Demonstration against Charlie Hebdo in Niger (picture added on January 20, 2015)
Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. Completed January 11, 2015
During 2012, a desecrating, defaming, and slandering film against Prophet Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims-made in the US-sparked numerous angry riots in many Muslim countries, resulting in many deaths, injuries, and arrests. The current Charlie Hebdo affair in France is very similar in its nature and effects. This author had analyzed the nature and causes of the Muslim reactions to that film in his September 27, 2012 article, “ Deeper context and causes of the Muslim demonstrations against the anti-Islamic film. Structural and personal biases of US media: Example of interviews of Don Lemon of CNN” ( https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/deeper-context-and-causes-of-the-muslim-demonstrations-against-the-anti-islamic-film-structural-and-personal-biases-of-us-media-example-of-interviews-of-don-lemon-of-cnn-by-fazal-rahman-phd/ ). As the nature, causes, and effects of the desecrating film and Charlie Hebdo’s desecrating, defaming, inflammatory, and obscene publications are the same or similar, some of the relevant contents of the earlier paper are also being included in this article.
The western politicians and populations are once again united, in clone-like fashion, in gigantic hypocrisies and pretensions of being the owners of a higher civilization, ethics, culture, freedom, and freedom of speech. All this at a time when mass surveillance, spying, and eavesdropping are at their maximum in the US and Europe, are radiating from there to every corner of the world, the privacy having been reduced to a fiction, and massive monitoring of peoples’ emails, phone calls, and other communications have been exposed, which have been occurring for decades, but have been intensifying and expanding over time.
As in many other imperialist countries with colonial history, France also has a large population of immigrants from the formerly colonized countries, like Algeria. It is estimated that France has the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe, around 5 million, which is being subjected to all forms of deprivations, discrimination, poverty, and unemployment-all part of the economic terrorism. Unemployment is very high even among the native French youth. The overall youth unemployment rate was 24.3 percent in October 2014. However, it was much higher in Muslim communities, amounting to 45 percent in many. Already being subjected to destruction by economic terrorism, the Muslim immigrants in France are facing extreme forms of religious and cultural repression, defamation, and desecration of what are the most sacred foundations of their faith and religion, like that of Prophet Muhammad. Legally banning the wearing of veils or hijab by Muslim women, like they have done in France, is an extreme form of cultural and religious repression and contrary to the elementary norms of cultural and religious freedom. This extremist French cultural and national chauvinism is self-evident in the way they have legally imposed the ban on veil and hijab and their own French version of freedom on Muslim women. In doing so, they have arrogated themselves to make the choice for millions of Muslim women in France, taking away that freedom of choice from those women. The current situation of Muslims in the western imperialist countries is a form of neocolonialism within those countries. That is why many truth-seeking and passionate young people see the similarities between their own conditions and those being inflicted upon Muslims in many countries, by the same capitalist-imperialist powers, clearly, instead of rationalizing these and compromising the interconnected facts and truth. The three attackers in the Charlie Hebdo affair, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly (the first two, French nationals of Algerian descent, and the third, a French national of Malian origins-some say of Senegalese origins-, all young men in their thirties) were clearly motivated against the sinister atrocities and injustices committed by the imperialists in the Middle East-against which they identified as Muslims as well as victims of the same powers, subjecting them to neocolonialism and racism-and the sadistic desecrating entertainment provided by the Charlie Hebdo, which seems to have struck the racist and anti-Muslim cords in large numbers of French people. Even though, Charlie Hebdo also targeted other religions and targets, its main focus was on Islam and its holy figures and symbols.
What Charlie Hebdo was doing consisted of infliction of demonic spiritual and religious violence on Muslims, with its focus of targeting and desecrating their most sacred figures, beliefs, customs, and cultural and religious traditions. It was tapping into the widespread racism and anti-Muslimism in the French society, making money from that, having fun and distributing it among racists and anti-Islamics, all on the expense of infliction of deep sadistic pain and humiliation on the souls of millions of Muslims living in France, and countless millions elsewhere. How can that be considered as a defendable free speech?
Real free speech can only originate in really free minds. The mass mental apparatus in the Advanced-Capitalist-Imperialist-Technocratic-Society (ACITS) is highly controlled by and enslaved to the powerful social forces of the political economy, ideology, mass psychology, and culture of capitalism and imperialism. Nothing is immune to that control and slavery, including the religions, religious institutions, and religious leaders. Real free speech is impossible is such societies, because the existence and development of real free minds are impossible in them. This does not mean that all the individual minds and speech are equally or similarly unfree in these societies. Both in theory and in reality, obviously, there are variations in this regard. However, these variations constellate around their common center of gravity, as described above. As a product of the collective enslaved and unfree mind, as described above, the so-called free speech is only an illusion of free speech and, in reality, is enslaved and unfree speech, in the vast ocean of which, the small springs of authentic and real free speech, the products of authentic and real free minds, get smothered and drowned out of sight. This reality suits the powers-that-be perfectly. They do not have to censor the products of the true consciousness legally or overtly. The vast ocean of collective false consciousness, produced by the combined powerful social forces of the political economy, ideology, mass psychology, and culture of capitalism and imperialism, and reinforced by the mass media, does that automatically.
Advocates and preachers of free speech in the ACITS-almost all of them enslaved tightly to the interests and owners of capital-falsify the actual reality and history of free speech in their countries. They intoxicate themselves and the public into the fantasies of being able to say or write anything whatsoever, without any repercussions. Try that in a court of law against a judge who makes unfair and discriminatory rulings and decisions (quite common in the US), tell him exactly what you are thinking of his actions, and see what happens. Contempt of court, jail, and fines. Or slander or defame some person who can afford to take you to the court and see what happens. There are specific laws and punishments against such types of free speech. Why is there no mention of even using such limited laws against the persons or establishments, which slander, defame, and desecrate the sacred Prophet of Muslims, their religion, culture, and beliefs? Throughout its history, the free speech of the First Amendment of US Constitution has been repeatedly and legally violated by the government authorities, whenever they wanted to repress and suppress the movements or labor unions that advocated radical changes in the politico-economic system. For example, on numerous occasions, bans were placed on the street speeches of activists and leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)-a powerful and large radical labor union-during the second decade of the Twentieth Century-and speakers, who insisted to exercise their right of free speech, were arrested and sent to jail. Eventually, the IWW was decimated by brutal government repression. In the US, freedom of speech was suppressed during the First World War, as well as in the early 1920s. In 1940, the Smith Act prohibited the speech and political activities of those who advocated the overthrow of US government. Later during Joseph McCarthy witch hunts, free speech was also greatly restricted. After 9/11, there have been various restrictions on the freedom of speech, in the US and Europe.
In the Charlie Hebdo affair, a total of seventeen people were killed, including four hostages of Amedy Coulibaly at a kosher market, who may have been killed as a result of the police storming of that place. The three attackers, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly were also killed by the security forces. Compare that to the ongoing and incomparably greater and genocidal violence against Muslims of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya, in which around 3 million of them have been slaughtered and countless millions of others injured; the whole fabric of their lives and livelihoods torn apart; forcing millions to flee to other countries as refugees; causing colossal damages to the individual and state properties, infrastructure, and economies; etc., by the “civilized” and “developed” West, under the leadership of “super-civilized” and “super-developed” USA. And what about the continuous genocidal and expansionist wars and invasions of the territories of the Palestinian people by the Jews, who were unloaded onto Palestine by the European Christian nations, which hated and persecuted them in their own countries, but now support them, as their tentacle in the Middle East? That tentacle has its own insatiable tentacles and continues to grab whatever it can from the little that is still left in the Palestinian hands, by theft, robbery, plunder, and mass murders. Last year, they devastated Gaza, causing diabolical damages to the infrastructures, properties, houses, and means of living of the Palestinians, cornered in that narrow strip. Palestinian health officials say 2,139 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, were killed in the enclave since July 8, 2014, when Israel launched an offensive. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and five civilians in Israel were also reported to have been killed.
The key point is that incomparably smaller acts of terrorism-by some Muslim individuals or organizations-than those committed by massive state terrorisms of the ACITS and their clients are exaggerated to incomparable levels, especially if these happen within the imperialist centers, as if the lives of the inhabitants of the imperialist centers were incomparably more valuable and important than those living in the Third World Muslim or other countries. These acts are fragmented and abstracted from their context of relations to the incomparably greater and massive state terrorisms of the ACITS in the Third World Muslim and other countries, the latter almost always causing the former. For example, in one of the worst incidents of the entire drones campaign, yet one of the least reported, a CIA drone strike on a madrassa or religious school in Pakistan, on October 30, 2006, killed 69 children, among 80 civilians (about 5 times more than those killed in the Charlie Hebdo affair). The attack was on a religious seminary in Chenegai, in Bajaur Agency. It also destroyed much of the school. A week after the attack, a local English newspaper published the names and home villages of 80 victims. Sixty-nine were reported as children aged 17 or under. According to the paper’s sources, it was claimed that ‘one of the deceased was only seven-year old, three were eight, three nine, one was 10, four were 11, four were 12, eight were 13, six were 14, nine were 15, 19 were 16, 12 were 17, three were 18, three were 19 and only two were 21-years old’. http://tribune.com.pk/story/229844/the-day-69-children-died/ . That slaughter did not even reach the eyes and brains of most westerners, as the media censored and under-reported it. Even if had been fully reported and had reached those racist and capitalistically and imperialistically conditioned eyes and brains, it would not have made much difference. That slaughter of mostly innocent children was not even called an act of terrorism in the West, because it was committed by the leader of ACITS and the victims were Muslim students and teachers in Pakistan! Technocracy has become deeply embedded in the mass psychologies and cultures of ACITS and even the most massive and sinister atrocities committed with the high technology systems and weapons-especially if these are committed in nations and populations that do not have the means to counter these-generate incomparably less revulsion or moral condemnation than the incomparably smaller ones, committed by Muslim or other Third World individuals or organizations, with small arms or primitive weapons. Frequently, the massive high technology atrocities are even rationalized and condoned, as if the advanced technology itself was the ultimate criterion of determining the good or evil, just or unjust nature of actions. Assigning such God-like role to technology in all human affairs and conflicts transforms it into the Devil, the most powerful force of evil and injustice in history. This greatest perversion and alienation of all higher qualities and values underlies almost all the great disastrous and monstrous problems that have developed on this planet.
There is a real, huge, and fundamental difference between the culture and mass psychology of ACITS of the West, on the one hand, and the culture and mass psychology of Muslim societies, on the other, in regard to this matter. That difference consists of the presence or absence of the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred. The Sacred and the Drive for Sacred have greatly diminished or vanished in the West, which is one of the major causes of the already developed and developing environmental, ecological, socio-cultural, and human nature disasters and crises. In Muslim societies, the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred-and their reflection in the mass psychology-are still very much alive and very powerful, in spite of all the cultural and other invasions and distortions of the Western Capitalist Civilization. Jerry Mander had made a profound analysis of this great problem in his 1992 book, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations. Sierra Club Books. ISBN: 0871565099, in which he analyzed these problems in their impact on human nature and culture in general, and those of Native Americans and Native Canadians in particular. His insights and conclusions are also relevant to what is happening in Muslim communities.
The focus of the Drive for Sacred in Muslim societies is on the religion, Allah, His prophets, and especially on Prophet Muhammad. There is very little in the existing socio-natural reality of the Planet Earth at the current stage of evolution that can orient that drive towards itself or satisfy its requirements and needs. Hence its above-mentioned almost exclusive orientation. In the West in general, and the US in particular, that drive has been suppressed, deformed, relatively inactivated, and replaced by various capitalist-imperialist-materialist drives, like greed for money and things, insatiable appetites for the satisfaction of ever-increasing needs and desires, hedonism, widespread obsession with pornography, “having fun” with everything, technocracy, etc. Even though, many of these forces also counteract the Drive for Sacred in the Muslim societies, the unity of spiritual and phenomenal life in them also counteracts the effects of these forces, in spite of the obvious and not-so-obvious contradictions. The resolution of these contradictions will eventually determine the fate of the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred in these societies. Following the paths of ACITS will lead to the same fate for these, as in the ACITS. In the former socialist societies, communism, Marx, and Lenin had been substituted for religion and prophets as the orienting foci for the Drive for Sacred. After their betrayal and restoration of capitalism there, these foci have been lost and now they are following the paths of ACITS. The emergence and explosion of colossal social, cultural, political, ethical, environmental, and human nature problems in these societies is already self-evident and these are going to get much worse.
The Drive for Sacred is inseparable from the Feelings of Sacred. Throughout the history of Western Philosophy and Western Civilization, a progressively increasing gulf and dichotomy has been created between Reason and Feelings, in which Reason has been elevated maximally and Feelings downgraded and suppressed. The unity of the inner life of humans, of the Intellect and Soul, has been torn apart. Under capitalism and imperialism, the Reason and Intellect have been reduced to Capitalist Technocratic Rationality and the Soul and Feelings totally subordinated to it. This has been a most sinister development as it deforms both Reason and Feelings, both Intellect and Soul. The Drive for Sacred is one of the casualties of this demonic process.
Nothing is sacred in the ACITS of US and Europe. Neither truth, nor justice, goodness, beauty, reason, feelings, intellect, soul, or any other higher human qualities and values, all of which have been subordinated to the powers and interests of Capital, which twist, distort, and pervert them to fit into their own requirements. After centuries of such mutilations, these are now deformed beyond recognition. Human mouth and speech have been deformed into efficient talking machines-tools of deception and hypocrisy-vomiting out mechanicalized words at the speed of light. Religion itself has also been subjugated and deformed by these forces. Its lip service to the sacred is nothing but hollow mechanical rituals and appearances, in contradiction with its soul and essence. Christianity has a long history of deformations, first under feudalism and then under capitalism and imperialism. Under these systems, it worked hand-in-glove with the feudal, capitalist, and imperialist states in all their domestic and international crimes and sins, e.g., class oppression, slavery, racism, colonialism, neocolonialism, robberies, plunders, and thefts of whole countries and continents, like the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, numerous countries in Asia and Africa, etc. The key point is that religion itself has been corrupted and eroded and could not prevent the erosion of the Sacred or the Drive for Sacred.
The Charlie Hebdo incident in France did not occur in a vacuum, even though it is being presented as such by much of the political punditry in the West and its Third World clients. As numerous other such incidents, it is related to and is the product of many international and national events, factors, and causes that constitute its context. Without examining it within that context and only pontifying about it in fragmented and abstracted form, only leads to biased and mutilated knowledge, information, and perceptions: to disinformation. In this article, an attempt has been made to examine this incident within its organic context and to objectively identify its causes and effects. Such an approach is essential if the goal is to reduce and prevent such incidents in the future. As in medicine, one cannot hope to treat an illness without identifying its causes accurately. This basic and simple principle is very much applicable to the phenomena of terrorism and state terrorism. Without such an approach, not only such incidents cannot be prevented, but are likely to multiply in the future.
Postscript January 20, 2015
As expected, there have been numerous passionate and violent demonstrations against Charlie Hebdo’s defamation and desecration of Islam, Muslims, and Prophet Muhammad, in many Muslim countries, the most violent occurring in Niger, a former French colony, where more than ten people have died and numerous injured in clashes with the security forces. Numerous churches were burnt down and offices of various French organizations were attacked. Charlie Hebdo is fully responsible for creating such conflicts between religions, nations, and causing this violence, deaths, and injuries. This was totally predictable. These results are similar to those caused by the above-mentioned defaming and desecrating American film, during 2012.