agree that CH( presumably Charlie Hebdo) could be very offensive. But they were offensive to just about everyone, and a lot of the time the offense was well merited. They punctured pomposity, hypocrisy, and corruption — and it is the glory of Western democracies that satire of that kind can be tolerated, and certainly not punished. Many people were offended, and sometimes CH went too far, veering into anti-Semitism and crude depictions of religion. But that is not the point. The point of saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is this. I am already Charlie because I regularly write and say things that radical Muslims would consider worthy of death.Everyone on this strand is Charlie, because we all say and write things defending Jews and Israel. It has taken Western society a long time to win our battles for free speech, for the right to criticize, the right to publish without bringing the weight of the law on our heads. I make a great distinction between satirists like CH and out and out anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, and purveyors of falsehood about Israel.
Yesterday, a Saudi blogger called Raif Badawi received 50 lashes. Next week, he will be given 50 more lashes, without medical help. He will be lashed fifty times a week for 20 weeks until he has received 1000 lashes. When that is done, he will spend ten years in jail. He will also be fined over $200,000. His wife and three children have been given asylum in Canada. Her parents have parents have arranged a divorce. All this, a creative llfe all but snuffed out, because he criticized the Wahhabi clergy, a bunch of nasty specimens you would find hard to equal. We are all Raif Badawi. If America, Britain or the EU really came down hard on the Saudis for this, this man may yet be saved. But they won’t, because no matter what the Saudis do, we prefer to stay on their good side. That is why we need people like Charlie Hebdo, who can put one finger up to Muslim beliefs with one hand and Western pusillanimity with the other. We have the freedom to criticize CH in our turn, to write letters to them or the press in general, to take part in TV debates about why we feel offended by some of their cartoons, to meet them in good or ill-tempered discussions. Muslim radicals are trying to take those freedoms away from us, to ring-fence Islam from the rest of society, to make it beyond all criticism or satire. If we do not succeed in resisting this, all the benefits brought by the Enlightenment and the Haskala will evaporate and democracy will collapse. Leaving all other things aside, we must all declare ourselves to be Charlie Hebdo or risk, in the long run, the end of the freest civilization mankind has ever known.