Abonné·e de Mediapart

1 Billets

0 Édition

Billet de blog 7 novembre 2011


Abonné·e de Mediapart

The Charlie Hebdo bombing: who is reaping the benefits?


Abonné·e de Mediapart

Ce blog est personnel, la rédaction n’est pas à l’origine de ses contenus.

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has been since last week at the centre of the media attention after its offices in Paris were attacked and destroyed by a Molotov cocktail thrown by three unidentified individuals. It was reported a couple of days before the incident that the weekly will be publishing soon a special issue dedicated to the new political order experienced in some of the Arab countries, with a special focus on Tunisia and Libya where political Islam was recently announced to be a predominant political force in the years to come and where therefore Charia, the much debated and demonized Muslim penal code, will be a predominant source of legislation. On the occasion of its special issue, the Charlie Hebdo editorial team decided on an ad hoc basis to change the name of its newspaper with a play on words replacing Charlie by Charia. Let us recall that the weekly is a satirical media with a long-established tradition of mocking other religious traditions and its zealots, the catholic ones in particular.

Times have changed; the target is no longer the Catholic creed and its zealots but Muslims and Islam. There was therefore no surprise to see a satirical media taking once again the piss out of a religion, be it Islam. In February 2006, Charlie Hebdo was among the first media in France to publish the Danish cartoons and the Muslim reaction following the publication by Charlie Hebdo was a peaceful one; an attempt to sue the weekly. It was an unsuccessful attempt but a non violent one. Since then, Muslims have been repeatedly and harshly targeted by the rhetoric of Sarkozy's ruling political party members, ministers and their affiliated media, yet no violence were used by French Muslims to show their discontent. Since money is speech, and Muslims being still at the bottom of the French socio-economic ladder, no possibilities have been offered to them in the media to try to restore the truth after all the disgusting and unfair government-created polemics targeting them. 2011 as much as the past five years have been tough years for French ''minorities'' in general and for Muslims in particular.

So heavy has been the pressure put on Muslims living in France that they were left with no other alternative than to count the days and wait for the next presidential elections to come, hoping to see a socialist backed government to rule the country. Muslims have indeed understood quite early after Sarkozy's election than there was no use to try to restore the truth after all the manipulation they have been subjected to, manipulation created and instrumentalized by the same Sarkozy-led government. The attacks were so recurrent, pathetic and the state apparatus propaganda so powerful and destructive that French Muslim have ended up losing hope, turning passive and depressed, becoming thus even more vulnerable to any other attack, discrimination or manipulation.

Guilty all the way!

No tangible evidences linking the incidents with Muslims have been established so far. Yet, it did not prevent, without any prior enquiry, the weekly's editorial team, Sarkozy's ministers and all the remaining French media, to state that the Molotov cocktail was thrown by Muslim fanatics in retaliation against the yet to be published Charia Hebdo magazine. Instead of talking about different scenarios at the moment of guessing who could be the individuals who carried out this terrorist attack, it was all clear for the M. Guéant, his colleagues, Charlie Hebdo’s staff and their journalists colleagues of the other media that the authors of this crime were Muslims fanatics. The reason seems to be so obvious: Charia Hebdo. It was like if prejudices have stopped to be prejudices when applied to Muslims: we all know too well indeed how Muslims are reluctant to humour and freedom of speech, especially when humour is used to mock their prophet Mohammad. Presumption of innocence does not apply for Muslims any longer. Even the foreign media, the BBC, the New York Time or The Guardian, did not bother either to wait for the inquiry to be concluded before relaying the news on their newspapers: “French magazine offices petrol-bombed after it prints Muhammad cartoon”.

A Muslim retaliation?

Let's say that Muslim fanatics did it in retaliation against the weekly’s decision to title its next issue Charia Hebdo and to appoint on an ad hoc basis the prophet Muhammad as Charia Hebdo’s editor in chief. It should be reminded once again that the 2006 Danish caricatures on the prophet of Islam were re published in France by Charlie Hebdo and that no violence from French Muslims could be reported at the time. More than that, Muslims in France have been during the past five years at the centre of repeated attacks, provocations and humiliations and still, they have not resorted to violence to show discontent. Quite on the contrary, Muslims in France have responded in a very silent way, hurt, discouraged, disgusted, letting the political parties and the their affiliated media to meet their hidden agenda. Since “money is speech” and Muslims in France being still at the bottom of the socio-economical ladder, the possibility for them to restore the truth in all what they have been accused of in the French media is null.

On the humour or on the provocation stand points, the cover that Charlie Hebdo published, the Charia Hebdo issue, was a way less offensive than the Danish caricatures republished by the weekly in February 2006. One is then tempted to ask himself why did the Muslim reaction turned violent this time for a soft caricature of their prophet Muhammad while the 2006 decision of Charlie Hebdo to reprint the much more offensive Danish caricatures caused no violence at all on the part of these same French Muslims? The less harsh and offensive Charlie Hebdo would be on the prophet Muhammad, the more violent French Muslims would react? A very pregnant question within the French Muslims discussion is indeed “who could reap the benefit out of this bombing?”

A political manipulation?

Let's imagine that far right extremist group did it. French Muslims were enjoying indeed, since the start of the Arab spring and until the Charlie Hebdo affair, a break as far as Islam related stories being negatively and repeatedly covered in the media is concerned. No negative headlines about French Muslims in the media gave the French Muslims a much awaited rest after they have been accused as the main responsible for all the troubles experienced by the French society currently. An accusation made on a very recurrent basis by Sarkozy’s men, his firend’s media and far right groups.

While Ousama Ben Laden could not be held responsible any longer for any genuine or fantasized threats, while the Arab spring movement in Arab countries has been showing the world that Muslim populations could as well be longing for more democracy, and while the financial debt crisis in western countries has been forcing these same western governments to stop distracting their own population from their local social-economic challenges having no other choice than to deal seriously with core local problems, the Muslims in France started to feel relieved for not being at the centre anymore of Islam related polemical stories: polygamy, terrorism, reluctance to adopt French cultural and democratic values, threatening the Christian heritage and so on.

The upheavals movement happening over there, in Tunisia and Egypt, gave them an unexpected occasion to feel proud of their Arab or Muslim heritage, here in France. Indeed, the Arab spring was giving the world, France included, a different perspective to look at Arabs and Muslims, French Muslims included. Finally, it is not secret that Sarkozy’s political party, Union pour un Movement Populaire (UMP), will be looking forward to winning the next presidential elections with the help of the far right voters in a society where everything have been done and said by Sarkozy’s tribe to blame Islam and Muslims living in France as the main cause for France’s economic and social problems. According to recent polls, Sarkozy and his political family, ranging now from UMP to its far right offshoot Front National (FN), are losing ground against their socialist opponents. The political battle for the 2012 presidential elections between the conservative political parties and the socialists may have started already, with the Muslims unwillingly being used as the right wing’s match point. It is indeed expected that topics related to Islam such as immigration, alleged cultural incompatibility, integration deficiencies, crimes and insecurity, terrorism and all the trappings to be imposed by Sorkozy’s campaigner at the centre of the electoral debates between the two candidates running for president.

A Charlie Hebdo manipulation?

A third scenario would like to see Charlie Hebdo being the sole author of the attack that destroyed their offices. This hypothesis might sound somehow cynical. In times of harsh financial crisis, cynicism is considered by some as a mere survival instinct, no matter how damaging can be the consequences resulting out of this cynicism. It is no secret that Charlie Hebdo, though long established and very popular in France, has been experiencing very serious financial difficulties. All the paper media in general, from Le Monde to Libération, despite being backed by rich industrialists for some of them, are experiencing similar financial challenges.

Old business models in the newspaper industry are indeed being challenged by the online newspapers. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the financial problems are acute. Many see in the incident an opportunity for the weekly to postpone the bankruptcy and to avoid filing for chapter 11. Boosting the sales of their weekly is not the only benefit Charlie Hebdo will get out of this affaire. With a quasi certainty to get the support of the whole nation after being portrayed the day after the incident as the nation’s ‘’martyrs’’ and defenders of freedom of speech ( by extension the defenders of the French culture and values) against an alien religion, Islam, that is already perceived in the French population’s psyche as a serious threat to the French culture and values, Charlie Hebdo is benefiting and will still be benefiting from strong nationwide feelings of sympathy, solidarity and compassions. In other words, one of the best communication campaigns that a French media has ever made. Not to mention that Charlie Hebdo will eventually cash in after receiving the financial compensations that are expected to be paid by any insurance company when such an unfortunate event happen.

If freedom of speech indeed has allowed Charlie Hebdo’s editorial team, the French Minister of Interior Claude Guéant as well as a battery of other media to link, without any prior enquiry, the bombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices with Muslims, be them fanatics, one can therefore allow himself, in the same fashion, to accuse without any kind of precaution Charlie Hebdo and right wing political parties to be behind this terrorist act. There is indeed a strong and widely shared feeling among the French Muslims that this terrorist act against Charlie Hebdo Magazine has been carried by a third party, if not by Charlie Hebdo staff themselves, for possible vested interests. One of these vested interests could be an agenda to keep alive within the French population the feeling of a Muslim presence that keeps on being problematic, violent and incompatible with the French society and values.

Ce blog est personnel, la rédaction n’est pas à l’origine de ses contenus.