Tag Archives | terrorism

Charlie Hebdo: Freedom of expression, freedom to offend, and freedom from violence

Hannover rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting‎. Credit: Bert Ungerer, CCBY2.0

The violence in Paris between January 7th and 9th, where attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s offices and subsequent sieges led to the deaths of 17 victims, has sparked a worldwide outcry of support for freedom of expression. The magazine was targeted by Islamist extremists because of its depictions of the prophet Muhammad.

On Sunday, January 11th, powerful pictures hit the international press of world leaders (Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merke, European Council President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) standing arm in arm in Paris during demonstrations where an estimated 1.5 million people marched to show solidarity with the victims.

The phrase “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) went massively viral, showing up on Twitter, Facebook, on signs at rallies all over the world, and even displayed by Hollywood celebrities at last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. Cartoonists the world over have shown their support for the victims of the attacks with countless drawings and cartoons expressing sorrow, hope, and renewed commitment to the right of artists and journalists to express themselves without fear of violence.

Some journalists and commentators have used this tragedy as an opportunity to discuss the larger issues of censorship and press freedom, and as always, this is an extremely complicated topic. Millions of people worldwide are proclaiming the right to freedom of speech, but what if that speech is offensive to certain religions or ethnic groups? Salman Rushdie famously stated, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

But some see a distinction between the freedom of expression and the “freedom to offend.” Some people have responded with a counter-slogan, “Je ne suis pas Charlie” (I am not Charlie). Roxanne Gay, in a piece written for The Guardian, stated, “Murder is not an acceptable consequence for anything. Yet it is also an exercise of freedom of expression to express offense at the way satire like Charlie Hebdo’s characterises something you hold dear – like your faith, your personhood, your gender, your sexuality, your race or ethnicity.”

Others have had more extreme reactions to the “Je Suis Charlie” demonstrations. Beginning on January 19th, counter-protests broke out in several predominantly Muslim countries.  While many of the counter-protests remained peaceful, several turned violent. In Niger, CNN is reporting that 10 people were killed during protests and several churches and homes were burned. In Pakistan, Algeria, and Jordan, protesters reportedly have clashed with police forces as well, although no injuries or deaths have occurred.

So, while the horrific events in Paris brought millions of people together to support free speech, they also revived a worldwide debate about what that freedom means. While some uphold that freedom of expression must include the freedom to offend, others disagree, feeling the need to defend their faith from speech and actions that they find offensive. These varying viewpoints will, hopefully, lead to respectful debate with the common belief that violence is not an acceptable response to artistic expression, no matter the content in question.


 

Want to learn more about this complicated issue? The UIUC Department of French and Italian and  the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics and the European Union Center are hosting the following event:

Are We Charlie? – France, Europe, and the World after 1-11

A forum with brief remarks by special guests Nancy Blake (French & Italian and Comparative & World Literature), Maimouna Barro (Center for African Studies), Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi (History), Jean-Philippe Mathy (FRIT and CWL), and Yasemin Yildiz (Germanic Languages and Literatures).

Wednesday, January 21, at 4 p.m.
160 English Building


The resources below will help you with further research on these topics.

 

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)
Amos, Merris., Harrison, Jackie,Woods, Lorna. (Eds.) (2012). Freedom of expression and the mediaLeiden ; M. Nijhoff Pub.
Grenda, Christopher S. (2014). Profane: Sacrilegious Expression in a Multicultural AgeBerkeley : University of California Press.
Hare, Ivan.Weinstein, James. (Eds.) (2009). Extreme speech and democracy. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Radsch, Courtney C.. (Eds.) (2014). World trends in freedom of expression and media development. Paris : United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

 

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)
DANCHIN, P. G. (2011). DEFAMING MUHAMMAD: DIGNITY, HARM, AND INCITEMENT TO RELIGIOUS HATRED. Duke Forum For Law & Social Change (DFLSC),2(1), 5-38.
Kyi, A. S. S. (2012). Word Power. Index on Censorship, 41(1), 28-31.
Pomerance, B. P. (2013). WHAT ARE WE SAYING? VIOLENCE, VULGARITY, LIES . . . AND THE IMPORTANCE OF 21ST CENTURY FREE SPEECH. Albany Law Review, 76(1), 753-756.
Veit Bader (2014). Free Speech or Non-discrimination as Trump? Reflections on
Contextualised Reasonable Balancing and Its Limits, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40:2,
320-338.

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Upcoming Teach In – The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Teach-In — The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Thursday, October 2

4:00 – 5:15 PM

Bevier 180

UPDATE: The video for the Teach-In is now available!

Sponsored by: Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), Center for Global Studies, and Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Panelists will include:

  • Jamsheed Choksy, Indiana University
  • Carol Choksy, Indiana University
  • Paul Diehl, University of Illinois
  • Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society

Moderator:

  • Edward Kolodziej, University of Illinois

In preparation for this event, this blog post will summarize some important information about the terrorist group known as the Islamic State.

Origins of ISIS

The terrorist group known as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) traces its origins from the early 2000s, when Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, founded the Sunni Muslim extremist group Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Unity and Jihad).  This group later became a splinter group of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and became well-known for its ruthlessness.  After Al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006, a new leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took control of the terrorist group and changed its name to ISI (Islamic State in Iraq).  At this point ISI was still affiliated with al-Qaeda.  During the period of U.S. troop surges in Iraq in 2006-2007, ISIS was considerably weakened but not completely wiped out.  In 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of the group.

Expansion

The anti-government uprising in Syria during 2011-2013 presented itself as an opportunity for ISI to expand, and the group moved into Syria by taking over the Syrian group al-Nusra, renaming itself ISIS.  Al-Qaeda leadership opposed this expansion, which led to ISIS’s break from al-Qaeda in 2013.  As U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2013, ISIS increased its violent endeavors in the country.  In January of 2014, ISIS fighters overtook the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.  In June the group made further advances in Iraq, capturing the second-largest city of Iraq, Mosul, as well as Tikrit.  At this point ISIS declared itself “the Caliphate.”  During the summer of 2014, ISIS shocked the world with graphic videos of mass executions of captured soldiers.  ISIS has continued to use social media outlets as mediums for displaying their brutality, releasing execution videos of two American journalists and one British humanitarian worker in August and September.

Crisis of the Yazidi People

In the late summer of 2014, ISIS fighters began targeting Iraqi Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community in Northern Iraq, in efforts to rid the country of non-Islamic peoples.  In early August, ISIS advanced on the town of Sinjar which held tens of thousands of Yazidi people, some of which had already fled from other towns.  The Yazidis, along with some Shiite Muslims, were forced to flee the city into the neighboring mountains.  As many as 40,000 people became stranded in the mountains, besieged by ISIS forces and faced with extremely high temperatures and dehydration in the rough mountain terrain.  At this point President Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS to help these stranded people flee to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The airstrikes as well as aid from Syrian Kurdish fighters have allowed for the escape of 20,000 to 30,000 people from the mountains surrounding Sinjar. While a majority of those stranded have escaped, thousands more remain in peril and face imprisonment, slavery, or death at the hands of ISIS forces.  On September 24, the BBC reported that more than 3,000 Yazidi women and children have been captured and are  being trafficked for sex.  Iraqi Yazidi politician, Vian Dakheel, stated, “We’re a minority here and there’s no strong lobby to support us.” She explained that support from foreign governments was essential to rescuing the thousands of individuals still in the hands of the extremist group.

What the Islamic State Wants

The goal of the Islamic State is to establish a caliphate, which according to Islamic Law is a religious state ruled by a single leader who holds absolute political and religious rule.  The current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be this leader, or “caliph,” declaring himself, “leader of Muslims everywhere.” But ISIS subscribes to a brutal extremist version of Sunni Islam, and the group is intolerant of any religious groups which contradict its beliefs.  ISIS seized the profitable oil fields of central Iraq in 2014, and subsequently has an estimated $2 billion in assets, which makes it currently the world’s wealthiest militant group.  ISIS’s sizeable assets, as well as the seizure of weapons and supplies from Iraqi and Syrian forces, make the group extremely well-armed as well.

Foreign Intervention

In August of 2014, President Obama sent a small number of American troops into Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in fighting ISIS.  The U.S. has also undertaken an airstrike campaign against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.  Part of the U.S. campaign against ISIS includes a humanitarian effort to assist the ethnic and religious communities in Iraq and Syria that are in threat of persecution.  The U.S. is joined by France, Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan in airstrike operations against ISIS.  The United Kingdom has also been involved, primarily in Northern Iraq, in humanitarian efforts.  Germany and Italy have also committed to providing humanitarian support to the region.  Albania, Croatia, and the Czech Republic have assisted by supplying weapons to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.  In a speech on September 24th before the United Nations, President Obama called for the world to assist in the military efforts against ISIS. Meanwhile, the UN has declared the crisis in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency,” calling upon the nations of the world to assist with the growing humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.

Learn more about ISIS by attending the Teach-In, and with the sources below:

News Resources from Around the World

Hindustan Times – The Rise of ISIS terror – a timeline

CNN – ISIS Fast Facts

BBC News –  Iraq crisis: Desperate plight of refugees near Dohuk

The Independent –  Where does Isis get its money from? US steps up the battle to find out

BBC News – Islamic State crisis: Yazidi anger at Iraq’s forgotten people

Al Jazeera – ISIL’s war just went global – Group calls for attacks on US and allies wherever they are – a declaration of war and a defining moment of this conflict

Web Resources

Institute for the Study of War – Timely updates on the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Vox – Things about Isis you need to know

Tracking Terrorism – Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham / Islamic State (Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS or ISIL, IS)

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Cragin, R. Kim. (2014). A RECENT HISTORY OF AL-QA’IDA. The Historical
Journal, 57, pp 803-824.

Hogger, Henry. (2014). SYRIA: HOPE OR DESPAIR? Asian Affairs,
45:1, 1-8.

Phillips, Andrew. (2014). The Islamic State’s challenge to international order.
Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68:5, 495-498.

Books at UIUC Libraries

Celso, Anthony. (2014). Al-Qaeda’s Post-9/11 Devolution: The Failed Jihadist Struggle Against the Near and Far EnemyLondon : Bloomsbury Publishing.

Feldman, Noah. (2010). The Fall and Rise of the Islamic StatePrinceton : Princeton University Press.

Gottlieb, Stuart. (Eds.) (2014). Debating terrorism and counterterrorism: conflicting perspectives on causes, contexts, and responsesLos Angeles : Sage.

Lappin, Yaakov. (2011). Virtual caliphate: exposing the Islamist state on the internetDulles, Va. : Potomac Books.

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