French Judge to the editors at Charlie Hebdo: 'I don't agree with what

you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it ... But men

 ... What is it you are trying to say?'

Le Temps, Switzerland

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Lesson Unlearned: The Prophet Transcends All Films or Cartoons (Le Monde, France)


"Can a work of fiction, a cartoon or a very bad film undermine Islamic values and foundations? In principle, no.  ... The Prophet is not in these cartoons; he is a spirit, a transcendence that escapes all physical representation. ... Let us remember that Islam is 'submission to peace,' to a higher form of patience and tolerance. At least that is what I was taught."


By Tahar Ben Jelloun*



Translated By Elise Nussbaum


September 22, 2012


France – Le Monde – Original Article (French)

Author Salman Rushdie with the book that launched him into fame and resulted in a fatwa calling for his death, The Satanic Verses.


BBC NEWS, U.K.: Salman Rushdie, 'Satanic Verses would not be published today', Sept. 17, 00:02:47RealVideo

Is Islam so vulnerable, so fragile, so threatened wherever it is practiced? Can a work of fiction, a cartoon or a very bad film undermine its values and foundations? In principle, no. But what Islam are we talking about? We wonder this in light of the tensions and violent protests in some Arab and Muslim countries.


Deaths, injuries, fires, cries of hatred, incomprehension - in short, an urgent need for vengeance that surprises only those who refuse to recognize that certain Muslim states, instead of entering modernity and cultivating democracy, encourage this passion that preoccupies their populations and makes them forget the essential: the establishment of justice and rule of law that would favor the emergence of the individual. Because recognizing the individual means a break with the clan system, and the right to liberty, the right to one's own conscience and an open door to critical thought. This is what the Islamist states cannot tolerate.


The signal was given by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 with the fatwa launched against Salman Rushdie, who had published a work of fiction, The Satanic Verses. We recall protests at the time in Pakistan that led to several deaths. And just when we thought Iran had more or less abandoned this fatwa, the reward for killing Rushdie has just been raised [by $500,000] to $3.3 million.


Books critical of Islam do exist. Muhammad, the essay by Maxime Rodinson (Seuil, 1961), is a rationalist, firm analysis of the life of the Prophet. The book did not cause a scandal, but it did pose questions that many devout Muslims would prefer not to address.


With The Satanic Verses, what shocked the Iranian leadership was that a Muslim had dared to mention Quranic verses that must at all costs be ignored. A Muslim belongs above all to a nation (“the Ummah”), which is like a clan or family. He or she has no right to leave or utter the least criticism of dogma or the sacred text. Rushdie is Muslim by birth; he is therefore seen as a traitor who must be punished for “blasphemy.”


This notion of putting a person's place within a community above all leads to the confusion of secularism with atheism and apostasy. Whoever criticizes the dogma renders his blood “legal” to spill. Whether it be a cartoonist or a madman consumed with a hatred for Islam, a newspaper or a film, even absurd or pathetic - the Muslim fundamentalist feels the duty to respond and make his anger known to all by any means. Add to this reflex the shadowy manipulations of certain states or agencies, and the result is the hideous spectacle of murderous, aggravated fanaticism.




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Since the vaunted “Arab Spring” has slid toward Islamism, hopes have been betrayed and revolutions aborted. Other actors have entered the scene, promising a long period of instability. Because traditional Islam is now twinned by a more radical, more right-wing movement (the Salafists), we have surprised ourselves by making excuses for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and members of Tunisia's Ennahda Movement. Others regret the passing of the ancien régime, saying that a corrupt dictator is better than an Islamist regime that flaunts its incapacity to govern, incapable, for example, of preventing Salafist thugs from attacking women and artists. The situation in Egypt is even more complicated, as the Salafist Nour Party won 24.4 percent of the vote in the legislative elections. The Muslim Brotherhood must take that into account.


Salafism is a literalist theology that rejects anything but any rationalist reading of sacred texts. In 1744, it formed an alliance with the Wahhabi movement, which advocated an absolutist radicalism of the Muslim faith that included a rejection of Sufism and Shiism, and a prohibition of worshipping of saints and paying reverence in cemeteries. In recent decades, many mausoleums housing the remains of saints have been destroyed in Algeria and Mali, not to mention the Buddhas demolished by the Taliban in Afghanistan in March 2001. This is the extremist current, backed by Saudi Arabia, that is trying to establish itself in Muslim countries. It is this same current that refuses democracy and all constitutions, because the only worthy legislator is the divine principle.


The powerful reactions that have shaken several countries will now delay and complicate the demise of Bashar al-Assad, champion of mass murder and bombing civilian populations. If he hangs on, it will not only be thanks to Russian support. That matters - but another reason he's still around is the analysis of the Americans, as well as by a majority of European countries. The Islamist threat to the future of Syria is being put forward as a major argument. We know that brigades like Ahrar Al-Sham, who have joined the insurgents, do nothing to hide their allegiance to the Salafist movement. Even if everyone deplores the barbarism of the Assad clan, some people whisper that if he were ousted, the Christian minority would be in danger. Once the Assads are rendered harmless by their removal, Syria will choose its own destiny. It serves no purpose to cloud the picture and invoke Islamist horror as an inescapable alternative.


What is vulnerable about Islam is neither its spirit or its values, but the populations who have been kept in ignorance and have had their beliefs manipulated. All who have tried to read the Quran with heart and reason together have failed, and irrationality, absurdity and fanaticism are gaining ground.

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This confusion suits every provocation: the French Salafists who demonstrated on the Champs-Elysées were comforted and affirmed in their prejudices. Charlie Hebdo’s pages will not calm such hair-trigger protestors. This was one provocation too many and like it or not, it feeds into an Islamophobia that is gaining ground. I know that the satirical journal has never spared popes nor priests, and that Catholics have not cried foul. The newspaper is within its rights. We live in a democracy where free expression is sacred. If these new cartoons have hurt believers, they must take it to the courts to renounce this type of agitation. France is a secular country. We mock everything, even religion.


The Prophet is not in these cartoons; he is a spirit, a transcendence that escapes all physical representation. Finally, let us remember that Islam is “submission to peace,” to a higher form of patience and tolerance. At least that is what I was taught.


*Tahar Ben Jelloun is a native of Morroco and is author of The Spark: Uprisings in Arab Countries (Gallimard, 2011)


Grand Mufti, Egypt: 'Prophet Mohammad Endured Personal Insults without Retaliating'
DE TIJD, Belgium: Americans Mistaken to Buckle Under on Free Speech
Der Standard, Austria: For Now at Least, it's Lose-Lose for the U.S. in the Muslim World
Al Watan, Libya: If the Prophet Can be Insulted, then the Holocaust can be Questioned
Le Quotidien d’Oran, Algeria: Why Insulting the Prophet Always 'Pays Off Big'
Der Spiegel, Germany: Muslim Protests Show Limits of Free Speech
Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany: Islam in Turmoil: Religion as 'Ersatz-Identity'
Al Watan, Libya: Libyan Fatwa Court Calls Attack on Americans an 'Offense to Islam'
The Independent, U.K.: Obama's Foreign Policy of Reconciliation Lies in 'Tatters'
Die Zeit, Germany: Romney's 'Nostalgia' Ill-Suited to Reality of Fast-Changing World
Die Tageszeitung, Germany: Muslim Unrest Raises Stakes of U.S. Election Even Higher
Independent, U.K.: 'Inside Story' of U.S. Envoy's Assassination
Global Times, China:
America is 'Disrespectful' of Other Cultures
Daily Star, Lebanon: Influential Lebanon MP Says Israel Backed Film to Defeat Obama
Debka File, Israel: Al-Qaeda Chief Zawahri 'Personally Ordered' Murder of U.S. Envoy
Independent, U.K.: 'Provocateurs' East and West Know: Politics and Religion Don't Mix ’
Telegraph, U.K.: Arab Spring Turns Sour for United States
Telegraph, U.K.: Ambassador Chris Stevens: Man of Drive, Passion
Independent, U.K.: Fear and Loathing: Another Unholy Row about Islam
Guardian, U.K.: Attack in Libya Underlines Threat of Salafi Islamists
Global Times, China: America ‘Disqualified’ as Global Human Rights Judge
Xinhua, China: Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011
Rodong Sinmun, North Korea: America by Far World’s Leading Human Rights Abuser
Yezhednevniy Zhurnal, Russia: Putin is Mistaken to Favor China Over the United States
Huanqiu, China: U.S. Should Keep its Nuclear Weapons Away from Koreas
Guardian, U.K.: It Should Have Been Clear - Deposing Qaddafi was the Easy Part





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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Sept. 23, 9:59pm]



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