Stuff to read after Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher

Thousands of words have been written and millions of tweets have been tweeted since the attacks in Paris last week, in which Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in three bloody days. A number of pieces of writing stood out for me, so here they are, in no particular order. They are not necessarily representative of where I stand, but they have helped me think about what happened. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, so if you have any more suggestions, please leave a comment…

Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris (Informed Comment)

“Sharpening the contradictions” is the strategy of sociopaths and totalitarians, aimed at unmooring people from their ordinary insouciance and preying on them, mobilizing their energies and wealth for the perverted purposes of a self-styled great leader. The only effective response to this manipulative strategy (as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani tried to tell the Iraqi Shiites a decade ago) is to resist the impulse to blame an entire group for the actions of a few and to refuse to carry out identity-politics reprisals.”

Where is the West’s outrage over Boko Haram? (Haaretz)

The slogan “Je suis Charlie” may be able to help bring about a change in French society, but the failed attempt of the Bring Our Girls Back campaign shows that a passing wave of international shock stemming from specific atrocities in Nigeria will certainly not make a practical contribution to the lives of the inhabitants of that country. To bring about a real change there is a need for an international and regional effort to stop Boko Haram, and for an in-depth solution to the social problems of the region. This effort must be accompanied by international interest in the “small” atrocities in Nigeria, too, such as those in which “only” 20 people are killed or “only” 30 girls are kidnapped.

A Rock and a Hard Place (Trouble and Strife)

My view on the killings themselves is unambiguous: there is no possible justification for what the killers did. I am also absolutely clear about my opposition to Islamism and other forms of modern religious fundamentalism. These are right-wing political movements and the submission of women to patriarchal authority is a central tenet of all of them. On these points I’m not conflicted, nor at odds with the prevailing view. But my difficulty begins when the conversation turns to the more general issue of freedom of expression.

Legendary Cartoonist Robert Crumb on the Massacre in Paris (New York Observer)

Celia Farber: It’s not the faith that is being insulted. It’s the extremism, the psychosis. The totalitarian impulse. Crumb: Charlie Hebdo, it didn’t have a big circulation. A lot of French people said, “Yes, it was tasteless, but I defend their right to freedom of speech.” Yeah, it was tasteless, that’s what they say. And perhaps it was. I’m not going to make a career out of baiting some fucking religious fanatics, you know, by insulting their prophet. I wouldn’t do that. That seems crazy. But then, after they got killed, I just had to draw that cartoon, you know, showing the Prophet.  The cartoon I drew shows me, myself, holding up a cartoon that I’ve just drawn. A crude drawing of an ass that’s labeled “The Hairy Ass of Muhammed.”  [Laughs.]

Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity? (New Statesman)

If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers, why should they envy them? When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating. In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated, by the sinful life of the non-believers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation.

The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders (New Yorker)

The murders today in Paris …. are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001 …..  That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

France Was Dead Wrong To Ask Bibi To Stay Home (The Forward)

Hollande was also wrong because even if all this stage managing was for the cause of “unity,” he cannot ignore the context of these attacks simply because it’s harder and more divisive than trumpeting the republican virtues of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” The same ideology that motivated the killers of the Charlie Hebdo staff animated the killer of the Jews who were shopping for their Shabbat meal last Friday morning. What seems to Hollande apparently like a distraction — “Muslim-Jewish relations” — is very much at the center of these events.

And last, but absolutely not least, this: These ‘staunch defenders’ of the free press are attending today’s solidarity rally in Paris:

And this: This map shows every attack on French Muslims since Charlie Hebdo (

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