Last weekend, Pamela Geller hosted a “Draw Muhammad” competition in Garland, TX under the banner of her Islamophobic hate group, American Freedom Defense Initiative. The promotional material for this event prominently featured the Charlie Hebdo cartoons which provoked outrage among European Muslims and led to the mass killings of the magazine’s editorial staff.
After the Paris attack, Geller wrapped herself in Charlie Hebdo and promoted photographs of herself reading it with the magazine banner prominently featured. The French magazine’s editors aren’t returning the favor. On the Charlie Rose Show (video), one of them specifically rejected any comparison between the work of his publication and Geller:
While he [editor Jean-Baptiste Floret] described the [Geller] event in Texas as part of an “anti-Islamic movement”…Thoret said the motives of Charlie Hebdo are “absolutely not the same.” For the magazine, he said it “was a question of criticizing” all religions, not Muslim people “in particular.”
This “Je ne suis pas Pamela” is at best disingenuous. Hebdo rarely criticizes Israel. When it does, it offensively uses the term “Jew” in place of “Israeli.” While it sometimes satirizes Orthodox rabbis, I’ve never heard of it skewering Judaism as a religion. In fact, one cartoonist was fired by Hebdo when he lampooned Nicholas Sarkozy’s son for converting to Judaism. One can never imagine it firing Luz for his drawings offending Muslims.
In fact, a comparison between Geller and Hebdo is apt. Just as Hebdo cartoons featured Muhammad engaged in sex acts and bestiality, among the cartoons featured in Geller’s competition was one depicting Muhammad wearing a toilet-paper turban and pissing on the Quran. The winning cartoon, which earned the artist a $12,500 award, depicted The Prophet as a werewolf.
Earlier this week, two Islamist gunmen drove from their home in Phoenix to Texas armed with assault rifles and equipped with body armor. When they arrived at the event site they opened fire on a traffic policeman who promptly shot both of them dead. Though little is known so far about their exact plans, it’s safe to say they intended to attack the event and kill as many people there as they could.
Before anything further is said, it’s critical to note that murder is not a legitimate way to battle the hate that Pamela Geller and Charlie Hebdo peddle. In fact, any act of violence in furtherance of religious or political motives is odious.
But I believe it’s also important to consider a perspective few have offered. If instead of Muhammad, Hebdo pictured the Jewish God, Yahweh, pissing on a sacred Torah scroll can you imagine liberals and free speech advocates like PEN rushing to defend them? If Geller dared to picture Jesus engaging in an act of bestiality would the same Christian evangelicals who welcomed her to Garland view her in the same way?
Clearly, the answer in each case is No. So if defaming the Jewish God would be unthinkable for Hebdo and defaming the Christian God unthinkable for Geller, why is Islam in a different category? Why is it acceptable to picture Islam’s founder in ways but unacceptable to engage in the other forms of bigotry I outlined?
There is a double standard in the west which few are willing to concede. Islam is treated as a religion of subhumans, while western religions largely get a pass. Violence endemic to western religions gets a pass, while the violent acts of a small number of Islamist fundamentalists represent the entirety of Islam.
If the results of such ignorance and hatred of Islam weren’t so murderous, it would be best to ignore Islamophobes like Hebdo and Geller. Before the Paris attack, Hebdo was a magazine struggling financially and creatively. I only wish it could’ve sunk into eventual deserved oblivion. One might argue the same about Geller. If we could just ignore her long enough, whatever resonance she has for a certain cross-section of lunatic haters out there might dissipate.
But unfortunately, a few hot-heads with guns have decided to take matters into their own hands. This should force the hand of authorities who must address issues both of public safety and free speech.
I think we lose when we try to fight this battle on the issue of free speech. Clearly, idiots have the right to spout off in democratic societies. No one should argue their speech should be criminalized or sanctioned.
But remember the bright red line drawn by Justice Holmes’ Supreme Court decision on protected speech. No one is permitted to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater. This is what Geller and Hebdo have done. They have shouted anti-Muslim slurs in a crowded theater and caused stampedes which have led to the deaths of scores of people, both Muslim and non-Muslim.
Their views are a danger to public safety. When they speak, people die and lives are threatened, both the lives of the bigots and lives of innocent citizens. Do municipalities like Garland and public institutions have a duty to open their facilities to public events featuring provocative hate that almost guarantees violent outbursts? I think not.
Of course, any such public entity that wishes to, do so should. It goes without saying that private institutions, which already have the right to permit or refuse use of their facilities to speakers of their choice, can permit Pamela Geller to shout anti-Muslim obscenities to the world.
But any institution or individual hosting, sponsoring or promoting such views must now take into account the reality that these views, which are violent in themselves, promote violence in response.
Garland chose to compel Geller to pay $10,000 for security at her event. She was surrounded by SWAT teams, private security and all manner of protection. If institutions and elected officials wish to call out the National Guard to protect themselves in such situations they should do so.
But I think any municipality which contemplates renting a hall to Geller (and don’t kid yourself, now that she’s infamous she wants to replicate her hate fests everywhere) should ask themselves a great many questions: do they wish to turn their jurisdiction into an armed camp bristling with weapons and Rambos bruising for a fight? Do they wish to place their own residents in almost certain danger? Do they wish to become known as the place where hate is welcomed?
Any town or city considering hosting her should demand a multi-million dollar security bond and be prepared to offer hundreds of security personnel to protect Geller, her guests and the rest of its community. Just because Pam Geller may wish to become a martyr for her cause, does this mean that America much enable her?
There may be some who argue that Geller is merely and purely an advocate for free speech and that her campaign should be seen solely on those grounds. But in truth, Geller knows what happened to the Charlie Hebdo editors. She deliberately chose to create an event even more insulting toward Islam. What did she expect would happen? She provoked this attack. In some sense, she has a death wish. Or else she wants to provoke a vicious official response to it that will further her own goals of criminalizing Muslims and Islam. In that case, she is a radical extremist who wants to turn this country into something heinous.
Returning to the toll that Islamophobia takes in society, it’s important to note that scores of Muslims were killed in the wake of the Jylland Postens Muhammad cartoons, and Hebdo’s editors were killed, and the Garland gunmen died. Rabid Islamophobia of this sort kills. It kills the good, the bad and the innocent. Society has no obligation to promote the ideas of psychopathic Islamophobes nor should it have to pay for their dissemination with the lives of its members.
PEN honors Charlie Hebdo
This week, PEN America honored the editors of Charlie Hebdo with an award for “courage” and “free expression.” After six writers who were table hosts of the evening withdrew in protest, 200 other writers joined them in penning a letter objecting to it. They reasoned that while the publication had a right to publish anything it chose, there was no affirmative obligation for PEN to honor it for doing so.
In fact, just as tabloids in the past were called scandal sheets, Hebdo is a hate sheet. No one should die because they peddle hate. But no one has an obligation to honor them either because of what they peddle or because they died peddling it.
Both Glenn Greenwald, Teju Cole, and Garry Trudeau have penned eloquent critiques of Hebdo. Trudeau’s is especially important because he himself is a cartoonist and political satirist.
Famous Flame says
No. Richard. You should be focusing on the shooters in Garland, Texas and Charlie Hebdo.
You should be examining the shooters, their motives, their hypocrisy, not Geller and the Hebdo cartoonists.
You avoid so much as mentioning the names of the attackers.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you are expressing the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’.
Charlie Hebdo – Intouchables 2 Sept. 18, 2012
Cartoon and article does not mock the orthodox Jew, only the Muslim community after the release of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. The balloon text reads: “You must not laugh.” A clear provocation after previously the February 2006 reprint of the Danish Jyllands Posten cartoons and the 2011 publication of an edition called “ Sharia Hebdo.”
Deïr Yassin says
“Faut pas se moquer” means ‘don’t make fun of’
‘Courageous’ Danes Call Pro-Palestine Ads Offensive
Denmark, the land of freedom of expression relative to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons that sparked unrest and killings across the globe in states with a Muslim majority.
The advertisements that were removed from 35 of the Danish capitol’s public buses featured two woman beside the quote:
“Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the
Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry.”
Press statement by Movia, the public bus transportation company
Movia regrets the rift in the debate that the Board’s decision has created, as it is expressed in the press and on Facebook. The nature of this underlines the board that Movia buses are not the place to bring this type of advertising, and that the decision to remove the advertisement from the buses was the right one, it says.
[Comment deleted: comments must contain substance and be on topic. A comment containing only links is not substantive.]
Movia: Unnecessarily offensive campaign
Movia has in recent weeks been the subject of fierce debate, after the four days have been running around with a campaign by the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association on the side of 35 Copenhagen buses.
The campaign should have been running for two weeks, but after four days taken down because Movia received more than 100 complaints about the advertisement’s content and message. One complainant wrote, among other things, that the campaign aroused memories of Nazi behavior up to and during World War II.
Movia added the following statement:
Movia believes that the campaign seems unnecessarily offensive, that it is designed without due sense of social responsibility and that it is discrimination on grounds of nationality. Movia here decided that the advertisement must be removed immediately.
In addition, also raised doubts about the accuracy of the maps appearing on the advertisement.
About Accuracy of Palestinian Maps – JNF and Eretz Israel
Nostalgia Sunday – Blue Box Redux [cached]
Here’s a fun fact: Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with more trees than it had at the beginning of the 20th century. For years, tree-planting in Israel was synonymous with the Jewish National Fund, which itself was synonymous with the small blue coin collection tin. Some of these are now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, as part of an exhibit entitled The Map of Israel as Illustration, Artwork, and Icon.
Jo Rider says
I looked at the JNF website and was shocked to read ” The first Jewish pioneers who came to the land of Israel towards the end of the twentieth century found a desolate land that provided no shade whatsoever”.
You know, I think that when a country receives billions of dollars a year in subsidies and support payments from a number of nations and ultra-wealthy investors, then they probably have a million or two left over, after investments and buying vast quantities of state of the art weapons, to plant some trees so that the Israelis have a more european-like environment to remind them of their original homelands.
More here @Mondoweiss and full story here.
Miss Castello says
[Rhetoric like that will not be published here.]
Reasonable Man says
“a few hot-heads with guns “??? Why can’t you call them what they are – terrorists? Or would that make you guilty of “Islamophobia”?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Reasonable Man: There are terrorists just as Ayelet Shaked is a terrorist for endorsing genocide. Why can’t you call the IDF terrorists guilty of war crimes?
Your comparison of “Yahweh, pissing on a sacred Torah scroll” is an extreme exaturation. Try something like “Moses pissing on a bible”. I believe some Muslims will take comparing Muhammad to Allah (same as the Jewish God, BTW) as an insult as of itself.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Tankist: Wrong. There is a prohibition in Judaism on graven images–that is, images of God. There is no such prohibition on representing Moses. There is a Muslim prohibition on representing Muhammad. Hence representing God or Yahweh in any way would be scandalous & blasphemous to an observant Jew just as representing Muhammad is for an observant Muslim.
Richard – if you want to speak on the religious aspect, you gonna loose. Yahweh was represented in countless controversial art pieces and I don’t see ‘Jews’ going through museums, destroying pieces of art.
But more important, in Islam, the prohibition to draw is only on Muhammad w/o any relation on whether he is featured in a positive or negative light (BTW, it doesn’t appear in Quran but later added in). In Judaism, the prohibition is on any statue or person’s painting, nothing specific to Yahweh.
Maybe it b/c Judaism focuses on the YOU (2nd Commandment) and unlike both Christianity and Islam, try to tell others what to do.
So we are back to speak about the disrespect the content itself shows which bring me back to my previous comment – “Muhammad isn’t god”.
Richard Silverstein says
While that is true, it’s also true that the main reason graven images are prohibited is because pagan religions had idols and Judaism seeks to warn Jews away from representing the Jewish God as having any corporal being. Hence, it’s a prohibition on representing the Jewish God.
Do you really compare shouting “fire” in a public place which has nothing to do with ‘expression’ to a private artistic event, as despicable as one may think of it?
“was a question of criticizing all religions… Hebdo rarely criticizes Israel” – ahhhhh, is now Israel a religion?
“When it does, it offensively uses the term “Jew” in place of “Israeli.” – Or maybe they insult Jews just the same way they do Muslims. Not political but anti-religion.
Richard Silverstein says
@Tankist: Leave jurisprudence to the judges. Justice Holmes chose the analogy to a crowded theater deliberately because it was a public venue & shouting “Fire” was absolutely a form of public expression. You ought to study his opinion before opining in a way that betrays your ignorance & sloppiness.
Further, Geller’s event was not “private.” She rented the hall from the city of Garland, a public entity, & it was open to the public.
Israel certainly is a religion as far as uber-Zionists like you & Bibi are concerned. Bibi is not religious. He is secular. But his real religion is Israelism, or a bastardized form of Zionism, if you will.
Apparently, the exact wording of Holmes was “FALSELY shouting fire in a crowded theater”. I rest my case! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_theater
I’m not expert on 1st amendment law but I believe this would be considered a “private event open to the public”, just like a mall is considered private property.
Israelism/Zionism might be a religion for some people but obviously not to Hebdo editors. Jews, on the other hand, were depicted and criticized.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Tankist: Of course someone has to be falsely shouting fire. If there really was a fire he would be saving lives. Holmes’ written decision presumes what you claim.
As for the Geller event, it was not in a privately-owned mall. It was in a school-community center–publicly owned. Public event.
Jafar Siddiqui says
Tankist. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre is not okay because the subsequent stampede may kill or injure people. Is it not also a possibility that cursing a religion and its people (Muslims in this case) may also cause a reaction in which people may get injured or killed?
I am against any curtailing of the free expression of opinion, however repugnant it may be. I can only hope there would be enough people of good will who may be willing to stand on principle to reject all advertisers and other supporters of hate-mongers. That would be the best way to stop the Freedom to Spread Hate.
Deïr Yassin says
“Hebdo rarely criticizes Israel. When it does, it offensively uses the term “Jew” in place of “Israeli.” While it sometimes satirizes Orthodox rabbis, I’ve never heard of it skewering Judaism as a religion. In fact, one cartoonist was fired by Hebdo when he lampooned Nicholas Sarkozy’s son for converting to Judaism. ”
I really don’t understand where you get this from. Charb, the former director, was clearly pro-Palestinian, he’s said so publicly more than once and he’s been to the West Bank as well as to Gaza (as he told in a debate on television with Tariq Ramadan).
I don’t know what this using the term ‘Jew’ instead of ‘Israeli’ means, I’ve never heard that point before and I’m not aware of that.
The cartoonist Siné was fired by the former director, Philip Val, a well-known pro-Zionist, who’s now on some public radio, but the rest of the staff was against his firing.
In order not to be blocked I’ll post only one cartoon on Israel/Palestine by Charb, and some other without the www/http:
(it says, “indeed, indeed, school is over”)
2. A drawing by Charb back in 2002 that he offered to AFPS (Association France-Palestine Solidarité) to promote boycott of products from the settlements.
Caption says; “What is illegally produced in Palestine is illegally exported to Europe”)
http + afps57.free.fr/images/dessin-charb.jpg
3. Caption: “Another ‘mistake’. Hamas fighter: Pity, I’m not a defenceless schoolchild. Israeli aircraft; Oh sorry.
http + p6.storage.canalblog.com/65/68/177230/100528548.jpg
4. Caption; “And here ! Do you still recognize Palestine ?”
http + p9.storage.canalblog.com/96/28/177230/100558004.jpg
5. Caption: Israeli settler: “So, it’s cool to have a country ?”
http + p3.storage.canalblog.com/36/83/177230/68462409.jpg
Charb also draw cartoons after the Mavi Marmara Massacre, a drawing dedicated to a French-Palestinian prisoner , Salah Hamouri etc.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Deir Yassine: I know you’ve read this blog for a long time. You should know because I’ve mentioned this a number of times that the distinction between “Jew” and “Israeli” is extremely important. It is one that anti-Semites (& Netanyahu, curiously) deliberately conflate.
Isn’t it a contradiction for Charb to hate Muslims and defend Hamas, an Islamist group? Has he missed that?
Deïr Yassin says
Of course I know the distinction between Israeli and Jew, but I don’t understand the critique of Charlie Hebdo, that they use ‘Jew’ instead of “Israeli’. I’ve never heard or seen that anywhere else. Particularly as in France, using the word ‘Jew’ is much more restricted than in the US, anyone speaking about the ‘Jewish Lobby in America’ for instance would be attacked from everyone, even if members of different lobby groups call it ‘Jewish’ themselves.
And Charb didn’t neither hate Muslims nor did he defend Hamas, he’s a drawn other cartoons criticizing Hamas as well.
I’m not a fan of Charlie Hebdo, but comparing them to Pam Geller is totally out of the way, anyhow I’ve got the impression that most people outside France don’t know what Charlie Hebdo really was, and how the magazine is a product of the anti-clerical history of France.
PS. Georges Wolinski, one of the killed cartoonists, probably the star of them all (82 years old) as well as Elsa Cayat were both Jews (and both born in Tunisia). I don’t think they would work for a magazine mixing up ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’.
A lot of the argument of this post and some of the comments bring to mind the (s/b) truism that a person’s intention in sending forth a communication ought to be deeme3d to comprise adequate knowledge of the manner in which the various likely audiences for the communication will interpret it. There is no excuse for Charlie Hebdo to publish a cartoon that only involves (and only trashes) Muhammad under the excuse that they are intending to trash all religions. They knew what they were doing or should have. It was a replay of an earlier Danish ditto. They are all “using” a free-speech argument to wrap around hate speech.
That infamous woman whose photo abvoe looks a bit like a Devil has sponsored an entire cartoon contest ALL of whose cartoons are, by the terms of the contest, only to offend one group. It was an entire extravaganza of hate. she called the gunmen to her. It was deliberate. “There oughtta be a law.”
Dieter Heymann says
There was a much earlier case in Amsterdam analogous to Charlie Hebdo when on 2 November 2004 the movie maker Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death in the street. The murderer was a Dutch citizen of Moroccan ancestry who was angered by the vile flick “Submission” which van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali had produced and shown (I have seen it). Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer was given a life sentence without parole, a rarity in the Netherlands.
AHA who was also threatened at that time was later shown to have lied on her application for asylum in the Netherlands. Her Dutch citizenship was taken away. AHA emigrated to the USA where she started working for the American Enterprise Institute.
Gary Fouse says
“But I believe it’s also important to consider a perspective few have offered. If instead of Muhammad, Hebdo pictured the Jewish God, Yahweh, pissing on a sacred Torah scroll can you imagine liberals and free speech advocates like PEN rushing to defend them? If Geller dared to picture Jesus engaging in an act of bestiality would the same Christian evangelicals who welcomed her to Garland view her in the same way?”
No, but Christians and Jews would not have reacted in murder and mayhem. That is the difference, Richard, which you sadly don’t get. If few have offered that perspective, it’s because they understand the difference.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Gary Fouse: Christian & Jews murder their religious antagonists regularly. So you are sorely misguided. And Christians have murdered many more of their opponents than Muslims ever have or ever will. But we Jews historically have done a good bit of this ourselves & continue doing so thanks to our settler pals there.