What is that, if not discrimination?

Charb finished a book on the right to ridicule religion two days before he was killed in the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo.

Charb had received numerous death threats following Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2012.

Charb’s book – which goes on sale on Thursday – is entitled An Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play into Racists’ Hands.

It is both a defence of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial stance and an attack on the paper’s detractors.

“The suggestion that you can laugh at everything, except certain aspects of Islam, because Muslims are much more prickly than the rest of the population – what is that, if not discrimination?”

He condemns this position as “white, left-wing bourgeois intellectual paternalism”.

Another name for it, one that I consider more elegant and also more informative, is the racism of low expectations. I’m sure Charb makes that point himself, it’s just that the BBC chose that particular description.

Anyway…that is what it is. People do it for benevolent reasons, mostly, I guess – in the rich world, most Muslims are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, and immigrants from poorer parts of the world as opposed to richer ones. They’re the despised other in more than one way, so people on the left are likely to think they need protection from various kinds of othering. Criticism and mockery of Islam are seen as one kind of othering. Criticism and mockery of Islam can in fact be a kind of othering, but they aren’t necessarily, and in any case the real issue is that Islam is itself something that has huge power over its putative members (who of course include people who don’t want to be members but can’t stop being members for all the reasons we’re so familiar with). Islam itself others many kinds of people. Islam itself is hierarchical and discriminatory. Islam itself has many faults, and treating it as sacrosanct simply helps it keep all its members, unwilling as well as willing, closely confined.

I look forward to reading Charb’s book.


  1. ZugTheMegasaurus says

    I love “intellectual paternalism” (the phrase, not the concept). Going to have to start using that one.

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