“Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia and the Freedom of Expression” Interview of Author Richard Seymour on The Real News Network by Sharmini Peries Jan 8, 2015 — Islamophobia in Europe

Click for Source Interview and Text on The Real News Network

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Attacks killed 12 people in Paris at offices of satirical cartoon paper for perceived insults to the prophet Muhammad were expected. Now anti-Islam and Islamophobia sentiment throughout pockets of Europe are coming to the surface.

Richard Seymour = A writer, broadcaster and activist. Author of Lenin’s Tomb.

PERIES: Richard what are the underlying issues that gave way to this horrendous attack on Charlie Hebdo.

RICHARD SEYMOUR: One thing we’ve discovered is that one of the attackers was radicalized by torture in the war on terror — The war on terror is partially responsible for attacks like this.

PERIES: There are references to a connection with Syria.

SEYMOUR: It’s quite possible. But executing journalists and cartoonists, ostensibly for the offense of racist satirizing of Islam makes that connection to Syria tenuous.

PERIES: The Islamic community in Europe is under scrutiny, and this is giving way to anti-Islam sentiments and Islamophobia. How is that being addressed in the European media?

SEYMOUR: Two types of responses — One is the very hardline racist response coming from U.K. Independence Party and the prime minister of Greece — the enemies of civilization hate us and have our passports — We have to stop them with an anti-immigrant push.

SEYMOUR: Another response is pseudo-tolerance implying some sort of a burden that we put up with as long as they stay under control and assimilate into something called Western values — One value is freedom of expression, but our politicians are NOT committed to freedom of expression. I live in UK where you can get locked up for Twitter remarks about the troops or for saying David Cameron has blood on his hands, which he assuredly does.

SEYMOUR: In France your protest can be banned, as pro-Palestine protesters discovered. You cannot wear the hijab as many forms of freedom of expression are under constant assault. The assault is on the status and legitimacy of Muslims largely in European society.

PERIES: It is freedom of expression for some and not others in reality. But cartoons are a value that should be upheld. But these cartoons are leading to Islamophobia.

SEYMOUR: The defense of freedom of expression is always conditional. Even Charlie Hebdo, who willing attacked anyone, did have its limits. One of its contributors, Maurice Siné, was fired for producing an anti-Semitic cartoon. So everyone has limits on what kind of speech they’re prepared to give a platform to. Charlie Hebdo was engaged in some quite racist scandalous depictions of Islam and of Muslims.

SEYMOUR: Sometimes Hebdo played into sexist tropes — One cover depicted pregnant Muslim women, and said these are the Boko Haram sex slaves and don’t touch our welfare — connecting Islam to claims to welfare.

SEYMOUR: The argument that these people should be able to do cartoons without being shot dead is in common agreement. But nonetheless, the argument about free speech is being used to obscure the fact that there is an Islamophobic culture in France and Europe. That is very sterilized to deny that serious antagonisms, conflicts, and racist oppression exists in these societies.

PERIES: The mainstream media ignores the deeper and broader issue of BOMBING attacks on a regular basis in the Middle East–Syria, Iraq, and ISIS–how does that feed into what’s happening in France.

SEYMOUR: To some extent it has to, but not a direct clear connection to these types killings. Foot soldiers are often assuredly radicalized by the war on terror and atrocities and across Europe we’ve seen a lot of radicalization, big antiwar protests. But most people don’t then decide to shoot up a bunch of cartoonists/journalists.


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