Charlie Hebdo criticised for calling Brussels attacks tip of Islam 'iceberg'

Magazine suggests bombings in Belgium are ‘visible part of a very large iceberg’

Adam Withnall
Sunday 03 April 2016 17:17 BST
Charlie Hebdo was itself the victim of an Islamist terror attack on 7 January 2015
Charlie Hebdo was itself the victim of an Islamist terror attack on 7 January 2015 (Reuters)

The editors of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are facing criticism for an article linking the Brussels terror attacks to ordinary Muslims in Europe.

In an editorial entitled “How did we end up here?” the magazine which suffered its own terror attack on 7 January 2015 gave its response to the bombings in Belgium two weeks ago which killed 32 people.

“In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed,” the article suggests, before describing a terror attack as the “end of a philosophical line” for a society which tolerates women wearing burqas or bakers not offering ham or bacon.

Charlie Hebdo’s authors argue: “This is not to victimise Islam particularly. For it has no opponent. It is not Christianity, Hinduism nor Judaism that is balked by the imposition of this silence. It is the opponent (and protector) of them all. It is the very notion of the secular. It is secularism which is being forced into retreat.”

The article has been condemned by campaigners for diversity in the media, particularly after Charlie Hebdo was last year awarded the PEN “Freedom of Expression Courage Award”.

Media Diversified suggested the article “slandered individuals who practice Islam” as well as Islam itself, adding that the former “results in violence we have seen against young women and elderly men”.

The Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan tweeted a range of criticisms of the article, including an opinion piece in response to Charlie Hebdo by the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole.

Cole said he had to "carefully scrutinise" the piece before he believed it genuinely came from Charlie Hebdo, and that the authors "finally step away from the mask of 'it's satire and you don't get it' to state clearly that Muslims, all of them, no matter how integrated, are the enemy".

He wrote that reading the editorial it was “hard not to recall the vicious development of "the Jewish question" in Europe and the horrifying persecution it resulted in”.

“Charlie's logic is frighteningly similar: that there are no innocent Muslims, that ‘something must be done’ about these people, regardless of their likeability, their peacefulness, or their personal repudiation of violence,” Cole writes.

Charlie Hebdo team bites back with new issue

“Such categorization of an entire community as an insidious poison is a move we have seen before.”

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