Dominant narrative of indefensible Paris attacks must be challenged

The Charlie Hebdo atrocity is not a random act of evil. It has an historical and contemporary context which does not excuse it but which has to be understood, writes Jim Roche of the Irish Anti War Movement.

The Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) unequivocally condemns the terrorist murders of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris. As an anti-war movement we are opposed, and have always been opposed to terrorism in all its forms.

We strongly insist on the right of journalists to practice their trade and, regardless of the content of what they write or publish, nothing can justify their murder in general or this atrocity in particular.

It is shocking, as the Committee to Protect Journalists notes, that since 1992 alone, 1109 journalists have been killed in the course of their work.

The Charlie Hebdo atrocity is not a random act of evil, however. It has an historical and contemporary context which does not excuse it but which has to be understood.

Like other terrorist atrocities such as 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London or even the Birmingham Pub bombing in 1974 (all of which claimed more lives) it is a bitter fruit of the legacy of western imperial interventions, war and racism.

It is completely the wrong reaction to the latter - wrong because it is brutal and reactionary in itself, and wrong because it plays into the hands of reactionaries, warmongers and racists. Nevertheless, it is a reaction to these things.

In particular in France it is a reaction to:

a) French imperialism’s long and atrocious history of colonialism in North Africa and elsewhere, but especially in Algeria where the French Government continue to meddle

b) the French state’s support for the US-led war in Afghanistan, for Israel’s continuous subjugation of and wars against the Palestinians and for its intervention in Mali

c) systematic racism in France itself, especially against Muslims

d) the recent rise of the racist and Islamophobic right in France, with the popularity of the Front National, and in many parts of Europe (Golden Dawn, UKIP, Jobbik etc).

Cartoons which may be seen as provocative, particularly those which feature or even mock the Prophet Mohammed, are certain to offend and likely to enrage many Muslims. As well as being seen as anti-Muslim, they can be used to fuel and encourage racism, thus increasing division and hatred and resulting in a backlash of violence against innocent Muslims.

They can be particularly offensive given the current context of western, including French, governmental policies that has seen hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed, injured, displaced or impoverished in many poor Muslim countries.

This is why the IAWM challenges the dominant narrative of these events disseminated by establishment politicians and much of the media.

This is not a ‘war on freedom’ or ‘a clash of civilisations’ or an attack on ‘our values’.

The French state, which recently banned demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine, has no more right to present itself as the embodiment of freedom than does the US state (remember Guantanamo, CIA torture, Chelsea Manning, Ferguson etc, etc).

The IAWM does not share the same values as David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and the other Heads of State, Ambassadors and representatives of ruling classes who declare their ‘solidarity’ with France.

If western governments really want to put an end to the threat of terrorism they should stop making war on Muslim and other countries, stop occupying and oppressing them, stop supporting Israel in its oppression of the Palestinians, stop arming despotic regimes around the world and particularly in the middle east and stop promoting Islamophobia as an ideological justification for war and imperialism.

These things should be done anyway, not to appease the terrorists, but because they would be right and just in themselves.

We should remember also that imperialist wars, such as the War on Iraq, claim infinitely more innocent lives not only than the Charlie Hebdo outrage but than all terrorist atrocities put together.

We also call on people of all ethnicities, religions and nationalities not to allow themselves to be divided by those who attempt to exploit the events in France to sow hatred, racism, Islamophobia, hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants or to foment any kind of sectarian conflict.

The overwhelming majority of people in the world – secular or religious, European or Arab, Jewish, Christian or Muslim – want to live together in peace. This in an aspiration the IAWM fervently shares and works to achieve.

* Jom Roche is the PRO of the IAWM Steering Committee

MORE ANALYSIS: The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo: An age-old war for hearts and minds

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