The Media’s Muhammad Blackout Defers Again to Islam

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. You may follow Harrod on twitter at @AEHarrod.


charlie-hebdo_1Yet again depictions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad are causing controversy.  The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a special edition released in January 2013 entitled La Vie de Mahomet, 1ère partie:  Les débuts d’un prophète (“The Life of Muhammad, Part One:  The Debut of a Prophet”; part two will follow in June 2013).  Press reaction in both France and Germany, however, has not been uniformly welcoming, demonstrating once more a media aversion to open examination of Islam.

Charlie Hebdo has previously published cartoons involving Muhammad and sharia Islamic law, with the weekly magazine’s offices becoming in the process the victim of a firebombing attack.  Charlie Hebdo describes online its latest presentation of Muhammad as a factual transposition of “Muhammad’s life as told by Muslim chroniclers into images.” “In the West,” the magazine explained, “everyone is able to cite episodes from the life of Jesus, but who is able to cite episodes from the life of Muhammad?  Is this normal in a country like France, where Islam is presented as the second religion?” “If the form appears to some blasphemous,” Charlie Hebdo argued, “the substance is perfectly halal.”

Other publications, though, reacted with reservation towards this latest rendering of Muhammad.  An April 17, 2013, online article about the Muhammad special edition in Germany’s Die Zeit weekly newspaper pictured a battle scene cartoon from the booklet, but with Muhammad himself hidden under a black square.  While conceding a free speech right to depict Muhammad, the article author Gero von Randow justified this blacking out with the “suspicion” that the Charlie Hebdo authors only wanted “to provoke the followers of a religious community.  And indeed one that is discriminated against in France.” Yet the remaining article discussed various interpretations of Islam allowing for depictions of, among others, Muhammad.

L’Express’s Didier Houth similarly in France had called on January 2, 2013 for a “stop to Charlie Hebdo’s provocations” following the appearance of its Muhammad special edition.  Houth thereby attributed to the “press an important role to play in a democracy,” namely giving “support to the understanding between citizens so that democracy can live, live in peace.” Although Charlie Hebdo might have had a “noble goal” of showing journalistic solidarity when the magazine republished the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2006, since then the magazine had led a “crusade against the Muslim religion.” Charlie Hebdo’s repeated Muhammad caricatures raised the suspicion of being an “appeal to hate towards the practitioners of a religion,” something prohibited by the French penal code.

Some viewed Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons a “sane struggle against a religion whose practices are incompatible with French democracy.” Yet, Houth asked, “up to what point does the editorial board of a journal have the right to declare religious practices incompatible with our democracy.” Houth instead entrusted political and legal authorities with “weighing religious practices according to the canon of our democracy.”

Neither Randow nor Houth make much sense, and their arguments are all the more depressing coming from members of the media.  Randow never explained how Charlie Hebdo was any more provocative towards Muslims than the numerous other groups satirized by the magazine in the past, as discussed by Randow.  Nor did Randow explain how Muslims in France face more discrimination than other groups such as, for example, Jews.  Whether Randow, described by his Wikipedia page as a “confessing atheist,” and others will themselves never engage in speech deemed provocative by, say, Catholics, meanwhile, remains to be seen.

Houth likewise did not substantiate his claim of a Charlie Hebdo “crusade” against Islam.  As the magazine itself indicated, any emphasis on Islam could be due to other factors, like this religion’s relative obscurity or present newsworthiness.  Nor did Houth explain why any campaign against a given faith or faith in general is wrong, other than to dismiss such a campaign as a matter of “hate” and not enlightenment.

Houth’s conceptions of the media are also rather strange.  His demand that the press serve an undefined “calm dialogue” and “understanding between citizens” is at variance with traditional views of the media as an unfettered intellectual forum.  Houth’s indicated attribution of the third-party bloodshed to media criticism of a given belief like Islam would similarly eviscerate free speech with a “heckler’s veto.” Houth’s reservation of “weighing religious practices” to governmental authorities, meanwhile, completely ignores the press’s fundamental informational and oversight roles.

Die Zeit’s black box Muhammad and Houth’s Charlie Hebdo condemnation are just the latest examples of how media outlets around the world uniquely defer to Islamic sensibilities.  Yet such deference calls into question the sometimes unwarranted expectation of free societies that the media be an objective observer of the world.  A media fully fulfilling its mission of shining a light on the truth simply cannot darken out Muhammad.

This article was sponsored by The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    The contrived bugaboo of "Islamophobia" ( http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/12/06/islamophobia-

    has dhimmified western interests and it is due to the collusive efforts of the reds and greens marching in lockstep. Yet there are a few stalwarts who refuse to bow, and we all owe them a debt.

    In any case, this is how the submission creeps in – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/10/05/u-s-movie-mak

    Europe is bowed, and America is on course to do the same, only 12 yrs after 9/11/01!

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Chezwick

    "Yet such deference calls into question the sometimes unwarranted expectation of free societies that the media be an objective observer of the world."

    I gave up on that expectation about three decades ago.

  • Charlotte

    Keep it coming, Charlie!

  • LindaK

    Excellent article, but "A media fully fulfilling its mission of shining a light on the truth simply cannot darken out Muhammad?" You, too, have done so by not illustrating the article with an image of the magazine cover.

    • Andrew E. harrod

      You can see these images under the links in the article. I did not choose the particular image here at FrontPage for this story, but I guess the editors wanted to get Charlie Hebdo's bombed offices in the story.

  • Rory Gorey

    I have come to realize that I am bigotted against Islam. It has taken years to get to this point, and I have even gone out of my way to learn more about the religion in hopes that I could find some redeaming values. Sadly, however, the more I learned, the more I disliked it. Islam is completely incompatible with Western culture. I can accept that someone goes to another country and refuses to assimilate. What I cannot accept is the demand that the West change to suit the immigrant. If someone doesn't like our way of life then by all means, don't come.

  • Dr.Music

    stupid….good-looking muslim fool…..wasted an education in the west…no one really cares….cracked by islam anyway….our crocodile tears are an art-form too….our crocodile tears are an art form too….our crocodile tears are an art form too….Stupid to the core and a coward too…scared into pajamas by the murdering rest in pajamas…all started by an absolute thug and fiend in pajamas in the desert only 1400 years back and long since dead. Any man following islam today is a coward and a mentally disturbed life form. A muslim cannot be mentally classified as a human…..from birth to death.muslims only occupy space on this planet. What will happen to our planet when they become 51 percent. We’re done for. We are blind to history because we are for some some strange reason not allowed to see and feel by reading the pure vileness in every word of the horrible koran. We see but deny people can be so evil…but we are wrong. Our paramount mistake is seeing muslims as long term similar brothers …if we are dead we cannot regret. Our children will 150 years from now. Even the pyramids will be gone …islam is the duster on the black board that is our civilization and heritage of our planet. We are letting this happen. Humans are contracting arabic small-pox. There is no cure except……you know what. islamist !!!….stupid….good-looking muslim fool…..wasted an education in the west…no one really cares….cracked by islam anyway….our crocodile tears are an art-form too….our crocodile tears are an art form too….our crocodile tears are an art form too….Stupid to the core and a coward too…scared into pajamas by the murdering rest in pajamas…all started by an absolute thug and fiend in pajamas in the desert only 1400 years back and long since dead. Any man following islam today is a coward and a mentally disturbed life form. A muslim cannot be mentally classified as a human…..from birth to death.muslims only occupy space on this planet. What will happen to our planet when they become 51 percent. We’re done for. We are blind to history because we are for some some strange reason not allowed to see and feel by reading the pure vileness in every word of the horrible koran. We see but deny people can be so evil…but we are wrong. Our paramount mistake is seeing muslims as long term similar brothers …if we are dead we cannot regret. Our children will 150 years from now. Even the pyramids will be gone …islam is the duster on the black board that is our civilization and heritage of our planet. We are letting this happen. Humans are contracting arabic small-pox. There is no cure except……you know what.
    It seems….if you really really really looked hard enough through a very very high powered electron microscope the tiny smallpox viruses also had tiny faces and wore tiny clothes and spoke and thought like muslims in smallpoxese….SO WHAT !!???? We wiped them out !! because they were dangerous for our kids and us . Getting it slowly slowly ?

    It seems…..islam is very bad
    for humans….like small pox was…. islam is actually mohammad’s madness being
    parroted and aped and being inserted into humans so they can not
    progress beyond mohammad’s madness…..a sane and logical human will not be allowed to emerge out of islam by islam….to acknowledge that mohammad was truly mad is considered blasphemy nowadays spelt as blastphemy….. Firstmadmuslim mohammad did not even know the meanings of the
    words he used…like humanity and honor and compassion and such….a classic
    case of an absolute idiot. 2 billion…and coming….upside down.

    a mad man is actually an
    ape….if you aren’t a normal human mentally you have to be an ape. Therefore
    since mohammad was mad and apeish all normal humans born into this mad man’s
    cult just have to ape the first muslim ape a.k.a. mohammad the violent
    hallucinator and mental screw-up. islam is very bad for normal humans. period.
    understood ???

    It seems…..even after living
    through the past couple of decades, to still believe Islam is the religion of
    peace is to be as credulous as believing North Korea is a democracy run by the
    people.

    The modern day Thugee is
    islam……look up Thugee on the net…Thugee was a type of islam type of
    cult practised by some hindus…which
    the sensible British wiped out and off the face of this earth….super good for
    Great Britain….. Idiotic islam has to be dealt with the same way that idiotic
    thugee was dealt with. Till the last person practicing dirty dirty islam is
    wiped off the face of this earth we will have no peace. Dirty islam was started
    by a perverted thug and pedophilic mass murderer and slave owner and mentally
    sick man who was so sick he scared the stupid arabs that lived in the desert
    and this unfortunate coward legacy is still the paramount problem on planet
    EARTH. We have to deal with islam the same way we have dealt with dirty thugee
    and small pox.

    The dirty cult of islam has
    been naively misclassified as a religion by educated people ( this time the
    British screwed up) who could not justifiably read the gutter language that is
    arabic. Dirty arabic has no word for a pedophile or a child-molester. Dirty
    islam and dirty filthy arabic are the two number one enemies of peace and human and human-scientific progress on this planet. We have to get rid of dirty islam just as we got rid of Thugee…with guts to say the right things and with heavy modern day weaponry….it seems with FINALITY !!

    Fkall islam is a drag on the planet.
    The carbon footprint of obviously stupid and idiotic islam is too big and bloody to be ignored. Soon everybody on the planet will have lost someone to islam’s murderous mayhem. islam should not be tolerated anywhere on the planet. Period.
    2 billion less will be a good
    thing for the planet and science and the fine arts.
    life will thrive post islam.
    no one’ll miss muslims and
    their funny only 1400 year old terrifying constant freak-show cult called islam
    ?
    any answers ?
    It seems…..Crocodile tears are an art form
    too…..Crocodile tears are an art-form
    too…..Crocodile tears are an art-form
    too…..
    It seems….Earth does not need an idiotic
    and chaotic and pedophilic and totally retrograde cult that is totally
    mislabeled as a religion by people who could not read stupid filthy uncouth
    arabic. A true gutter-language . Stupid dirty gutter-language arabic and islam have no words for a
    pedophile or a child-molester. The arabs are not fit enough to be called human.
    islam is as cruel and useless as smallpox…..The time is right to do what has to be
    done. NOW!!
    Things have to start moving in
    this direction. It seems ….

    • ann

      And as you said you want to piss on this religion , i can only say that surely one can expect these things from uncivilized people who have not been potty trained by their mamas to piss off in the bathroom. Sure there will be thousands like you who would be dying to join you.

  • BringItOnBitcches

    Bring it on. We are eveywhere.