Charlie Hebdo, another “Danish cartoon crisis”

After Nessma TV provoking the rage of some Muslisms by showing a scene of Persepolis movie where God is represented, now it`s the turn of France to repeat the “Danish cartoon crisis” again.

French weekly satire magazine Charlie Hebdo`s Paris office has been hit by a molotov cocktail bomb. Two days ago, the French publication announced it was preparing a special issue called “Charia hebbo (a linguistic game between the name of the magazine and the Islamic law sharia which French people transliterate from Arabic as charia) “supervised” by Prophet Mohammed as “editor in chief”  . The current issue features in the front cover a caricature of Prophet Mohammed saying ” a hundred lashes if you don`t die laughing”. Inside the magazine, there is an “editorial by Mohammed”  titled “Halal aperitif”, an insert titled “Charia Madame”  and the last page shows the Prophet again. This time he wears a red nose as a clown and says “Yes, Islam is compatible with humor”.

The special issue is a reaction to the recent success of Tunisian Islamist party, Ennahdha, few days ago at the first elections held in free Tunisia. The electoral victory of Ennahdha has scared many, especially in France, the traditional “patron” of Tunisia`s political and social life and the most concerned (I would rather say obsessed) country in the world by the idea of laicite`.

It is such a paradox, with all the relevant issues that we could discuss in such a troubled period for the world, to come back again to the “star wars” battle between “freedom of expression” and “respect of religion“. Frankly, I believe the two things are not to be put in opposition. Freedom of expression does not manifest itself by offending others` beliefs. Frankly, it is so easy to provoke in such a stupid way, to attract viewers, readers, or simply to throw dust in the eyes of people while there are so many important issues to be explored. I dont want to defend the people who have thrown the molotov bomb onto Charlie Hebdo`s office. But I dont want to defend such a meaningless move by Charlie Hebdo, either. I hope the “media hype” on this issue will calm down soon and we wont have another “Danish cartoon crisis” which we really do not need, now more than ever.

I just want to raise a point. While France and the French media are so busy defending “freedom of expression” and “laicite” in the Tunisian case, I suspect that the real reason of this “much ado about nothing” is that France fears loosing control over a country which has always been under the republique`s cultural protectorate, even under Ben Ali. While the victory of Ennahdha scares France and pushes all its media establishment to raise the “Islamic” fear vis-a-vis this new Tunisia, somebody else is already doing business with “Islamists”.

The US has already announced “investments” and “commercial operations” to start in the new democratic Tunisia next week.“We will work with Tunisian government regardless of its composition”, they have underlined. And the Obama-sponsored US-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO) is already at work to exploit business opportunities in the Maghreb area, starting with the new Tunisia.

The US prefers to shut up on “Islamic fears” and not to start a crusade to defend the laicite`. They prefer to do business, establish relations, partnerships, move the economy forward. With the new Islamic majority.

It has been a while that the new American project vis-a`-vis the Middle East has become evident: accepting the “moderate Islam” and building alliances with it. The fact that Europe -and, first of all, France– that is closer to the Arab world and has strong historical and cultural -together with of course commercial- ties with it, has not elaborated a plan is a bit weird. We continue defending abstract concepts as “laicite”, and we dont act. We go on defending principles, but we do nothing to affirm these principles in practise.

If we care about the “laicite”, if we care about freedom of expression, about helping to build civil societies and secular states in the Arab world, then it would be better to start doing serious stuff and elaborate a serious strategy, instead of writing useless editorials to raise media hype and dust in people`s eyes.

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