Charlie Hebdo is presumably seeking to demonstrate its Western civilized nature, defending its interpretation of the principle of human liberty. However, the constant, pre-meditated, planned, intentional insulting and taunting of another culture presumably in the name of safeguarding human liberty principle—when those in the targeted culture almost universally say “Don’t do it!”—is expressive more of a spirit that seeks to impose itself on others than demonstrate respect for civility.
When Charlie Hebdo targets and ridicules Islam and its symbols and figures as a whole tradition, it is collapsing centuries-old conflicts within Islam into a caricatured simplicity of a monolith, as if free-thinking Muslims such as Khayyam or Avicenna themselves have not been, for centuries, also both targets as well as challengers of the repressive trends within Islam.
However, the West that has presumably rediscovered Khayyam, albeit in an orientalist clothing, is inclined to believe that if Khayyam was a free thinker, he must not have been a Muslim—as if being free-thinking and being Muslim are incompatible. Avicenna was also a Muslim, and so were many Islamic scientists during the times when the West was still in the grip of its Dark Ages. It is the same story when the West, having embraced Rumi today, also asks whether “Rumi’s Islam” is the same as what Islam “really is.” [read more]