Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Charlie Hebdo: The Joyous Union of Antisemitism and Islamophobia, Courtesy of French Secularism

Approaching Wednesday morning in  Beirut, it has now become know that tomorrow the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication, will be putting forward an issue that includes satirical depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Below is the cover of that issue--before anyone gets angry, do recognize that it is not identifiably a picture of Muhammad and Moses, but a picture of a traditionally dressed orthodox Muslim and Jew. 

Now, I have no doubt that there are highly offensive cartoons of the Muslim prophet on the inside, but what we should not forget to pay attention to is precisely this outside cover. Do you see a Catholic priest? No. At first glance (and obviously we will have to all read, or at least see, the full issue tomorrow), this is a incredibly stereotyped and prejudicial depiction of orthodoxy. The two figures are both religiously observant--they wear the clothes that they feel are best suited to further their spiritual end. And they are both being maligned intensely. Yet absent is the Catholic priest with his robes and his crucifixes and collars and communion wafers. If this magazine is claiming to be a French secular publication, than the question is why the orthodoxy of Islam and Judaism is being so singled out, and what that says about a French 'secularism' which is, in the end, Christian. The Jew and the Muslim are the outsider--the widow wearing black is normal, while the girl wearing hijab isn't; the family not eating fish on Friday is normal, while the family that does not eat pork is foreign. A priests robe is normal, but a head-covering the kind that either of the gentleman above sports is simply weird.

Regardless of how insulting the inside of the magazine might be, Charlie Hebdo has brilliantly (if unintentionally) critiqued French society and the magazine itself for being, time and again, mind-bogglingly blind to the Christological foundation of its 'secularism.'