FIREBOMBED for practising free speech….

Muslim fanatics destroy another western media headquarters.

The other night, at one in the morning, the latest entry to a now sizeable list of violent reactions towards depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was filled in after the headquarters of the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was  set ablaze in response to their cartoon of Muhammad under the headline, ‘Charia Hebdo’ and the caption, ‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter’. The most obvious mark of this case, a gruesome irony that it shares with others of this kind,  is that the now predictable response to a characterisation of the arsonists’ religion as a mirthless and violent one, was to burn the magazines headquarters down, revealing a quite striking stupidity.

It is a necessity in the face of such moronic violence to prove its inefficacy by republishing the offending picture:

‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter’

After the Jyllands-Posten newspaper published twelve caricatures of Muhammad it was a group of Danish Muslims who circulated them around the world causing the infamous riots and boycotts of Danish goods across the Middle East. They also inserted two cartoons of their own,one depicting Muhammad with a pig’s snout and the other of him performing a sex act on a dog. The people behind these vicious and bullying attacks have proved repeatedly that many do not actually care about depictions of Muhammad (not that the feelings of people whose authentic disgust at such scribbles leads them to this level of thuggery should concern any serious person) and that they are a ghoulish little band desperate to drum up violent reactions with the West at every opportunity. The magazine’s slogan of, “bête et méchant” (“dumb and nasty”) serves well to describe those who have burnt its headquarters.

The most important reason to not take them seriously and indeed why the offending images should be replicated and republished as a response is a perfectly clear and well practised axiom: don’t negotiate with terrorists. These are people who threaten the lives of cartoonists and novelists, stab film makers and translators, and attempt to intimidate foreign governments and media into jettisoning every principle on freedom of speech and expression. The precedent set would be catastrophic and perhaps if the response to The Satanic Verses death threats in 1988 (In Britain the Union of Islamic Students’ Associations in Europe issued a statement of support for the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa in blatant disregard for laws prohibiting soliciting murder) had been less spineless then we would have fewer of these incidents to deal with. If concessions are made in the face of violence then freedom of expression is nonsensical as an idea and it is certain to be treated as such. It is impossible to imagine that in such a case it would not be simply a matter of time before further concessions were extorted.

Forget about the terrible precedents that caving in to these demands or refusing to publish the pictures would set, the only response that any self respecting government or people can make to such impudent upstart-ery as this is to roundly raise the index and middle finger. This means republishing the cartoons is imperative, despite the fact that they are badly drawn and the jokes are exceedingly lame (which is the only important reason why the cartoons shouldn’t have been published in the first place). The magazine has since ‘defended the right to poke fun’ by reprinting the cartoons after the firebombing and the attacks (as well as the cartoons) have received widespread condemnation from Muslim authorities in France, so why should the voice of Islam that is listened to be the one of those who spend their leisure hours torching newspaper offices? The only way to make this kind of violence redundant is for everybody who has the capability to publish the images to do, continuing to make concessions in the face of threats of violence can only further establish it as a tool for thugs and extremists.