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Secularists shouldn’t support anti-Muslim bigotry.

The event itself is organised by two products of the counter jihad movement: Sharia Watch and Vive Charlie. Vive Charlie is a magazine journal conceived in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks – where 10 cartoonists (and 2 guards) were murdered for the purported crime of blasphemy. The journal exists as a tribute to the bravery of a magazine which, initially threatened by intolerant ideologues, continued to draw the prophet and, after losing 9 of its staff, still continued to draw the prophet – warmly, humanely and compassionately, with the words “all is forgiven” attached to the issue following the attack. In short, they faced the consequences of religious fascism and didn’t capitulate. The raison d’être of Vive Charlie, like Charlie Hebdo, is iconoclastic: viciously satirising Islamic precepts and the taboo that demonstrably accompanies it. Unlike Charlie Hebdo, though, who were explicitly anti-racist, and came from a tradition that welcomed ethnic diversity but despised toxic doctrines, Vive Charlie is polluted by a propensity to produce racism. The values that inform Charlie Hebdo, the warm humanism and cheerful, indiscriminate irreverence, is markedly different from the values that inform Vive Charlie – which is a repository for cultural chauvinism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

For example, In a recent issue cover, they portrayed a group of migrants as swarms and insects, being hosed down by Boris Johnson – in effect, dehumanising them.

NoisyKaffir, one of the founders of Vive Charlie, contends in a tweet that:

Secularists that accuse other secularists of being islamophobic forget that even moderate Muslims believe every word of the Qur’an.

Forgetting the word “Islamophobic” for one second, he is effectively encouraging his followers to distrust Muslims who claim to be moderate. He is fomenting distrust and suspicion.

Similarly, JihadistJoe, another founder of the journal, is renowned for recycling anti-Muslim cartoons. For example, when referring to Syrian civil war in a tweet, he says:

In a battle between Muslims, there is no good side.

He has also directly compared Muslims to Nazi’s. (Not Islamists, but Muslims).

So Vive Charlie comes from individuals who recycle and propagate anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant bigotry. This should concern anyone who finds such sentiments objectionable. It should concern any well-meaning and principled secularist.

The right of Vive Charlie to pursue their objectives and agenda is paramount, especially when they are faced by those who would shut them down. And those who would shut the event down similarly deserve our scrutiny, for they too are betraying, in a sense, not just liberal values, but the concept of Muslims as autonomous and mature beings. We should subject HopeNotHate to scrutiny.

HopeNotHate is an anti-racist group that recently wrote a report decrying, not just the agenda of the exhibition, but also their very right to hold it. They argued that the exhibition would incite Muslim violence and spark the first flickering of a civil war – endangering and potentially undermining social cohesion. This sounds scary. It isn’t, however, true. And what follows from it isn’t a liberal proposition either; in fact, it’s the antithesis of liberalism in almost every sense. HopeNotHate posits in the report:

We believe that the authorities have to prevent the cartoon exhibition from taking place in Central London because it is clearly an attempt to provoke a violent reaction and divide communities.

This argument rests on two premises: that the exhibition will provoke violence; and that Muslims are provoked into violence by offensive cartoons. To view Muslims as a group incapable of witnessing offence without recourse to violence is to view Muslims contemptuously. This reasoning rests on a denigration of Muslim autonomy. Muslims are the noble savage, recast in contemporary multicultural Britain, whose sensitivities must trump the freedom of wider society – and also the freedom of Muslims themselves, as stated earlier, to challenge and scrutinise aspects of their own faith and culture. HopeNotHate are presenting the progressive case for de facto blasphemy law.

It homogenises Muslims into a mass of grievance-mongers, dangerously coinciding with the vision presented by anti-Muslim bigots. But a more elementary problem is this: freedom of expression involves the freedom to say and host things that may offend other people. HopeNotHate argue, “this is not a case of free speech but incitement”. But when you try to ban something, and your justification is based – through the conceit of incitement – on not offending certain groups, it is evidently a freedom of speech issue. If you arrest a person without a warrant, it becomes a law and order issue; if you ban something without compelling justification – that is to say, because it offends people – it becomes a freedom of speech issue.

I fear the debate may polarise irrevocably. If it continues to widen, the options are equally bleak. Either you become an anti-Muslim bigot or you become apologist for political Islam. It is critical that such a situation doesn’t materialise. For that, people who believe it is wrong to subject people to bigotry and it is wrong to impose religious doctrines on society should plainly say so.

I endorse the right of the exhibition to be hosted. And if the exhibition is attacked, no one is responsible but the attackers themselves. I don’t endorse the exhibition itself because I can’t subordinate my opposition to racism for an end-goal. Principles are important, too; and certain principles should be fairly unshakeable, such as the principle to morally oppose intolerance. The guests are racist, and I think racism is immoral. Therefore, I can’t endorse the exhibition.

This is the final third of Tom’s post. To read the beginning and the middle of the post, click here .

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