The Independent shows a confused response to the atrocity in Paris. Your 8 January editorial states that “all organs of the media must resist” this assault on free speech. Kim Sengupta claims that “self censorship cannot be the rule in a pluralistic, democratic society”.
Yet your publication has again proven to be at the heart of the problem and not the solution by refusing to print any of the cartoons that Charlie Hebdo produced. The British press has a lot to learn from Stéphane Charbonnier, the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo who “would rather die standing than live on my knees”. If only our journalistic elite had the same concerns about standing up for what is right.
Congratulations to Dave Brown and to the editorial decision to put his cartoon as a sole, unadorned front page (8 January). I do not remember anything with such punch since Zec’s wartime cartoon of a shipwrecked merchant sailor adrift, clinging to a piece of wreckage, with the caption: “‘The price of petrol has been increased by one penny’ – Official.” That one nearly got the Mirror shut down. Best of luck.
As a Muslim, I strongly condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo and those behind it. These terrorists do not represent me nor do they represent Islam. Their wicked ideology is an existential threat to Islam itself. Part of the problem is that these extremists and Islamophobes – responsible for burning mosques and attacking women wearing hijab – need each other in order to exist. We, the majority of ordinary people of every faith, race and colour, should stand together to these extremists and say enough is enough.
In the wake of the atrocity in Paris we are hearing a lot about freedom of speech, which strikes me as one of the Western world’s enduring myths. We have never had to be more careful about what we say, rightly or wrongly, and mindful of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, colour, social background and belief. We all know the drill.
The media have almost without exception framed the French terrorist atrocities as a narrative of free speech vs evil doers. In this context some dissenting opinion from secular liberals would not go amiss.
At what point does the “right to offend” slide into Muslim-baiting and old-fashioned racism? For example, I fail to see equivalence between the intelligent, irreligious cartoon Jesus and Mo, which attacks the absurdities of belief, and pornographic portrayals of the Prophet Mohamed. Readers might want to check out the Charlie Hebdo cartoon “The Koran is shit” and reflect on how this compares with the lurid depictions of Judaism in Der Sturmer in 1930s Germany.
Given France’s anti-Islamic colonialist past, we should be very wary of how it continues to inform present discourse on Islam in the guise of liberty.
Yet again we see the total insanity of Muslim terrorists in our Western civilisation, and we have to insist that our own press make a firm stand and show these fanatics that we simply do not accept their Stone Age ideas and actions. One way to do this is to just poke fun and generally ridicule them on a grand scale.
Every newspaper in the UK and Europe should agree on a date on which to publish cartoons ridiculing the three main religious groups, Muslims, Jews and Christians, with a banner heading saying: “If you live in the Western world you accept Western freedoms… these include the right to be critical of all religions without fear of reprisal. If you cannot accept this, then you should not live in Western society.”
Dave Simms Davies
Kidnapping, torture, rendition, illegal invasion, bombing, assassination, suspension of habeas corpus. Hundreds of thousands dead including non-combatant men, women and children.
How then shall we now with honour and conviction resist the pernicious, toxic ideology that left 12 people tragically dead in a Paris office?
Those who break the law cannot rely on its protection. To honour Charlie Hebdo we must live up to and by the fundamental principles it has taken us 2,000 years to embed in our democratic way of life. No exceptions. Or we will lose.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
The murders in Paris are inexcusable. However, these writers should have known better than to insult Islam in the way that they did. In a world increasingly divided by religious extremism, with Islamophobia and disaffected Muslim youth going off to fight in the Middle East, we need to build bridges, not destroy them.
The Paris murderers were indeed cowardly and motivated by their perceived highest authority – Allah. The torturers in Guantanamo Bay and the safely ensconced directors of US killer drones were also cowardly and motivated by their perceived highest authority – god and country. This should remind us of the terrors that are unleashed when, instead of our moral sense being grounded in humanity and fellow-feeling, we understand it as determined by an all-powerful authority – be it god, the state or even the free market.
All attention seems to be focused on the Charlie Hebdo staff who were victims of yesterday’s shocking atrocity in Paris.
Spare a thought for the families of the two policemen who were collateral damage from the needless clash of two fundamentalisms.
David Maughan Brown
The A&E crisis we could all see coming
Charlie Cooper’s “Why are we experiencing an A&E crisis now?” (7 January) identifies many of the salient roots of the growing A&E crisis. However, I find it baffling that there is no mention of Andrew Lansley’s disastrous 2012 NHS “reforms”. During a period of enormous financial strain on the NHS (Tory “efficiency savings” ), Lansley chose to introduce an intensely complex and costly (£3bn) reorganisation. The resulting chaos has been an increased burden on the NHS, and further demoralised already stretched nurses and doctors.
Whether or not one agrees with Lansley’s reforms is immaterial. David Nicholson (then the NHS’s chief executive) described the 2012 NHS reorganisation as being “so large it is visible from space”. To ignore its salience to the current A&E crisis seems remiss.
I noticed that an article I was reading in an online South American newspaper this morning had been “sponsored” by the British National Health Service. Were I to be feeling depressed, I should contact them without delay. I was surprised to find that the NHS currently considers itself to be so short of business that it needs to tout for more.
Why is everyone so unprepared for what is happening in the NHS? For ages we have known that people are living longer and, consequently, more hospital beds would be required.
Perhaps, when our MPs are old, they will be able to see what they should have done to avoid the present situation (I suggest scrapping Trident and building more hospitals). But, sadly, by then it will be too late.
Seaford, East Sussex
Truly regional television
On Monday evening I enjoyed watching Broadchurch on television, set as it was by the golden west Dorset cliffs. What a surprise to find that Ellen E Jones (TV review, 6 January) must have seen a different version, which had “crumbling white cliffs”. Was hers perhaps filmed in Sussex? Are there other regional versions?
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
The litter louts among us
Unfortunately, the littering habit observed by Rosy Curtis (Letters, 6 January) is not confined to her local cinema. Littering on trains appears to be increasingly common, not only in the form of discarded freesheets and other newspapers, but also cans, cups, and even banana skins and apple cores, which are particularly unpleasant for cleaners and for other travellers.
Probably the worst example I have seen was a used teabag being discarded on the floor of a train. Would these (middle-aged, professional) people do this at home?
Rosy Curtis is quite right to feel aggrieved by the litter left after a children’s screening of Paddington. But to say “I don’t know what the world is coming to” raises the question: did she not suffer from adults smoking in the cinema in the old days?
St Albans, Hertfordshire