Agnes Poirier: A disturbing development in secular, integrated France

Share
Related Topics

The offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are petrol-bombed the day the magazine releases its own ironic tribute to the Arab Spring with a special "sharia" issue. It is, of course, no coincidence. But the fact that such a violent act is taking place in secular France, which has the biggest Muslim and Jewish communities in the EU, is an unexpected and worrying development.

Charlie Hebdo, a kind of Gallic Private Eye, stronger on cartoons than words, is no stranger to controversy. In 2006, out of solidarity with the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten, attacked by Islamist fundamentalists, it reprinted the now famous 12 cartoons representing the Prophet Mohamed, along with its own series lampooning other religious figures. Sales skyrocketed, and the issue became a collectors' item overnight. Its cover showed Prophet Mohamed with his head in his hands, crying and lamenting: "Oh, how hard it is to be loved by imbeciles!"

After the publication of the Danish drawings fuelled massive protests in the Muslim world during which 50 people died, the question of reprinting those drawings, in the name of freedom of expression, was raised in many European countries. Only Britain stood out. Urged by the Blair government, no British publication dared provoke fundamentalists' anger. Traumatised perhaps by the London bombings which took place only a few months earlier, the British press lay low. Charlie Hebdo didn't. It was sued for its trouble, but it won. "Criticism is no racism," said Philippe Val, the magazine's editor at the time.

Surveys have showed that the six million French Muslims and 600,000 French Jews are the most integrated in Europe. An overwhelming majority feel first and foremost French; they embrace the Republic's idea that religion belongs to the private sphere. However, the past 20 years have also seen religious practices increase in those communities. In 1989, 60 per cent of French Muslims said they observed Ramadan. This year, the figure was 70 per cent.

Last week, many French commentators were baffled that the 600,000 Franco-Tunisians who took part in Tunisia's elections voted en masse for the Islamist party, Ennahda. This seemed a surprising choice, especially in the light of party chairman Rached Ghannouchi's diatribe against the "Franco-Arab linguistic pollution".

This week's Charlie Hebdo's special "sharia issue" is precisely pointing out the irony in the so-called Arab Spring. Campaign for equality and get polygamy! Fight for democracy and wake up with sharia law! Here is a fertile subject for satirists. The "terrorist attack" against Charlie Hebdo, as the French Interior Minister immediately called it, should bolster the sales of its sharia issue. Hopefully, it will instil some much needed humour and resistance spirit to a disturbing trend, as well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Hinkley Point A to the right of development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station are due to be built  

Should the UK really be putting its money into nuclear power in 2015?

Chris Green Chris Green
President Barack Obama  

US climate change initiative: President Barack Obama's legacy will be written in history

Jeremy Leggett
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen