The Phoenix of Paris

The front cover of tomorrow's Charlie Hebdo.

Tomorrow Charlie Hebdo, conjuring up imagery of the phoenix, arises from the ashes of theocratic massacre to publish again. In a clear statement of intent that it will not be silenced by the fascists of religion the magazine’s front cover will be of Islam’s tearful Mohammed holding a Je Suis Charlie poster. The headline proclaims All is Forgiven.

The editorial, taking a typical swipe at religion, states:
For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined. The one we are most proud of is that you have in your hands the newspaper that we always made.
While the decision to place Mohammed on the front cover is likely to be widely interpreted as a defiant measure, with Charlie Hebdo's lawyer, Richard Malka, telling French radio that the staff will "cede nothing" to those determined to silence them,
there really wasn’t a lot of choice. Not to publish would appear an act of moral collapse in the face of fascist intimidation. Mayor of London Boris Johnson wasn’t wide off the mark in his observation:
You cannot have a march through the streets of Paris attended by 46 world leaders, 4 million people, climaxing with a shout of ‘We are not afraid’ and then not print the central object of contention.”

Already the theocrats are stepping up the intimidation, ‘criticism and threats immediately appeared on militant websites, with calls for more strikes against the newspaper and anonymous threats from radicals’. One leading Egyptian Islamic authority labelled the move "unjustified provocation. Yet the magazine's lawyer was unperturbed: 'We will not give in otherwise all this won't have meant anything.'

Omer el-Hamdoon, president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said causing offence 'just for the purpose of offending' was not freedom of speech. But it is precisely that. Without the ability to offend opinion there is no such thing as free speech. To cede to any ideology the right to determine what is offensive and thus empower its censorious ability is to deny society one of its most powerful means of scrutiny.

Zineb El Rhazoui, one of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, said Muslims could simply refuse to buy the magazine if they took offence. Summing up the secular position she said:

I would tell them it is a drawing and they are not obliged to buy this edition of Charlie Hebdo if they don’t appreciate our work ... Muslims must understand that we in Charlie Hebdo just consider Islam as a normal religion just like any other religion in France. Islam must accept to be treated like all the other religions in this country.

Why should it be any other way?


  1. Reasoning from the perspective of liberty of conscience and freedom of speech will have no impact on radical Islamists. Their world-view makes them morally obliged to spread Islam by the sword, and certainly avenge insults to the Prophet.

    Much like Marxists would feel morally obliged to spread their ideology by the gun, never mind what the ordinary citizen might like.

  2. Good article: