

False Assumption Seven

‘It is always someone else’s fault’

Then there are those who won’t even condemn acts of violence and terrorism, but automatically paint the attacks as false-flag operations, with a cast of extras to rival ‘Titanic’. In my experience, attempting to reason with these people is a waste of time and energy. Better to leave them to their echo chambers.

And the last one:

False Assumption Nine

‘The way forward is to treat each event as a passing accident of horror’

Laissez-faire approaches like these have led us to the predicament we are in. These acts are neither passing nor accidental; they are part of one long atrocity continuum, compounded by mainstream society’s cowardice and unwillingness to champion unpopular causes.

Instead, campaigning groups that happily take on the far-right should challenge the Muslim right-wing with equal ferocity, rather than giving their behaviour a free pass.

There was a segment in CNN’s coverage last night in which a journalist talked about “both sides” in France – the far right and the Islamists – as if Islamists were on the left. The far right and the Islamists are not both sides, they are the same side, even though they hate each other. Islamists are in no way on the left.


  1. paulhavlak says

    The point about their being on the same side, despite hating each other, is huge. I like to call it the codependence of the warmongers.

  2. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Given the amount of misinformation circulating, it is important not to get ahead of established facts. I am getting rather tired of seeing people being flamed for not using emotive language or jumping to conclusions.

    But right now it seems very clear that at least one of the gunmen was at one time a member of a Yemeni Jihadi group and that all three were proficient. It is still possible that when the facts are known it will turn out the attackers were loosely linked to a broader group but acting alone like the Boston bombers were. But on the available facts it appears more likely that the attack was planned by a larger organization though we don’t currently know which one (though the French police might by now).

    Assuming the second case, it is ridiculous to imagine that a group like ISIS or even Al Qaeda is going to mount an operation like this several thousand miles away for the purpose of defending the honor of the prophet.

    The cartoons were probably the reason for the choice of target but they would have found some other target if they hadn’t been published. The point was to perform an atrocity in France. What we do not know at this time is what strategy that attack was intended to serve.

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