The French satirical magazine, which was the target of a horrific terrorist attack in 2015 that left twelve dead, has long been the center of controversy. In recent years, in particular, it has been accused of stirring Islamophobia. Until now, it’s been possible for the the magazine’s defenders, including myself, to argue that the racism displayed in some of its cartoons reflected a failed aesthetic strategy rather than an ideology of bigotry.
This defense has become harder to make after the publication of a new editorial by Charlie Hebdo contributor Laurent Sourisseau, which blames Muslims as a whole for the Brussels attack. Titled “How Did We End Up Here?”, the editorial surveys a few manifestations of perfectly lawful European Muslims: the philosopher Tariq Ramadan, a hypothetical woman on the street wearing a veil, and a hypothetical pious baker who refuses to serve ham.
The editorial concludes that all of these people made some “contribution” to the Brussels attack:
And yet, none of what is about to happen in the airport or metro of Brussels can really happen without everyone’s contribution. Because the incidence of all of it is informed by some version of the same dread or fear. The fear of contradiction or objection. The aversion to causing controversy. The dread of being treated as an Islamophobe or being called racist.
While earlier Charlie Hebdo cartoons had an element of ambiguity about them, this editorial reveals the magazine’s worldview with a shocking bluntness: Muslims, simply by practicing their faith, are to be regarded as enemies not just of French secularism, but also collaborators in terrorism. It turns out that Charlie Hebdo is exactly what its critics have accused it of being: a bigoted publication.