PARIS – It is facile to frame the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo as an attack on freedom of expression. Are we supposed to be surprised that a global terror organization known for its brutal disregard for human rights and humane values would attack a media outlet that has specialized in provoking it?
Just as much of the social media in the Arab/Muslim world has made anti-Semitic rants routine, there is a global industry of outlets dedicated to all things anti-Muslim. In any given week, French, European, (and increasingly Indian) journalists, bloggers, tweeters, and others regularly express all sorts of things that are offensive or provocative to Muslims – or at least the most devout and fanatical among them.
There are literally hundreds of websites, radio programs, and TV networks that specialize in anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda. The Twitter hashtag #killallMoslems has been around since 2011. While this abundance of offensiveness may comfort those concerned about freedom of expression, it does not give me any comfort as a European Muslim.
Europe’s suspicion of Islam is not new, of course, and one could say that the feeling is mutual. But the level of anti-Muslim provocation has become unprecedented recently. In Germany, the so-called Pegida movement now holds weekly anti-Muslim marches in several cities (though, in fairness, even bigger rallies, and almost all of Germany’s political elite, have opposed the Pegida marchers).