This is a guest post by Alan Bao.
On January 7, Stéphane Charbonnier and eleven others were assassinated when gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Now, three months after the deadly attack that took his life, Charbonnier is getting the last word.
In his posthumously-published book, Letters to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia Who Play Into the Hands of Racists, Charbonnier criticizes the idea of Islamophobia and those who would misappropriate it, claiming that “a lot of those who campaign against Islamophobia don’t actually do so to defend Muslims as individuals, but to defend Prophet Muhammad’s religion.”
He argues that the fight against Islamophobia has been misguided, and that it only isolates the Muslim identity, all the while inadvertently stifling free speech.
“To be afraid of Islam is undoubtedly moronic, absurd, and many other things as well, but it’s not an offense… The problem isn’t the Qur’an, nor the Bible, [two] badly written, incoherent and soporific novels, but the believer who reads the Qur’an or the Bible like one reads an instruction manual on how to assemble an Ikea shelf.”
The essay goes on to defend the editorial choices of Charlie Hebdo, which had come under attack by both the devout and the liberal for its irreverent cartoons lampooning religious figures. For such detractors on the left, Charb minces no words:
“By what twisted logic is humor less compatible with Islam than with any other religion?… If the suggestion is that we can laugh at everything except certain aspects of Islam because Muslims are much more sensitive than the rest of the population, is that not discrimination? It is time to end this disgusting paternalism of the white, bourgeois, intellectual ‘left’ who seek to exist among the ‘unfortunate, under-educated poor.'”
Charbonnier then goes on to take aim at sensationalist media and drops a few darkly prescient quips about his name being misspelled on an Al-Qaeda death-list — made all the more disconcerting by the fact that the book was completed just two days before the deadly Paris attacks.
It stands as a slain editor’s defiant last word against the misappropriation of Islamophobia by both the politically-religious and the progressive left.