UNCA panel analyzes Western reaction to Charlie Hebdo attack

By Matt McGregor – mmcgrego@unca.edu – Contributor | Feb. 4, 2015 |

The UNC Asheville history and foreign language departments held a panel discussion last week to question Western media’s reaction to the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

 

The panel said Western media fail to consider the cultural backdrop of Muslim alienation in France.

 

“We really need to take the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and put them in the French context,” said Samer Traboulsi, associate history professor.

 

“The No. 1 bestselling essay today in France is about how France is getting overrun by Muslims and by Muslim values.  That is the No. 1 bestseller.  It’s 500 pages of hate,” said Oliver Gloag, assistant professor of french and francophone studies, referring to the current bestselling novel in France The French Suicide, by Eric Zemmour.  “These ideas are like weapons. What becomes common sense is that Muslims are enemies.”

 

Samer Traboulsi displays an image of Charlie Hebdo cover art, a drawing of a Muslim holding the Quran as a shield against bullets penetrating the Quran and hitting the Muslim.  Traboulsi said the cover satirizes the Egyptian Army’s killing of Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo after the Egyptian government overthrew the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi.

 

“Basically it is saying: ‘The Quran is shit.’ That’s what the Islamist is saying because the Quran did not protect him from the bullets that the army was spraying them with. What we are seeing is basically another form of racism against Islamists,” Traboulsi said.

 

Western media identified the attack as an assault on freedom of speech by Islamic terrorists, said the panel. The slogan “I am Charlie” emerged in social media and public demonstrations to show support for the newspaper and its victims.

 

“Am I Charlie?  In my view, am I Charlie is the wrong question. Does my answer require that I agree with the magazine? Does my answer place me on either side of a pernicious binary that’s more of a part of a problem than the solution?  I fear it does,” said Tracey Rizzo, history professor.  “It’s too easy to say ‘I am Charlie’ without understanding any of the context.”

 

Traboulsi said Algerians came to France because resources in Algeria were usurped by French colonialism.  Algerian Muslims live in the poorest neighborhoods of France, though France benefitted financially from the exploration of Algerian resources. Within that context, the newspaper is less satirical and more harmful.

 

“How would you take such a caricature if you were an Algerian coming from a poor neighborhood and you are being treated as less than human?” Traboulsi said.  “Where’s the responsibility?  That’s the question we need to ask.”

 

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