7 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Michel Houellebecq

As the world now knows, the four cartoonists Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier, also the director), Cabu (Jean Cabut), Wolinski (Georges Wolinski) and Tignous (Bernard Verlhac) were assassinated by terrorists at the Charlie Hebdo office in the 11th arrondissement of Paris today. This is a terrific loss.

The satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo comes out on Wednesdays, and coincidentally today's issue contains the above sketch by Luz (Renald Luzier) regarding Michel Houellebecq, whose new speculative novel Soumission (the French translation of the word 'Islam', meaning 'submission') was published today. The headline reads: 'The predictions of the magus Houellebecq: "In 2015 I'll lose my teeth... In 2022 [the year in which Soumission is set] I'll celebrate Ramadan".'

I speak of coincidence because the terrorist attack was apparently carried out at the time and on the day of the week that the assassins knew that everyone would be together at the office for their weekly meeting. So there seems to be no relation whatsoever between the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo and the publication of Houellebecq's book, which envisages a future France ruled by an Islamic political party.

ADDENDUM 1: How much actual support as opposed to coverage has the UK press given to this atrocity? Not a lot, as they don't seem to understand much at all about French culture! (Although I like the Independent cartoon of the middle finger of a cartoonist rising from a blood-soaked copy of Charlie Hebdo, because it shows a definite understanding of the paper's diehard mind!) NB: The Guardian has since announced a donation of £100,000!

ADDENDUM 2: The French press has drawn attention to 'Anglo-Saxon' papers' pusillanimity concerning the affair by showing images from some of the papers actually censoring out 'offending' images from example front page copies of certain Charlie Hebdo issues. As Charlie famously said: 'Rire bordel de Dieu!', which could be translated as 'Fucking laugh for Christ's sake!'. Not the thing to do on a day of mourning, OK, but laughter is the very weapon Charlie use to convey its message: pity that not everyone understood it that way though.

ADDENDUM 3: Le Monde has just (21:47 English time 08/01/2015) announced that Michel Houellebecq has suspended plans to promote his new book Soumission. Instead, he is leaving Paris to 'get away from it all'. His friend Bernard Maris – who published Houellebecq économiste last September – was one of the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

ADDENDUM 4: Now that it seems that France has found and got rid of the instigators of the insane attack on Charlie Hebdo, I can only hope that the events of today (9 January 2015) and the last few days don't have repercussions, and that everyone will realise that there is a major difference between 'Islamo-fascism' and true Islam, which is a peaceful religion. I fear, though, that extreme right-wing parties such as the Front National and its misguided followers will view today's events as a reason to reinforce a racist platform. I was struck by this web page from the Nouvel Observateur, which lists attacks on Islam, but also shows a picture of a Muslim holding a typed paper saying 'PAS EN MON NOM' ('NOT IN MY NAME'). (This of course is what many of us said about the obscene Bush-Blair pact, the plan to destroy Iraq.) No, the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam: it was the result of a few crazed individuals, nothing more. The web page is here.

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