The Charlie Hebdo Editorial: My Take


The Article

A few days ago, Charlie Hebdo published an editorial titled “How did we end up here?”  It was a piece questioning why suicide bombing comes as such a shocker in a social atmosphere that is fearful of criticizing Islam and its practices.

The author brings up three different examples: Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar; a woman in a Burqa; and an elder baker who is a Muslim.  The editorial points out Tariq Ramadan as a scholar whose entire career revolves around speaking about and defending Islam from criticism.  When the attendants of his lecture attain careers in journalism or politics, they will never dare to criticize Islam.  They then mention the woman in the burqa and how people being concerned that the woman may have bombs under her outfit are misguided fears.  The editorial sarcastically dismisses those concerns.  Then there is the baker, who has long been a part of the community for a long time, and stops selling ham/bacon because of his religion.

The writing escalates quite quickly, and directs to bombers getting ready to bomb innocent civilians, and the innocent bystanders that fall victim to it asking “How did we end up here?”

Backlash in the Twitterverse

Any time any criticism of Islamic extremism, Islam etc. are broadcasted publicly, we all know what to expect.  The magic word: Islamophobia.


My Takeaway

The writing is very dense and it can be hard to understand for those who equate being critical of Muslim practices with inciting hatred towards Muslims.

I think it was a brilliant piece.  It discusses how peaceful Muslims unintentionally contribute to the issue of Islamic extremism by intertwining criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims.  Criticizing a woman’s decision to wear a burqa, Tariq Ramadan’s views on Islam as a peaceful religion, or a local baker’s decision to stop selling ham are not acts of bigotry.  They are simply criticizing others’ decisions and views.

Let’s pause for a moment.  I’ll share a few opinions of my own with you.  Let’s examine them:

I think Islam harbors homophobia; Islamic dress code for women is misogynistic because it stigmatizes their expression as corrupt; and that the Quran’s hatred of disbelievers has problematic effects on how the religious Muslim relates to non-Muslims.  I think ISIS follows every scriptural verse quite literally.

Does that make me a bigot? No.  Does that make me an Islamophobe?  Technically yes.

And that’s why the word shouldn’t exist and you, the reader should remove it from your vocabulary and encourage others to do so.  Or you are part of the movement that seeks to silence me.

Criticizing decisions and ideas like these aren’t acts of bigotry or inciting hatred of those who adhere to it.  There’s a difference between questioning a woman’s decision to wear a burqa and sanctioning that woman’s murder just because of her burqa.  Even with this distinction, there is still a stigma attached to vocally disagreeing with this woman’s decision to wear a burqa; the baker’s decision to stop selling ham; or Tariq Ramadan’s stance on Islam.  You’re called a bigot.

How is equating bigotry against people with criticism of their religiously based decisions harmful?  It leads to extreme xenophobia towards Muslim immigrants on the right wing, or denial of Islam’s oppressive influence on the left, as the article mentions.  It leads to the media, academia, politicians etc. failing to have a constructive discussion on the spread of Islamic Extremist ideology and it gives Islamists like Abu Haleema a free pass in the recruitment of sympathizers because his ideology that stems from Islam lacks public scrutiny.

I have not read a single sentence that calls for hatred of Muslims as an entire population.  I am shocked the tweeters above have misinterpreted it that way.  Let’s be real.  Whoever interpreted the article as one that calls for hatred, violence, and xenophobia of all Muslims are morons digging for controversy.  They are the regressive left.  #realtalk

I have however seen the editorial question the socially constructed label of bigotry around vocally disagreeing with Muslims’ views on life and the potential social/political consequences of their views.  In other words: criticizing ideas.

What Defending Islam Means

Defending Islam from criticism means defending the autonomous Sharia Courts prevalent in the United Kingdom which make it difficult for Muslim women to escape abusive marriages through divorce, because of Islamic rulings not British.  Is being wary of these courts influence over Muslim British Communities Islamophobia?

Defending Islam from criticism is enabling incidents like the German judge not granting a young woman divorce from her abusive husband who threatened to kill her, because they have Moroccan and Muslim cultural backgrounds and such behavior is allowed in their culture, according to the judge.  The judge even cited verses from the Quran that enabled husbands to hit their wives.  Is criticizing this judge Islamophobia?

Defending Islam from criticism is defending those who attacked Nissar Hussain with an axe in front of his home, just because he converted from Islam to Christianity.  The attackers were simply following their religious beliefs: that apostates should be beheaded. Should we tell Nissar Hassan to keep silence about apostasy laws in Islam, because criticizing Islam is bigotry or shall I say: Islamophobia?

Defending Islam from criticism allows an entire network of Radical Islamists with literal interpretation Quran to promote homophobia, misogyny, institutionalized sexual repression, and hatred/violence against disbelievers.  They put in all this effort just to achieve the ultimate goal, for Islam to be globally institutionalized, or as others like to call it: Sharia law.  Is criticizing their literal and backwards religious views which stems from the Quran and Hadith not allowed, because it’s Islamophobia?

Let me answer it for you. Yes that was Islamophobia. Do you agree with me that these cases are concerning? Congratulations. You’ve just became an Islamophobe. Are you a bigot? No.

To My Liberal/Progressive Friends

So my fellow liberals; before defending Islam, ask yourself this: does the Quran speak for your rights?  Only if you are a faithful Muslim Heterosexual man.  Why must you defend a set of ideas which, if followed in its entirety, perpetuates misogyny, violence, bigotry against disbelievers, homophobia all around the world?  Are you ready to stand up for victims of Islam?

Je Suis Charlie.

What do you think? Feel free to comment below. Don’t forget to follow this site, follow my twitter @secularbrownie and my Facebook for updates and cool articles!

14 thoughts on “The Charlie Hebdo Editorial: My Take

  1. I have only read the editorial once, in English, and I have a bad head cold. However on first reading I found it problematic, and I certainly don’t identify with the regressive left – I am very dubious about Tariq Ramadan, for example.


    1. I think the writers involvement of peaceful Muslims can be misinterpreted into a gross generalization. But i think it’s just that a misinterpretation. The writer ultimately wanted to express that we have this stigma attached to criticizing Islam over even mundane things like selling ham. And that it’s hard to discuss larger issues like Islam’s relationship to islamisn because of this extreme stigma. Thanks for the comment!


  2. There is a very wobbly grey area in middle. To the extent that a person’s actions hurt another then that person’s actions and the choices that led up to them are fully open to criticism. When someone uses religion as a weapon to hurt others it is certainly right to criticize. As is the case of Nissar Hussain or the Sharia Courts.

    I’m not afraid to criticize those actions and I’m not aware that anyone else is afraid of it. I’m one of those people who you would term as politically correct.

    To the extent that a sentient adult CHOOSES to wear a burqa, to the detriment of no one – I don’t think we have the right to criticize. Her choice is hers. To project on this woman the possibility that she is hiding a bomb is unfair. We will have done a similar thing with black men wearing hoodies. Its not fair. Its projecting the behavior of a few on the entire group. That is prejudice born in fear. An irrational fear at that.

    I think that what you term as political correctness is keeping us civilized. Keeping us from becoming a mob of unthinking fearful perpetrators of horrors. Because those social cues remind us to stop and think. To remember that we are all humans and to treat each other with respect.


    1. While the woman has a choice to wear the burqa it’s not inherently wrong. But i have every right to criticize anybodys decision. As do you. I will agree with you that the way the author brought up your average Joe Muslim is problematic. But i think the larger issue they were trying to convey is that we do have the right to criticize the idea of burqa, ham, etc without being called bigots. Compared to Christianity and its effects Islam gets a huge free pass from scrutiny and when it does face scrutiny it’s from right wing xenophobia that targets people wouldn’t you agree?
      Me saying the burqa is problematic concept isn’t bigoted compared me saying all ladies in burqas should be deported lol. So you’re right in a sense that the average Joe shouldn’t get targeted so much and that may have been a problematic angle by the author, but i really interpret it as “we can criticize others ideas and beliefs without being bigots”
      For example “your world view on your blog is dumb” isn’t hateful compared to “anything you write on that blog is problematic because it’s you and you’re inherently evil.”

      I’ll take your feedback and tweak my post, that the average Joe Muslim shouldn’t have been mentioned and that was a tricky ground. But I still think Islam, not the peaceful interpretation our friends and family follow (which is cherry picked btw) but the scriptures in its entirety if they are followed can have problematic effects. Scriptures need scrutiny because we need to undermine how those who get brainwashed into negative things (once again a minority, still an effective at that) relate to them.

      Most Muslims you’ll meet will say scriptures are perfect but won’t necessarily relate to the politicized verses. In other words they won’t take everything literally. What needs to be discussed is what happens if every verse is literally emulated?
      People will be nice to orphans not commit female infanticide, and promote economic equality/humility. Those are good things
      Bad things:
      Misogyny, homophobia, political expansion, hatredof the other etc etc etc.

      So while it’s offensive to scrutinize the quran it’s what needs to be done. Just as the evangelicals of American Republicans and their relationship to the bible gets scrutiny lol.


      1. I think we have a fundamental difference of view. I don’t have a problem with any religion being followed by people who freely have a choice to do so. (disclosure: I don’t believe in any religion or god)

        I do have a problem with people forcing their religious view into government, laws and into any individuals choice. So I will fight and be mouthy and make a big deal about any fundamentalist who wants to stop gay marriage or abortion. But what I fight is the action of forcing their views into the general population.

        But if a fundamentalist chooses to wear a burqa or doesn’t cut their hair or refuses to use any technology newer than 1880 – not really my business. Its not my business if they have horrific and hateful scriptures – most religions do. Its remarkable how people either turn a blind eye to the existence of terrible things in their holy book or find ways to justify it. But its not really my business.

        I do think that mixing religion and government is a bad idea. I will criticize it, although a huge number of countries do it. Many of them first world.

        I criticize specific actions being taken that have definably public consequences, rather then the religion. I make an effort to make sure that I am not slathering a huge number of humans with the sins I perceive in a few. And that is what I consider to be politically correct. Trying to treat humans, individuals and groups with respect.


      2. I don’t see any difference. I’m not against people being religious. I mean i think it’s silly and delusional but i fundamentally think they have the right to do it. So burqa bans are a horrible approach in My opinion.
        But just as they have the right to follow religion we have the right to criticize the decision to follow it. Is it offensive? Possibly Yes. Ethical? Gray area.

        You’ll see in my blog in the future, that Islamic scriptures if followed literally and entirely can be problematic because it is intrinsically righteous, and expansive about its self righteousness. And that narrative leads to the small minority who are violent about it but also their surrounding network who aren’t violent but more politically involved. That’s who i speak against. But when the peaceful majority who have nothing to do with this violence, which you and i agree on, say it’s not Islamic just because it isn’t their interpretation, that’s one way to avoid the issue of religious ideology


    2. And the religiously inspired crimes we both find problematic for example, when you look at the discussion of the political ideology that inspires them: islamism (NOT TO BE MISTAKEN FOR THE ISLAM YOUR NEIGHBORS FOLLOW) you’re seen as one who is attempting to profile all Muslims, etc etc etc. Even if the intention was to target those who have such militant and violent aspirations based on their consuming the entire book

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People use religion as an ad hoc excuse for their actions. There is a remarkable diversity in how people of the same faith will interpret any given scripture. Because people project onto the words whatever will support their preconceived notions.

        Its not the scripture – its the people. People in dire circumstances want answers for the horrors. People who have anger and fear want retribution. And they can always find something to support their views in the scriptures that come from their god.

        If we could somehow convince all people that religion was pointless and nonsense – we would not eliminate the terrible things people do.

        They would probably come up with some new way to cognitively support their anger, their pain, and their violence.

        Religion doesn’t cause that. Human suffering does.


      2. It’s not always a relative of a victim of a USA drone that engages in these. There are individuals born in societies that preach this literal interpretation. I have friends born in communities abroad where Islam was the end all be all. Quran and hadith was the source of wisdom and ended all debates. He had many friends who grew up to be jihadis and he himself wanted to be one. He was even taught to hate jews because the quran taught that they were filth. When he moved to the United States to study he was shocked at the idea of critical thinking applied in everyday life and how nice his first Jewish friend was. He was introduced to nuance outside of his community. He escaped the grasp of his religious inspired society through his new secular society.

        That’s the conversation we need to have. We can include your sentiments, of suffering, USA foreign policy, economics, politics, cultures. I have no doubts those need to be included. But in the case of Islamic extremism which isn’t confined to middle east, but is seen in parts of West Africa. East Africa, mauritania, Southeast Asia south Asia, North America, Europe…. Islam needs to be included. No not all Muslims as we agree have this interpretation. But this interpretation and attachment to scripture can have problematic effects on peoples mentality in far reaching ranges of the world. They all have different forms of suffering we can point, sensitive to their geography, culture and even individual mental issues I’m sure. But the quran and the exporting of literal fundamentalist interpretation from Saudi Arabia helps provide, like you said….. a narrative in response to the diverse forms of suffering.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. But what do propose? What do you see as an endgame to your criticism? Do you want to remove religion from existence if people believe or act certain ways?

        Because I don’t project any real change happening by pointing out what is obvious to people not practicing the fundamentalist religion but will certainly NOT be obvious no matter how much you shout it to those who do. When you base your views on faith, no amount of logic will change it for most people. And that tiny number declines if their life is desperate and hard.

        People are very often shaped by their environment. As you point out, when you are immersed in a religious environment and you add in terrible poverty and disenfranchisement and no path to relief – it can be problematic to take those scriptures literally.

        People don’t think critically when have no decent education. People don’t think compassionately when they are in dangerous poverty. People without any path out of their misery will always be likely to look toward religion because it offers them a path for relief.

        On the other hand, if you work on improving the practical problems like poverty and disenfranchisement – the other violent problems will slough away naturally.

        Trying to remove the religious ideas from people is impractical and unlikely. Why spend the energy on it.


      4. You’re asking good questions.
        So bringing religion and its scrutiny in the liberal media would have effect. I read recent studies of deradicalization in British terror cells. Long story short, your traditional terror cell has 4 different character roles one of which being leader and in deradicalization process (counseling, educating etc.) The other 3 roles were likely to be deradicalized and change their stance. The leader was not. So open scrutiny and debate on a mass scale of IDEAS and the infallibility of Muhammad and the quran, would be able to reach the 3 non leaders in my opinion. But it’s not just the terror cell itself it’s the nonviolent extremists who are more my concern. They passively support the movement and participate in the democratic process, as you can see through the sharia court. Delegitimizing support for them, which is driven by BOTH XENOPHOBIA (which i know you’ll bring up) and the religiosity is crucial.
        A study was done on Moroccan Dutch immigrants who were 1/2 generation dutch. Two groups one were islamist minded the other not. Both were frustrated with global politics, Israel, treatment of Muslims. The difference was their views of their roles in society. When asked about the future of Moroccan immigrants in Dutch society the islamists saw structural exclusion due to dutch society being driven by man not God. The other saw something your neighbors see: economic prosperity of the future of Moroccan/Arab/south Asian dutch immigrants and better assimilation.
        How is this study relevant? The islamists weren’t violent jihadis, but their outlook was certainly similar and sympathetic to that world view. A decrease in that society would go a long way for us.

        I hope these studies helped. Thanks for the open and civil discussions. Internet discussions often get nasty due to anonymity but it’s clear to me you’re a very mature individual.

        I hope you realize i obviously don’t mean any harm on Muslims (my parents are Muslim come on) and i am simply an advocate of removing kids gloves when discussing Islamand its influence in the modern political sphere


  3. Hello there – Nathalie sent me over after we discussed this subject on her blog.
    Isn’t their editorial, the reaction to it, and the reactions to the reactions all just a downward spiraling circle of the kettle calling the pot black?
    If people including the writers at Charlie Hebdo and their supporters, want the right to critically question the beliefs of others then they need to be ready to receive the same critical questioning from others.
    I think this editorial needed to do a better job of making its totally valid point about the importance of defending secularism and free speech. But doing so by implying that journalism students can’t think for themselves, or that somehow our allowing a shop keeper to decide what he chooses to put on his menu is akin to planting the seeds for future terrorism? I mean really?
    Here’s an idea: if I don’t like that I can’t buy a ham sandwich in your shop, I won’t criticize your right to practice your religion – I’ll politely tell you that that is too bad because my religion thinks ham is delicious, leave without buying anything, and just go shop elsewhere, and you’ll lose sales!
    And if I have any entrepreneurial spirit I might even go so far as to see the opportunity in this and set up shop right next door to you selling ham sandwiches 😉
    The way it was written I totally understand those who see this as bigotry and choose to speak up against it – though unfortunately many of them seem to be doing so in an overly simplistic and vehemently irrational way.
    Let’s not forget that exercising our right to freedom of speech by criticizing, does not leave us immune to criticism ourselves from others who are simply exercising that same right.
    It’s not about defending Islam. It’s about understanding that rights are rights, and freedoms are freedoms and they apply to all citizens equally, even those who practice a religion that I don’t believe in.
    What it needs to be is a civilized discussion about where we draw the secular line, when we see ANY religion that promotes beliefs that seem to encroach on those rights and freedoms.
    It’s all a terrible blow to sane rational debate though, whenever we resort to shouting, name calling, and trading one-line barbs on social media.
    And of course, you have the right to disagree with me 🙂


    1. Hi. Yes you do have the right to criticize Charlie hebdo lol. But bigotry is a strong label.
      I’ll acknowledge what you’ve said that the ham sandwich doesn’t lead to terrorism. The article didn’t say that. It said that any criticism of Islam (the religion, scriptures) from the minor to the major gets branded as bigotry and effectively silenced. I will acknowledge that the author was a little vague on connecting ham to bombs haha. I’ll tweak my writing to reflect that thank you for the feedback.

      However, criticism of what Islam in its literal fundamentalism preaches isn’t bigotry. It’s an examination of ideas and a call for people to challenge their ideas. Just as you wrote this comment which challenged how i examined the Baker and burqa lady.

      I have a loving relationship with my mother/grandmother. They wear burqa/hijab. I still think the garment and its root causes derives from values that stigmatizes the woman’s body, sexuality, expression which in today’s standards is misogynistic. That doesn’t make me a bigot does it? Just as i say the way islamists Teach the Quran literally, not just the jihadi narrative but on women, homosexuality, etc. Is also problematic and an issue of scriptures. That’s not bigotry. I’m simply disagreeing. That was the authors intention. However the way he connected the dots was vague and that’s why you and i are having this discussion. Because the connection between ham and bomb was made vague but that was simply my interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you make a lot of rational sense, and speak from your own knowledge based on experience. It seems that any of us who exit our faith are judged and labeled, though we are uniquely qualified to critique and challenge. Hebdo uses satire, sarcasm and–yes, sharp–humor to tell the truth. Many will never like that, on the Left or on the Right.


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