<i>Charlie Hebdo</i> and Europe's Rising Right

Officer Merabet was there to guard. That is duty. That is bravery. That is the defense of free speech. He belongs to a larger France, and a better Europe.
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I condemn the murderers who attacked Charlie Hebdo. I condemn the demand that calls us to say #jesuischarlie. Condemning murder does not require the embrace of bigotry. The demand that we embrace Charlie Hebdo belongs to Europe's rightward turn.

#jesuischarlie might be meant as solidarity. But it calls for an identity bounded by bigotry. Charlie Hebdo is a scurrilous rag, willfully offensive, that defended the powerful by attacking the weak. The journal 's favored practice was baiting the Muslim minority: developing ever more pornographic and offensive blasphemies. Muslims in France, especially religious Muslims, are a minority, subject to daily slights and institutional discrimination. Charlie Hebdo manifested its moral courage in a continual parade of hook-nosed Muslims (often Mohammad), leering and lustful, held up for the mocking amusement of secular elites. I mourn the dead. I defend freedom of expression, but I want no part in that. I am not Charlie Hebdo.

They have the right to write, to publish what they choose. We should defend that right, but we are not obliged to praise or agree with Charlie Hebdo. We are not obliged to republish their shameful cartoons, or defend their bigotry. The demand that we do so is another attack on free speech. It is requiring us to speak a script dictated by others, to speak against our will.

I fear for a Europe that embraces these practices.

#jesuischarlie says if you are not Charlie, you are not ours, you are alien. It's us against them (and you know who they are). There is a close kinship between the seemingly liberal #jesuischarlie and the French right of the le Pens, père et fille. Both know who doesn't belong. Both seek a single France, unified in culture and practice. Both call for placing religious Muslims, perhaps Muslims altogether, perhaps even those of Arab descent, outside the boundaries of France, of the West. We can see this in the photographs of the victims, photos that rarely include the two victims with Arab names; two working people: the copywriter and the policeman.

Though they disagree on the France they want, much of the French right and left concur in the demand that France be a single people, alike in their public practices, marked by no sign of religious difference. Right and Left reject the "unassimilable" and regret "the failure of integration." They seize on the ritual humiliation of those who are not like them as an occasion for solidarity. The "je suis charlie" hashtag makes unanimity compulsory: we must all be Charlie, we must all agree, we must all be one.

No. We should be able to value, and to mourn, the lives of those we disagree with.

I mourn. I am angry at an unjust and shameful attack. I grieve the lives lost -- all the lives, not least Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who was one of the first victims of the murderers. His murder is the only one seen, yet it has been rendered almost invisible. Officer Merabet was there to guard Charlie Hebdo. That is duty. That is bravery. That is the defense of free speech. He belongs to a larger France, and a better Europe.

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