The treatment of Zineb El Rhazoui exposes how all criticism of Islam, even from someone of a Muslim background, is dismissed as racism and Islamophobia.
You have made your battle against racism not into a fight for universal human rights, to erase the differences between citizens of the same country, but into a petty struggle.– Zineb El Rhazoui
Détruire le Fascisme Islamique (2016)
The views of Zineb El Rhazoui on the problems that we face concerning the effects of religion on society are very close to my own. Namely, it is the interpretation and application of written texts and superstitions as a political doctrine that cause problems. For the former journalist at Charlie Hebdo, even a recipe book can become dangerous if you are physically punished for not meticulously following the cooking instructions. El Rhazoui, though, had the misfortune of being born not only a woman, but a Muslim woman. She has been denied the basic rights that all human beings – man or woman – should have bestowed onto them at birth. These rights comprise freedom of choice in how each one of us lives our life, and freedom of opinion that includes the right to criticise and oppose the ideas of others. Having been denied these rights, she fled her native Morocco and found refuge in France, only to be abandoned by those who dare not support her combat, and are too afraid to share her views on the fallacies and dangers of fundamentalist Islam. Reasoned criticism of Islam is too often interpreted as racist, and ends up being silenced. We live in dangerous times.
If the European civilisation produced fascism, is it so far-fetched to think that Islam cannot do the same?
There’s a certain joviality about the voice of France’s most protected woman, as if to say that she is still enjoying life, despite the death threats, the constant bodyguards, and not sleeping in the same place for more than a few days. She jokes about going to her bank to meet her new bank manager, and was able to take out a life insurance because he didn’t know who she was. She considers herself lucky to be alive, and now carries extra responsibility to deliver her message of freedom to all Muslim women. She should have been at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, on that fateful January morning, in 2015 – but she wasn’t.
Some say that I have lost my freedom in fighting for freedom. But in my head, I’m ten thousand times more free than those who want to kill me.– Zineb El Rhazoui
Détruire le Fascisme Islamique (2016)
In Morocco, Zineb El Rhazoui has been “judged” for many crimes against Islam, one of which was a protest picnic in 2009, which involved her eating lunch in a public park during Ramadan, in protest to a law imputing a jail sentence of 1-6 months for anyone caught eating or drinking water in public. But by far her biggest crime has been perpetrated here, in Europe, in the West. It is a crime that comprises freedom of speech, and the freedom to hurt people’s feelings. She is occupying a huge political void that is sandwiched between extreme-right-wing ideologies that are assimilated with racial abuse and hatred, and the intellectual left who are supporting the very thing they object to – Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. El Rhazoui defines the latter as being no different to the fascist ideologies that dominated Europe in the 1930’s, and are still present today. If the European civilisation was capable of inventing fascism, is it so far-fetched to think that the Islamic civilisation could not do the same?
In 2012, the Académie Française decided to officially define the freedom to criticise Islam by using a word that made the reasoned criticism sound more like a disease, an irrational mental state that should be treated at all costs, rather than freedom of opinion. The word “Islamophobie” (Islamophobia) made its entrance into the Larousse dictionary.
There are no islamophobes in Morocco, because all those who criticise Islam are silenced. Islamophobia is an invention of the West.
It is certainly a sad conundrum that, in both the Western and Islamic worlds, critics of the role that Islam is playing in shaping societies are being silenced. In the name of Islamophobia, Western critics are being told to soften their criticism of Islam, in order not to offend the Muslim community. But for Zineb El Rhazoui, treating the Muslims as a community is racist in itself. It is akin to Hitler’s notion of the Arian race, where the individual does not exist, but is replaced by the transcendent concept of a different race.
The reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 was a universal showing of disgust, indignation, and condemnation. However, soon after the attacks, voices were being heard suggesting that just maybe, Charlie Hebdo had gone too far in its satire, particularly concerning the prophet Muhammad. It was even suggested that the last thing the West should do, is make fun of the Muslim faith because in doing so we were entering the world of racism, a territory that was in the sole possession of the far-right. Criticising Islam was becoming synonymous with xenophobia. In November 2015, a deadly attack took place at the Bataclan, in central Paris, killing 89 people who were attending a concert. Were they also going too far, in wanting to listen to a pop group?
In constantly reminding us that not all Muslims are terrorists, the West is forgetting that all terrorists who kill on behalf of Islam are Muslims. “We cannot amalgamate the terrorists with the Muslim community,” seems to be the standard answer of main stream Western politicians, other than the populists. It has also become the major slogan of Muslim representatives in Western countries who, it must be mentioned, have not been democratically elected to represent Muslims.
It is thus more than apparent that hard-line Islam – the Fascist Islam that El Rhazoui is referring to has two weapons at its disposal. The first, is a physical repression of all opposing fractions on home soil, be it repression of intellectuals, scientists, human rights activists and, last but not least, Muslim women. This repression is ubiquitous and extends from Morocco to Iran. The second weapon at Islam’s disposal is a psychological one which allows the religion to proceed unimpeded in Western cultures, and comprises the exacerbation of the feeling of guilt through the accusation of racism (Islamophobia) directed at the entire Muslim community, for anyone who dares to criticise Islam and/or to suggest a direct link between Islam and terrorism. A salient example is the more than common argument that because French home-grown terrorists come from deprived suburbs, it is these suburbs that cause radicalisation and not the religion of Islam. Thus, criticising and opposing Islam, together with the accusation of Islam as being the root cause of terrorism, is nothing short of racial hatred. It is quite convenient that there are no Islamophobes in Morocco, because all those who criticise Islam are silenced. Islamophobia is thus an invention of the West, and has been gifted to Islam, to be used as a weapon against secular Western democracies.
Let us stop with this political correctness, and have enough courage to call a spade, a spade. It goes without saying that within the Muslim community, there are atheists, moderates, non-believers, LGBT people, and those like myself who don’t find the answer to the question of the existence of a deity, important enough to be investigated. But there is no doubt that the religion of Islam, used as a political doctrine, is the root cause of the successive waves of terrorism that we are experiencing in the West, as well as the continued oppressive dictatorships in Muslim countries. Let us tackle this problem with reason, not with excuses, and certainly not with politeness.