2007 - 2020

The Limits of Macron’s Liberté

In 1996, Samuel Huntington published a book entitled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, in which he reduced geopolitics to a simplistic view of a world divided between the West, Islam and China – conveniently ignoring all forms of economic exploitation. His arguments can be easily refuted, but his ideas persist because they provided a politically useful narrative. They were adopted by people on the right, such as Henry Kissinger, who didn’t want any questioning of the economic order and needed an external threat as a focus for discontent. And they also chimed with the world view of Islamists who divide humanity into believers and non-believers.

Those without the political motivation to adopt Huntingdon’s thesis could see its limitations, even if they didn’t always appreciate the dangers in both what it said and what it left out. But every so often, something happens that encourages people to seek out this type of binary understanding – and so play into the hands of reactionary forces, both Western and Islamist.

The brutal murder of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who showed his class a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad as part of a discussion on freedom of speech, was such an event. And this has been brought into even sharper focus by the equally violent murders of three churchgoers in Nice. In giving public expression to almost universal feelings of horror and sympathy, and in stressing commitment to free speech and secularism, political leaders need to choose their words carefully. They must take care not to alienate the great majority of Muslims who are equally appalled by this violence carried out in the name of their religion, and also not to say anything that could encourage popular feeling against all Muslims.

President Macron has been resolute in defence of freedom of speech, and for that he should get the support of all democrats. Free speech is fundamental to democracy, and this includes the freedom to criticise and satirise other people’s interpretation of the world. It should make no difference whether that interpretation is guided by a religious text or a political philosopher or a Facebook conspiracy theory.

But freedom of speech also means freedom to argue against free speech and to criticise the French stand, and here the French government seems blind to its own hypocrisy. The problems with the government position were exemplified by Macron’s plans for a new parliamentary bill on secularism, to be introduced in December, as outlined in a speech he gave on 2 October. (This was before Paty’s murder, but was a response to earlier Islamo-fascist attacks.)

Many people have quoted Macron’s description of Islam as ‘a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world’, to claim that he was criticising Muslims as a whole. In fact, what Macron did was attempt to draw a line between Muslims for whom faith is a private matter, and Islamists who openly use it as the basis for their political philosophy, which he regards as unacceptable. He, thus, effectively argued that freedom of speech should not extend to putting forward ideas that are not in tune with French secularism.

Macron spoke of Islamism leading people to repudiate the laws of the Republic and so to normalise violence – an argument with a huge logical leap that he does not attempt to justify. In practice, like any religion, Islam can be interpreted by its followers as an encouragement to civic responsibility or as a message of intolerance. Similar ‘logic’ to that used by Macron has also been employed in the UK, and this approach is doubly worrying. It gives official recognition to the idea that Islam is uniquely and intrinsically violent, and it opens the door to an outlawing of dissident political thought of all kinds on the grounds that it could lead to violence, even when it has not actually done so. That can affect anyone campaigning against the political mainstream, and is the type of thinking that labels environmental campaigners ‘domestic terrorists’ and (as recently announced in England) outlaws discussion of anti-capitalism in schools.

Macron’s speech also made it clear that he would not tolerate arrangements to accommodate cultural difference – such as women-only swimming sessions – which would be regarded in the UK as basic elements for friendly coexistence. Secularism only means the separation of religion and state, and provides an important basis for religious freedom, but the French version, which came out of the revolution against church-sanctioned monarchy, has tended to be particularly insistent on banishing public religious expression. Such rules can actually reinforce separation and distrust.

And, in a further example of hypocrisy, commitment to secularism has not prevented the French state from trying to intervene in how Islam in France should be expressed. Continuing a line of argument developed by Nicolas Sarkozy, Macron explained that he is supporting the French Council of the Muslim Faith (which Sarkozy established) to build an ‘Enlightenment Islam’. (There seems to be no space allowed for Muslim communities that are not Islamist but don’t fall under the Council umbrella.) In Macron’s understanding, freedom of religion only goes so far.

Promotion of an approved ‘moderate’ Islam has been government policy in the UK, too, accompanied by the disastrous ‘Prevent’ system, which appears to put all Muslims under suspicion of terrorist sympathies. Policies such as these only encourage alienation and suspicion, feeding into the radicalisation and Islamophobia that they are meant to combat.

It is easy, though still essential, to condemn the hugely dangerous statements of political leaders such as Turkey’s President Erdoğan, who have exploited the situation in order to heighten divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims. For Erdoğan, attacking Macron and France feeds into his own self-promotion as a leader of the Muslim world, and he is also glad of another excuse to threaten one of the few European leaders who has not been afraid to criticise him. But we should acknowledge the culpability of Western liberals, such as Macron, too.

If they are concerned with the growth of support for an Islamist world view, then these Western leaders should be asking why there has been a turn back towards Islam. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why people might look for an alternative to a capitalist system that has created unprecedented levels of inequality (especially in former colonial countries and for people of immigrant background), that has brought years of war to the Middle East, and that threatens to destroy the planet.

In the recent past, people looking for a better world turned to socialism; but after relentless attack by liberal elites, Left politics in both the UK and France has been reduced to a low ebb. Where socialism is no longer able to offer comradeship and hope, Islamists have been able to build in the vacuum. Religion can’t be contained by law, however people can be persuaded that there is another solution to the world’s problems.

Macron is neoliberal to the core, and would never look to the left for a counter to Islamism, even though it is only socialism that is wholeheartedly committed to the attempt to create a system based on liberty, equality and fraternity.

 

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  1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    In a truly secular society, no reference whatsoever would be made to what incited the criminal act but only to the criminal act itself. At trial, the defence could, if it wished, claim incitement in mitigation of the act, and that claim could be taken into consideration in the deliberations of the jury. But there’s otherwise no context in which discriminating criminal acts on the basis of who committed them or why can be justified. Murder’s murder, whatever led to its commission.

  2. MacNaughton says:

    We know that there is one thing which is terribly insulting to Muslims, and completely taboo to them , and that is to depict their prophet, Mohammed, in any graven image . To mock him is even worse.

    The graven image of their prophet is strictly forbidden under Islam, which is why they have such beautiful and elaborate calligraphy, because so often the artistic impulse went and still goes to calligraphy as opposed to pictorial art in Muslim countries. It’s a very specific thing we are talking about.

    Obviously, I am not suggesting any actual curtailment on freedom of speech, though in actual fact that exists as Julian Asange knows all too well,but is it really too much to ask that we refrain from mocking Islam by depicting their prophet in a derogatory way? I mean, if my neighbour is a Muslim, why would I not show a little sensitivity and tolerance to my neighbour and refrain from doing the one thing which I know is taboo for him?

    Macron is a fanatic in his own way. This blind and crass insistence that it is a right in the West to insult the most important figure of a faith which has hundreds of millions of adherents around the world. I mean, why would you do that? Especially given that France has invaded, bombed occupied and basically trashed Muslim countries since Napoleon invaded Egypt two centuries ago?

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      And those who are insulted by the engraving of images have every right to be insulted. But, in a liberal democratic society, suffering insult doesn’t entitle you to take another person’s life.

      1. MacNaughton says:

        Of course! Surely I don’t need to clarify that I find these recent attacks in France absolutely barbaric and abhorrent?

        I just don’t know what Charlie Hebdo are trying to do. If there was an institution of govt or centre of power in the Muslim world wanting to ban these cartoons which could be influenced, then I might understand what Charlie Hebdo are doing. But there is no such power in Islam, there is no papacy or church as such. No one is in charge of the Muslim world.

        And no one in France or elsewhere in Europe is questioning Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish what they want. The question is: is it wise to publish these cartoons in a multi racial Europe and globalised world, knowing that at the very least you’re going to create huge amounts of antagonism? Given the asymmetric power relations which exist between the West and the Muslim world? Given the alienation of a large part of Muslims in France?

        We are talking about one single image Muslims find deeply offensive. One. Nobody can seriously argue that to refrain from publishing images of the prophet Mohammed we are seriously under!ing or endangering freedom of speech. It’s just nonsense.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          ‘I just don’t know what Charlie Hebdo are trying to do?’

          It’s called ‘provocation’. The aim is to entice one’s target to say or do something in response to one’s provocation that will irreparably damage its reputation and thereby undermine its authority.

          ‘The question is: is it wise to publish these cartoons in a multi racial Europe and globalised world, knowing that at the very least you’re going to create huge amounts of antagonism?’

          Self-censorship, out of fear of the possible consequences of anatognising someone, is more of a threat to freedom of expression than is overt censorship. The 2015 attack on the newspaper’s offices, in which twelve people were murdered by two ‘idiots who betray their own religion’, didn’t interrupt the paper’s publication. The next weekly edition was published as normal, and its website was back up the next day after the murder with ‘Not Afraid’ emblazoned across its homepage. It would have been ridiculous for a newspaper that uses ridicule to indiscriminately attack dishonesty, hypocrisy, and intolerance to have reacted to the attack with craven cowardice.

          The day we begin self-censoring because we’re afraid someone might chib us is the day terrorism wins.

          1. MacNaughton says:

            Oh come on, Anndrais, you sound like George W Bush or Jose María Aznar.

            Terrorism can’t win anything, because terrorism is a methodology or a means, it is not a political goal or an end.
            I would define terrorism as the use of extreme, lethal violence by non-State actors to further a specific political agenda or set of political goals.
            To talk of “defeating terrorism” is like talking about “the war on drugs”.
            These are just empty slogans which serve to obfuscate the truth and obscure the reality of the situation.

            As for self-censorship, western intellectuals for example are constantly self-censoring in order to fit in with the liberal western paradigm. If you reject that paradigm, you’re out, you’re not going to be invited by the BBC to talk about your new book, or appear on the Oprah Winfrey show or whatever. Or get to write a weekly newspaper column like so many of Spain’s totally insufferable and archly-conservative novelists do in El Pais.

            If you stand up and staunchly reject Western interventionism in the Muslim world, you’re out, you’ll be sidelined, and in the worst case scenario, you end up rotting in a British jail like Julian Assange…

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            No, you’re right, MacNaughton; I misspoke. I should have said that those who employ terror or the threat thereof to get us to self-censor win the day we obliged them by self-censoring.

            And, yes, you’re right about the use of fear (if not terror), including the fear of exclusion, to enforce the hegemony of ruling cognitive and evaluative paradigms; this is precisely what the great classical laissez-faire liberal, J.S. Mill, decried as ‘tyranny’ in his epochal essay on Liberty.

            Yet, still you seem to suggest that critics like Charlie Hebdo, Rushdie, and Molina should, like some big fearties, self-censor in response to the threat of violence.

          3. MacNaughton says:

            I’m not comparing intellectuals with Charlie Hebro, it’s C.H which publishes the cartoons, not Antonio Muñoz Molina.

            In my opinion, C.H should do us all a favour and stop publishing these cartoons which invariably lead to violence. There have been another wave of attacks in France, a priest was shot yesterday as well, and in Quebec there has been another incident and it could easily spread to Britain or Spain or elsewhere. People are dying. For what? So C.H can prove “they’re not scared”? OK, they’ve proved it. From my point of view, living in a multiethnic society must invariably mean making some concessions at times. As for freedom of speech, as the old saw goes, it doesn’t give you the right to shout “Fire!” in a packed theatre just cause you can..

            The point about most Western intellectuals, and Muñoz Molina and Rushdie are by no means the worst cases, far from it, is that they actually rarely or almost never engage with the arguments from the other side, or familiarize themselves with the history and culture of Islam .
            Rushdie is a bit of a case apart because of his own background, and the traumatic and terrible experience he went through with the fatwah from Iran, but for example, if you buy “The Second Plane” by Martin Amis, his book of essays about 9/11, there is no bibliography at all.
            Martin Amis tells us what Martin Amis went through after 9/11. It’s all about Mart.
            There’s no analysis, no historical context, zero knowledge of Islam or interest in Islam, nothing about hundreds of years of Western imperialism. No bibliography, nothing. There’s no indication he has read someone as important as Edward Said, or Frantz Fanon, or these days someone like Pankaj Mishra (“The Age of Anger”).

            And it’s the same with most western intellectuals, they have no interest in engaging with Islamic culture in any shape or form. And so they just repeat commonplaces and clichés and basically offer a more literary and better written version of what Tony Blair says or George W Bush or Macron have to say.

          4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            ‘There have been another wave of attacks in France, a priest was shot yesterday as well, and in Quebec there has been another incident and it could easily spread to Britain or Spain or elsewhere. People are dying. For what?’

            For liberty; to resist tyranny; to refuse to self-censor under threat of violence.

          5. MacNaughton says:

            Well, this is where we disagree I think, I mean the idea that publishing or not publishing a cartoon of Mohammad is some kind of litmus test for democracy and freedom. It’s just not in my opinion. It’s a very specific and circumscribed thing and pretty trivial as far as I can see. I would categorize it simply as a courtesy to European Muslims that we listen to them on this issue and respect their wishes. French Muslims or British Muslims are after all fully fledged citizens of those countries and they have a right to be heard as such.

            If a critique of Islam were included in a work of art, and the artist came under attack, such as was the case of Rushdie, then that is a very different matter, and there I am 100% behind Rushdie (which is to say, nothing like John LeCarre).

            This idea that publishing these cartoons is somehow intrinsic to our freedom and democracy, which is what right wing fanatics like Oriana Fallaci argue, seems to me to be an argument which is blown all out of proportion.

            Rushdie went through a terrible time of course, but as far as I am aware, he is yet to set out thoroughly how it came to pass that the Ayatollahs came to power in Iran, how it was that the democratically elected govt of Mosaddeghin was ousted by the British and Americans in a military coup back in the 50s, how the corrupt dictator the Shah came to power, and how it then transpired that a great number of young Iranians began to see national salvation in an extreme form of Islam.

            which is to say, the people of Iran elected a govt back in the 50s which went to nationalize the oil industry and was subsequently ousted by the UK and the USA in a violent coup. You might argue that they were forced into the arms of the Ayatollahs by the West. Rushdie was one of those who paid the price…

          6. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yes, it is indeed where we disagree: whether to self-censor or not under the threat of violence is a kind of litmus test of liberty and our commitment to it.

            Like I said, if some folk are offended by something you do or say, then they’re perfectly entitled in a free society to be offended and to express their anger or hurt; they’re not entitled to hack your head off or silence you by threatening to hack your head off.

          7. Wul says:

            “The day we begin self-censoring because we’re afraid someone might chib us is the day terrorism wins.”

            So, you would cheerfully espouse abolition of the UK monarchy or RC Papacy in a Glasgow East End pub after an old firm game? Or would you “self-censor” to avoid getting chibbed?

            Me? I self-censor every day of my life to avoid upsetting my neighbours or just to generally “get along”. You’ll find every-village dweller in every country the world doing it every day. Life is not a thought experiment.

          8. SleepingDog says:

            @Wul, indeed. While we’re on the subject, when exactly did Scotland abolish blasphemy as a criminal offence?
            https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/24/blasphemy-to-be-decriminalised-in-scottish-hate-bill
            I am not quite clear on what jurisdictional high ground some suppose we might be defending here.

          9. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            No, I avoid being chibbed by hooligans by shunning their company; I just know I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut were they to start trying to intimidate rather than argue me out of my contrary opinions, the bastards.

            As for my neighbours, I try to be as honest with them as I can. We mostly co-exist in mutual respect – they leave me alone and I leave them alone, providing we’re not doing one another any harm, and generally manage to resolve any conflicts that do arise between us short of resorting to violence – though I don’t think I’d win any popularity contests. And I wouldn’t see any of them stuck if they were in trouble.

  3. MacNaughton says:

    And we get all these writers like Salmon Rushdie who talks about a “deadly genetic mutation at the heart of Islam” and today in the Spanish establishment newspaper El Pais the Spanish novelist Antonio Munoz Molina who can be relied upon like Rushdie to come out with all the old cliches about Islam – that it is somehow more medieval than Christianity or Judaism which like Islam also hold the Old Testament to be a holy book and the word of God – and obstinately and wilfully ignore the geopolitical reality that the West has been waging war on Muslim countries for about 150 years now.

    That the West has militarized the Middle East when it’s not reduced it to rubble, and that the evidence shows that Islamic linked terrorist attacks are often carried out by young men who are westernized and are recent converts to Islam, anything but religious people by nature. Unstable young men, totally alienated by western society, not religious fanatics.

    Munoz Molina today in El Pais today basically touches all the bases you’d expect the western establishment liberal to touch. Cutting someone’s head off is more barbaric than dropping 1000 pound bomb on a residential area of Iraq or Lebanon or Syria or Lybia. Is it?I can’t see how it really is.

    And then the hypocrisy which never fails to come. So Munoz Molina extols freedom of speech, writing from a country, Spain, where the Constitution expressly forbids insulting or slandering the King….

    The people at Charlie Hebdo are seriously confused. We already have freedom of speech in the west. There is no need to prove the point over and over again.

    1. MacNaughton says:

      We have a big problem in the West with our intellectuals because they have become almost totally enmeshed into the system.

      So, whereas in the past in Europe we always had a very important strata of society, the intellectual class, who could be relied upon to question power and unpick the official discourse of the ruling elite, these days they sing from the same hymn sheet, these days, the writers and thinkers who speak out can be counted on one hand….our intellectuals have been bought…or maybe they become known because they are so conservative anyway..

      So, we know for a fact that Osama Bin Laden set up Al Queida as specific response to the installation of US military bases in Saudi Arabia at the time of the Gulf War back in 1990. But still today he is portrayed as a religious maniac as opposed to what he actually was, which is to say, a very violent and radical political actor who knew exactly what he was doing….

      This is also no doubt why Obama decided to have him extra-judicially murdered as opposed to arrested and tried in America, because if that had happened, the public perception of this religious fanatics in a cave would have been undermined…9/11 was a political act of terrorism, no matter that people like Martin Amid try to depict it as something else…

      It ought to be pointed out that the history of Europe over the last centuries is full of violent political actors who seek martyrdom because they perceive it to further their political cause. For example, the martyrs of the Easter Rising in Dublin 1916….

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Well, I ‘know for a fact’ that Al-Qaeda founded in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdullah Azzam, and several other Arab volunteers during the Soviet-Afghan War.

        1. MacNaughton says:

          Whatever the details, we know for a fact that Bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks as a specific and targeted response against the presence of US military bases in Saudi Arabia.

          As for Macron and much of bourgeois France, these are the descendants of the people who set up the Vichy State and collaborated with the Nazis, sending thousands of Jews to the Camps, something which Marie Le Pen should be reminded of every single time she appears in public, and also the descendants of the French who fought a brutal and dirty war in Algeri for ten years with thousands of extra judicial.killings and mass torture..

          What goes for France goes for Europe. We, the Christian West, gave the world the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet gulags and two world wars which left 100 million Europeans dead. I don’t think we have the track record to be giving the rest of the world lectures on democracy, freedom of speech and setting ourselves up as the standard bearers of civilization….It’s just a joke…

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Funny, that! Someone was on this site not long ago, claiming that we ‘know for a fact’ that 9/11 was an inside job.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @ MacNaughton, a thoughtful response to a thoughtful article. I wonder how much of the content of Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (English translations edited by Bruce Lawrence) people would find they agreed with if they had managed to access them. Of course, these were tailored to a Western audience and in some cases quite slippery, but the descriptions of tyrannical Western-backed Islamic states and Western atrocities seem fairly sound to me, and indeed tally with international bodies of criticism. He is not complaining about cartoons. So why were Bin Laden’s messages so heavily suppressed (like the IRA’s by Thatcher) if freedom of speech is such a fundamental right, and surely we would benefit from knowing more about someone who may have such influence? Bin Laden says, by the way (p46):
        “We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal, and tyrannical.”

        And of course, large numbers of people in the UK are muzzled by Official Secrets legislation, and I guess the French have similar laws (which have, for example, kept nuclear testing details secret from affected Pacific islanders for decades). So British and French public commitments to freedom of speech are monstrously hypocritical, and whistleblowers regularly face lengthy jail sentences (or worse) for speaking out.

        And I see Mark Curtis has released an updated version of his book Secret Affairs : Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, which documents (largely from official records) how the UK/British Empire’s promotion of sections of the Islamic world has favoured violent extremism over moderate peacefulness:
        https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Mark-Curtis/Secret-Affairs–Britains-Collusion-with-Radical-Islam/21378882

        While technically academics can speak out and draw attention to the state terrorism practiced by the likes of the British and French authorities, officially in international codes such states cannot legally commit terrorist offences (although they can be held to commit war crimes and such). State Terrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South (2009) is a very useful if academically-dry summary by Ruth Blakeley.

        Anndrais mac Chaluim is right to characterise Charlie Hebdo’s publications as provocation. Essentially the murder of teachers and cartoonists makes the ideology of the perpetrators look weak (what kind of God or Prophet gives a damn about a cartoon?), violent, irrational, bloodthirsty even if the underlying motivations are more complex, political, desperate and reactive to many much worse provocations, by states with much more violent, irrational, bloodthirsty (France is nuclear-armed, its Presidents may use their nuclear weapons against ‘terrorist’ threats if they feel like it, and their arsenal is presumably enough to wipe out human global settlement on its own). And of course, there is a reason that the Crusaders were widely known to their victims as Franks.

        1. MacNaughton says:

          Thanks, Sleeping Dog.
          What we’re actually saying here, the terrible truth which no one wants to recognize in the Western media, is that with a very different foreign policy in the Muslim world, then many of these terrible acts of terrorism would never have happened.
          If the Americans had withdrawn their military bases after the Gulf War, the 9/11 attacks would probably not have taken place.
          If Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, the London bomb attacks and the Madrid commuter train attacks would never have happened.
          If Hilary Clinton hadn’t insisted on toppling Gaddafi, we wouldn’t have this terrible migrant crisis we’re facing in Europe today.
          The EU should send the Clinton Foundation the bill worth billions for the refugee camps which we are paying Turkey for and other countries too to deal with a refugee crisis directly caused by the Obama administration and their allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar in a) toppling Gaddafi and b) financing ISIS in Syria and Iraq..

          Send the bill to Hilary and Bill Clinton…

          As for Macron, the guy is way out of his depth. He’s just an idiot. He conflates Islam with extreme Islamic terrorism and turns the whole of the Muslim world against him, which is billions of people.

          It’s just yet another example of Western arrogance and the same delusion of grandeur caused by an imperial French past which we get in the UK from the Brexiters and Johnson…

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Ah, we’re getting back into the realm of counterfactuals and alternate histories here.

            The fact is that we are where we are. Everyman and his dog is using fear to try and get us to comply with their will; terrorism is fast becoming the ruling paradigm in politics and government. Stop mocking my religion or I’ll cut your head off; accept our curtailment of your civil liberties or the terrorists will get you; accept our invasion of Iraq or else Iraq will unleash its WMDs against us; vote for independence or we’ll go down the socio-economic drain that the British government is unplugging; stop rattling cages or we’ll attract the attentions of murderous idiots…

            Well, I say ‘No! I’m not afraid.’

          2. mince'n'tatties says:

            So by the biggest stretch of a [hope non-drugged] imagination we are expected to link Boris and Brexit to Islamist throat slitting in French Churches. Seek help, you need it.

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            To be fair, m-‘n’-t, the hypothesis that the resurgence of reactionary and right-wing nationalist, isolationist, and chauvinist movements, in guises ranging from ISIS to Brexit, have emerged in response to the globalisation and normalisation of Western liberal ideals is worth testing. It’s most persuasively advanced by Pankaj Mishra in his 2017 book. ‘Age of Anger: A History of the Present’.

          4. MacNaughton says:

            Pankaj Mishra’s book “Age of Anger” is quite interesting though he over applies his theory of “ressentiment” man to explain virtually every political cause of our time ( including Scottish independence though he considers it a moderate case)

            The world is far too complex to be reduced to a dichotomy between the heirs of Rousseau and the descendants of Voltaire, though as a conceit it does offer a kind of template to understand the times, albeit at the cost of oversimplification.

            What is interesting and useful in the book, is his insertion of violent radical Islamists into the same paradigm as the violent anarchists of late 19th Europe who assassinated a US president and countless European statesmen back in the day.

            Mishra’s contention is that the violent upheavals in the Muslim world of our time are basically analogous to the extreme violence which we witnessed in Europe in the first half of the 20th century, the result of the huge trauma caused by the arrival of modernity…this sounds to me to be true at least in part.

            I tend to think that if we had left the Muslim world to its own devices, they would have come to secularism in their own time. By constantly militarily interfering in their affairs, we thrust them into the arms of Islamic extremism…

          5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yes, well… However you explain the motivations of the criminals, they’re irrelevant to the fact of the crimes they commit.

            So, I still maintain that, in a secular state, in prosecuting criminal cases, no reference need or should be made to what incited that act but only to the act itself. The defence may cite Nietzsche’s theory of ressentiment – a sense of hostility directed toward an object that one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration; that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration – or whatever in mitigation of the defendant’s behaviour, and the jury can make of such an appeal what it wills; but in prosecuting a crime, a secular state has no business bringing religion or any other pathology into the matter. The fact that a murderer claims to be some sort of Muslim or whatever should remain immaterial to the case being brought against them.

            This strict secularisation of the justice process also renders meaningless any group’s claim to responsibility for the action; the responsibility is rendered exclusively that of the agent who carried out the act. Again, the defence may seek to establish that this responsibility was in some way diminished by the defendant’s state of mind at the time; but, again, the fact that a murderer claims not to have been acting for themselves should remain immaterial to the case being brought against them.

          6. MacNaughton says:

            Here’s a list of notable terrorist attacks carried out by American and European anarchists between about 1870 and 1930. As can be seen, it is a very long list. And who remembers any of these attacks today? The Wall Street bombing of 1920 which killed 38 people? It’s all ancient history to us and I am sure one day radical Islamist terrorism will become so too.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_of_the_deed

          7. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            And your point is, MacN…?

  4. John Learmonth says:

    ‘People looking for a better world turned to socialism’.
    Didn’t work out very well did it?

  5. Arboreal Agenda says:

    ‘But freedom of speech also means freedom to argue against free speech’

    Does it? Isn’t this one of those paradoxes that isn’t actually one? Belief in a freedom of speech means one must defend that right but not the right not to have it – it is like saying real democracy means the democratic right to elect a dictatorship that would end democracy. I don’t think this stands up to logical scrutiny and is an argument only seriously used by those who want an end to democracy and free speech, and so by supporting that right, you are, in effect, aiding the end of both. I guess it can mean one can *argue* against free speech but at some point those arguments could be in danger of actually ending it and so should be dismissed.

    The problem in France as I see it is their approach to integration of different cultures in that they are much more sold on the idea of conformity to the French (European) cultural way, rather than acceptance of difference, differences that eventually form part of the overall, ever-evolving culture, so not so different after all. Ironically I would call this a more laissez-faire approach and I don’t think there is much of a clamour to publish the cartoons across the channel because there seems little real point in being needlessly provocative – accepting difference and openness to change, sometimes means an accommodation.

    Having said all that, religion is bunkum, so it is all very sad.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      The principle of free speech does, as a matter of logical fact, imply the right to argue against the principle of free speech. The absurdity lies in demanding that right: because such a demand necessarily presupposes the very principle that any subsequent argument against free speech seeks to deny.

      I don’t think Macron’s ever found unacceptable the use of faith-based arguments against keeping the state independent of religious institutions (secularism) or freedom of expression; what he’s criticised and morally condemned is the use of religious sectarianism to incite political violence.

  6. Nicca says:

    I thought Macron was incredibly brave to take that stance (doubly so after seeing many people’s reactions).

    Caricatures help regulate our society by critiquing it. Freedom of speech is an essential pillar of our democracy.

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