We should all unequivocally condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings as crimes of fascism. That’s what muslim fundamentalists are. That is their ideology. It is visible in their strategy. They should not be placated or made allowances for – ever. But it is precisely because I love the land of La Révolution Surréaliste (which knew exactly where it stood on both religion and French imperialism in Algeria) that I do not “stand as one with the whole Western World” in my condemnation.
I stand as one with all people of all lands who condemn killing and support freedom of speech. I do not stand as one with those who are selective about which killings they condemn or whose freedom of speech they support. Those who are using the attacks to justify their own agenda of intolerance might as well have pulled the trigger themselves – and should be treated with the same contempt because their hatred will only lead to further killing. The French state is first and foremost amongst these hypocrites. Kids locked up for posting cartoons on the internet. Kids locked up for posting tasteless jokes. They clearly aren’t Charlie – the French state has decreed as much. So will Hebdo rip Hollande a new arsehole on the next front cover? If their credentials are genuine then they can do nothing else – otherwise they run the risk of being proved the state-sanctioned Islamaphobes many accuse them of being.
But if we’re being honest we can’t fall for the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity bullshit that allows France to present itself as the pinnacle of modern democracy. If they are so liberal equal and fraternal why are people of Algerian descent so over-represented in their prisons and sink estates. The land of the Dreyfuss affair has always had a problem with racism. Just like most other states; most other democracies, the tyranny of the majority has never been far away. This is not to single out France – merely to try and pop the bubble of French exceptionalism which the Charlie Hebdo shootings appear to have been co-opted to support. And the bubble must be popped. Exceptionalism is the poisoned root from which fascism flourishes.
In the UK too, our politicians have excelled themselves in hypocrisy. At the time of the shootings Ed Milliband was busy suspending a local councillor who had retweeted a satirical photo that had the Tories’ road to recovery leading into Auschwiz. So much for the importance of satire! While David Cameron was busy participating in the world leaders’ staged and elitist show of solidarity in Paris, the London, a Je Suis Charlie demonstration was held in Trafalgar Square – as we are all banned from holding demonstrations in Parliament Square. Not content with that, Cameron wants more powers to ban social media and to remove workers’ right to strike. But in the media Cameron is lauding freedom of speech. Suddenly, we’re all part of Europe. Suddenly fascists are defending civil liberties – or so they would have you believe.
I have had arguments with several so-called atheists and secularists who seem to have fallen for the argument that Islam is exceptional in its violence: People whose focus has shifted from criticising all religions to focusing on Islam – ignoring the terrorist atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity, Judaism and every other religion. They argue that they are addressing the most pressing aspect of the problem – when in reality what they are doing by singling out one faith is becoming a part of the problem. Again we must remember that exceptionalism is a tool of fascists around the world. Of course there is a problem with a brutal and violent current of Islamic thought – and the exceptionalists will quote their atrocities and intolerance ad infinitum. “Where are all the peaceful muslims to condemn them?” they smugly ask, not only ignoring a significant number of Muslims who have done just that but also forgetting that in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Iran, in Palestine, in Algeria, in Nigeria and elsewhere, the Imperial powers; Britain, France, the US and its puppet states like Israel have systematically bombed a huge number of peaceful Muslims back to the stone-age!
The US used Islamic fundamentalism as part of their cold war – giving the USSR “it’s own Vietnam,” just as the British have always used the balance of powers to achieve their imperial ends. We have moved from colonialism to the Cold War to global capitalism but the underlying strategy has remained the same – the foreign policy of western states run for the benefit of capital. This the global strategy that saw support for fascists across the world. Supporting arming and training them; giving them a base from which to preach their hate. 9/11 has a whole different significance in Chile, where it is the date when a US backed fascist coup deposed the democratically elected government and thousands of trade unionists – and their families – were rounded up, tortured and killed. Chile is not exceptional, similar strategies were adopted across Central and South America, Asia, Africa – and Europe too.
By any measure you choose – and over any period of history you choose – up to and including the current day, Western foreign policy has killed more people than Islamic fundamentalism. Even now there is a huge imbalance. It is called asymmetric warfare. The West uses drone strikes, tomahawk missiles and cluster bombs while the fundamentalists use AK-47s and machetes. The West rarely sets foot on foreign soil and relies on air superiority while the fundamentalists roll up in pick up trucks and the occassional looted armoured car. This is not to condone or excuse the atrocities of islamic fundamentalists – merely to acknowledge that they are not alone in their vicious murderousness. Indeed, compared to the likes of Blair, Bush, Cameron, Obama, Netenyahu and the rest they are a two bit outfit that is only facilitated in their organisation by the brutal and destructive foreign policy of the West.
Of course the fundamentalists generalisation of western civilians as culpable in the atrocities of the West is every bit as misguided and counter-productive as the generalisation of all Muslims as violent. Yes, the West needs to change radically from the paradigm of constant omnipresent exploitation, the tentacles of which reach all over the world. Put simply, the West needs a revolution – but the Islamic fundamentalists should ask whether their actions have made that more or less likely. Their actions have provided an external threat that has allowed Western capitalist governments the opportunity to crack down on civil liberties and increase their military actions around the world. It has shattered the growing solidarity against global capitalism and replaced it with a narrow and degenerate nationalism.
Such has been the negative impact they have had on campaigns for global equality, it is almost as if the jihadists were working at the behest of global capitalism! Of course to say such a thing is to invite accusations of being a conspiracy theorist. Let us just accept that it is a matter of public record that Western governments have consistently supported forces of Islamic fundamentalism and then presented them as a threat to our democracy. The fact that they have repeatedly done this over a period of at least 50 years either suggests that,
- They are irredeemably incompetent
- They deliberately choose to do so
Either way they have proved that change is well overdue.