Don’t let our rulers use Paris killings to intensify racism
As a member of the executive committee of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC), I dissociate myself from its statement on the 7 January Paris attack. I do so in a personal capacity.
This statement is circulating on behalf of IATC but the executive committee was not consulted.
I deplore and condemn the appalling, murderous attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
But I do not subscribe, as the IATC statement does, to the slogan, “Je Suis Charlie”.
I believe that the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo in 2011 were an example of crude Islamophobia.
This contributed to a growing oppression of Muslims in France.
Belief in freedom of expression doesn’t require us to endorse the output of the magazine.
Muslims in France face attacks from the state in the name of “secular democracy”.
We should oppose any attempts to use the killings as the basis for a backlash against Muslims.
Mark Brown, Glasgow
All violence is wrong. Murder always breeds murder.
The problem with Charlie Hebdo was its verbal and pictorial violence.
It posed as a left wing paper in the fashion of French secularism, the republic and the revolution.
But its cartoons and articles misused every sort of obscenity to, in effect, hit out against minority communities—both Jews and Muslims.
Even while claiming to be a rebel journal, it had illustrators who portrayed Africans as thick- lipped gorillas and golliwogs.
Frantz Fanon pointed out how French imperialism could pretend to be secular and “modernising”.
The growing contradictions in the French left, unable to mobilise against the Front National, are dangerous for democracy.
Zekria Ibrahimi, by email
l was at the Sunday rally in Paris after the terrorist attacks. All the main trade unions and the big left parties called for people to join the rally.
The demo was absolutely not led by Francois Hollande and his war criminal friends.
The tone was about living together without hatred and racism. There were no racist placards or badges, and thousands of “I am Jewish, I am Muslim, I am Christian” slogans.
Those using “I am Charlie” slogans weren’t necessarily identifying with the reactionary side of Charlie Hebdo.
The National Front was completely marginalised and its leader Marine Le Pen went off to demonstrate in a small town in the South. This was possible because the left was massively present on the Paris rally.
Boycotting the demo because the war criminals came for 20 minutes for a photo opportunity in a side street was a mistake.
When there are three or four million on the streets for a homage to the multiethnic victims, it’s not a moment to stay at home.
John Mullen, Paris
A group of French people living in Norwich organised a 100-strong Je Suis Charlie protest.
Most of the left weren’t there.
Speakers described their shock at the killings and defended freedom of speech.
But someone else and I spoke about the wars in the Middle East, racism and the need to stop the far right using this to stir up hatred.
We said world leaders didn’t represent us and we were clapped.
Those there were strongly anti-racist and it was much better than I expected.
Tim Knight-Hughes, Norwich
Our action helped to forge unity
I work at a large sixth form college in east London. After the killings at Charlie Hebdo and the demonstration in Paris, a small group of us discussed how we should respond.
We felt we could not assume the events would have no affect on our students and college.
We were also concerned that an Islamophobic backlash from the media and political establishment would have a divisive impact.
We drew up the following statement and began to circulate it. It said, “The horrific killings in Paris have deeply shocked us all, regardless of our religious beliefs or political views.
“There is no justification. It is now vital the tragedy is not exploited to fuel racism and Islamophobia, or to justify more wars. This would be a disaster. Racism and fascism is on the rise across Europe.
“As we approach the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, let us unite, regardless of any other political or religious differences, against racism, Antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
There are a range of views among staff and students on Charlie Hebdo, but we found the statement was something many were pleased to support.
So far around 100 students and staff have signed it. This has helped cement unity and break down a sense of isolation among some of our mainly Muslim students.
For example, two students asked why their teacher, a white, non-Muslim, was circulating the statement.
A group of east European students signed on the grounds that they too were victims of anti-immigrant racism, even though they initially thought Islam was to blame.
This may be a small initiative. But we believe such steps are essential to building unity and resistance to racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism wherever we are.
Rob Ferguson, East London
Bus solidarity has an impact
In order to show solidarity for the recent bus strike in London, we decided to do a collection in our workplace.
We raised £40 in a short space of time.
We collected among various staff members and from different trade union backgrounds.
I delivered the collection to the picket line at my nearest depot.
It was a packed picket line with workers in high spirits.
I got a big thank you from all the members who really appreciated the gesture of solidarity.
As I left the picket line several passers by and cars were tooting their horns and cheering the strikers in support.
Workplace collections and picket lines can be a great way of engaging people with the possibility of winning disputes during a time of bleak austerity.
If we are to defeat this government and reverse the consensus over austerity, then greater solidarity and coordinated action will be needed.
Paul, North London
Say no to the Union Jack
New photo driving licences will carry a Union Jack, as well as a blue European Union flag with “UK” in the middle.
David Cameron obviously thought it a jolly good wheeze to head off Ukip.
Over to Northern Ireland, where the Union Jack is the emblem of loyalism.
They fly it from the lamp posts all year round.
They paint it on housing estate gable ends, they rub everybody’s noses in it.
Non-loyalists are sick of the sight of it.
Moderate anti-loyalist minister, Mark H Durkan, sensibly thought it might be best leaving the Union Jack off licences in this part of the “United Kingdom”.
Every loyalist fanatic who has caught wind of this is now jumping up and down demanding the right to have the Union Jack on their driving licence if they want.
I reckon all residents of the rest of Britain should demand the right to not have a Union Jack on our driving licence.
John Shemeld, Nottingham