Geopolitics

French Magazine Firebombed Over Muhammad Cartoons Goes For Round Two

LE MONDE, i-TELE (France), RTL (Luxembourg)

Worldcrunch

PARIS - Riot police have been sent to guard the offices of controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in preparation of their publication of cartoons mocking Islam's Prophet Muhammad Wednesday.

The French weekly yesterday announced it would publish satirical cartoons of the prophet in this week's edition. The cartoon portrays the prophet in a wheelchair pushed by a caricature of a Jewish man. The publication is a response to the continuing violence in the Muslim world over the film the Innocence of Muslims, and a move to promote the freedom of the press.

Charlie Hebdo last year similarly ran an issue that was "guest-edited" by the Prophet Muhammad, dubbed Sharia Hebdo. The publication provoked a scandal in France and the magazine's offices in Paris were subsequently firebombed.

French officials have announced they will close embassies and French schools in 20 countries around the world, fearing the publication will inflame tensions.

URGENT - CARICATURES DE MAHOMET : #Paris fermera ses ambassades et ses écoles dans 20 pays vendredi f24.my/S5nAtc #CharlieHebdo

— FRANCE 24 (@FRANCE24) September 19, 2012

French politicians have appealed to the magazine to change direction. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is currently in Cairo, has condemned the magazine's publication in a time of such hostility, reports i-Télé. However, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has affirmed that freedom of speech is a fundamental principle.

The magazine's editor, who goes by the name Charb, spoke to European-wide radio RTL: "If we start to ask questions now about whether or not we have the right to draw Muhammad, if it's dangerous or not, the next questions is going to be: "Can we show images of Muslims in the paper?" Then the question after that will be: "Can we show images of people in the paper?" etc. And then at the end, we won't be representing anything and this form of extremism that is happening around the world will have won."

This week, American weekly news magazine Newsweek also provoked derision over its insensitive coverage of the continuing violence and its sensationalist headline "Muslim Rage," reports Le Monde.

The magazine asked readers to give their opinions, however the move backfired with netizens rather using the hashtag "#MuslimRage" to poke fun.

Man next to me on subway reading Koran on his Samsung Galaxy tablet just offered his seat to an older lady. #MUSLIMRAGE truly affects us all

— Andy Greenberg (@a_greenberg) September 18, 2012

You lose your nephew at the airport but you can't yell his name because it's JIHAD. #muslimrage

— Hijabi Girl (@HijabiGrlPrblms) September 17, 2012

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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