Those awful murders, at Charlie Hebdo and at the Hyper Cacher, happened four years ago yesterday. I repost this piece of mine, which I think if one of my better efforts, and this very important analysis from Spiked Online (a website you should be checking on a regular basis).
From the Spiked article:
Free speech is the right to express one’s ideas without fear of retribution, even if others disagree with you – even if they are repulsed. This right leaves people free to dissent and free to persuade others of their ideas. No political, religious or ideological viewpoint should be allowed a special exception from challenge, criticism or ridicule.
But once the moment of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ faded, prominent voices effectively began to blame Charlie Hebdo for the attack.
When PEN America, a writers’ organisation, decided to give its Free Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo, more than 200 well-known writers protested.
I mentioned yesterday how much I miss my brother (scroll down) – well, all the more so when it comes to these issues. Not a chance in heck he would have been blaming the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editorialists for their own slaughter.
I don’t want to let this day pass without saying something. First of all, I hate this day; I can’t bear the coverage or the memories. Second of all, here are a couple of great columns from the time, the first from Christopher Hitchens, the second from Ian McEwan. I have quoted frequently from the Hitchens’ column over the years, for the simple reason that it is brilliant. But this year I thought I’d quote from the McEwan piece, brilliant in a different way.
The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanising hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination. As for their victims in the planes and in the towers, in their terror they would not have felt it at the time, but those snatched and anguished assertions of love were their defiance.
I’m late to post about the great scholar of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May. This is a fine tribute (though there are certainly others) and in particular, Nordlinger points out that Lewis was a great friend of the Arabs. I love this:
A book by Lewis was translated into Hebrew and published by the Israeli defense ministry. The same book was translated into Arabic and published by the Muslim Brotherhood (unauthorized). In his preface to the Arabic version, the translator said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”
I believe Lewis was one of the only academics who truly understood modern Turkey and the woes of Islam’s (and Islamism’s) relationship (such as it is) with modernity. Full disclosure: he was a friend of my Significant Other, who had him up to Toronto as a speaker on many occasions. I’ve been trying to convince him to write about Lewis, but so far, to no avail. Should that change, will let you know here.
It was three years ago, yesterday.
BHL, as annoying as he can be, sums it up well with this tweet:
Parce que l’islamisme radical est un nouveau fascisme, parce que la liberté de s’exprimer ne va pas sans liberté de blasphémer, parce que la laïcité n’est jamais une nouvelle religion mais la condition de toute religion et de toute pensée, je suis .
And here is a link to my column about those frightening days – I still think it is one of my better ones.
I mentioned Iran in my previous post – I wish I were surprised at the mealy-mouthed reactions of Western Europe and Canada and leftists in general to what is happening, but I’m not. After all the romanticizing and fetishizing of the niqab and the burqa and every other unfortunate aspect of Islamism, after trying to justify or downplay the blatant anti-Semitism of the regime in Tehran, after the weakness and lack of pride or support in what should be our own fundamental values, the only surprising thing would be if the protesters in Iran were given clearly-stated support from the left and from certain heads of state. As much as one finds President Trump unpleasant, his reaction to the protests has been commendable. (I am old enough to remember when that awful regime took over; it would be delightful to see it destroyed.)
Here are a couple of good articles – one is an interview with an Iranian-Canadian activist, the other is from Terry Glavin.
I think Margaret Thatcher said it best:
I cannot let this day go by without posting something. I’ll start with the still relevant Against Rationalization by the much-missed Christopher Hitchens. Oh, how we could benefit from his wisdom now!
And I’ll add this wonderful Brendan Behan quote, a toast (of course – he was an Irishman, after all):
To America, my new found land: the man that hates you hates the human race.
Finally, some thoughts that have been percolating: I notice that 16 years after that awful day, so many seem to have forgotten its significance. This morning, there was more hurricane coverage than anything else, which, I suppose is understandable, but still, our short memory-span is disturbing. Many difficult and terrible decisions had to be made in the weeks and months after the attacks and now, so many are still blaming the U.S. rather than the Islamist fascists responsible. The hijackers should never be romanticized as freedom fighters – the last thing any of them wanted was the expansion of freedom.
The attacks started two years ago today. I say “started” because, of course, they continued at the Hyper Cacher a couple of days later. Here is a piece I wrote on the matter and on the left’s unfortunate need to calibrate and mitigate the crimes with “buts” and “what abouts” and all other manner of distraction.
Such horrors yesterday – in Berlin, in Ankara. I keep thinking about this speech. Times have changed, though. I cannot imagine the Democratic Party of today ever choosing a leader like JFK (as yes, the Republicans today would never choose a Reagan). Think of how much we need someone like either of those men now.
There is a lot I could write about this day and what it means to me — and in coming posts I will — but right now I will leave you with a link to a column that was written only a few days after the attacks, a column that still holds up. Not surprisingly, it was written by Christopher Hitchens. How we miss him.
The link to the whole column is here — money quote below.
do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings–yes, even in the Pentagon.But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about “the West,” to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they
Years ago, when I was living in Istanbul, I asked my students whether they worried about growing Islamism in their country. “Oh no,” several of them explained almost simultaneously. “Whenever that starts to happen, the military has a coup and we get rid of the problem. Then things get back to normal.”
Sigh. I miss those days.