Yes, they’re Condemning the Paris Attacks: The Muslims’ War on Terror

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —

When American commentators like Carl Bernstein complain that Muslim authorities have not sufficiently denounced the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris, they show a profound ignorance of the current situation in the Middle East.

The fact is that both governments of Muslim-majority countries and the chief religious institutions have been engaged in a vigorous war on religious extremism for some time.

Egypt has gone too far in this direction, criminalizing the activist members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is also committing troops to fight extremists in Sinai. Egyptian acquaintances of mine in Cairo say that it has become unpleasant to wear a beard there (for long a sign of religious commitment).

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke to an audience of clerics at the Department of Religious Endowments a few days ago. He made waves by denouncing terrorism among Muslims, and said it wasn’t right for the rest of the world to be afraid of 1.5 billion Muslims. He pointedly insisted that the al-Azhar clerics do something about this stain on the honor of Islam, implying that they were not effectively combating extremist ideas. He called for a new sort of “religious discourse” and a “new revolution” to combat extremism.

Then al-Sisi attended Christmas Mass at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo (the first time an Egyptian president has done so). MENA reports that he told them, “It was necessary to attend the Mass to greet you on Christmas . . . Throughout thousands of years Egypt has taught the world humanity and civilization and the world expects the humanity and civilization to kick off again from our country. . . God willing, we Muslims and Christians will build our country and will accommodate and love each other.”

When he left, the Christians were applauding loudly, shouting “we love you Sisi” and “Muslims and Christians are one hand.”

Sisi has put thousands of Muslim fundamentalists in prison, most of them certainly not terrorists. He has gone too far in attempting to curb political Islam. But he cannot be accused of being soft on Muslim extremism or terrorism, for heaven’s sake.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister roundly denounced the assault on the magazine staff.

Al-Azhar Seminary, the chief religious authority in the Sunni world, condemned forcefully the Paris attacks and expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, saying that such acts of violence are forbidden in Islam.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has since last June committed himself to rooting out the Taliban Movement of Pakistan along with other extremist movements. He is having his air force actively bomb them and scatter them from their Waziristan base.

In Iraq, the government is dedicated to defeating the al-Qaeda offshoot, Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) and hundreds of troops and tribesmen have already been killed in the process. The day of the attacks, Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi expressed his solidarity with Paris. After all, what happened there is a common occurrence in Baghdad, which faces ongoing car bombings and sniping.

Not only are most Muslim authorities in the Middle East denouncing the al-Qaeda massacres,, but they are engaged in active warfare against extremists and risking the soldiers lives, with hundreds or thousands killed. And those killed by the extremists in Paris included a Muslim policeman named Ahmad and a Muslim copy-editor, a man of broad learning. How many commemorations of the victims mention that they included Muslims?


Related video:

AFP: “Top Muslim body condemns deadly Paris attack”

32 Responses

  1. Dear Juan, as usual I’ve been reading your blog with great interest. I think you are making quite a number of questionable points in this article: Egypt, August 2013 – massive crimes perpetrated with the apparent indifference of the West and Middle East: a military coup, a political movement subverted, its supporters butchered, tortured, imprisioned, driven underground. Nothing new here. Of particular interest to me: link to,
    one case among thousands (doubtless). Do you really want to laud such a criminal gang as Government of Egypt?

    The Paris terrorists: you have not analysed their Algerian background. 500,000+ dead in a horrific war of independence/civil way which ended in 1962, evil on an epic scale on both sides, torture that has become a template for the West (and Israel and the `moderate’ Arab states), the French state itself almost subverted by a military putsch, 1million French people forced under threat of death back to France, probably a large reason for the existence and strength of le Front National. From my reading of that war, both left and right in France can be blamed, with few exceptions.

    The legacy of that war: massive anti-arab sentiment in the so-called land of equality and fraternity. I have personal experience of this because I spent quite a bit of time on exchanges as a teenager, in the 80’s, well before Iraq 1,2, Twin Towers, Afghanistan blow-back e.t.c.

    I have no knowledge of the background of the suspect brothers, their parents may even have been `Frence collaborators’ in Algeria (50,000 of whom were butchered by the victorious FLN after the war), they cannot have direct knowedge of that war. But they come from a subculture of French society that has been spat upon and marginalized by a large minority of main-stream France ever since.

    My final thoughts: USA blamed for much of the woes of the Middle East. But really they inherited (as post WW2 victors and reluctant neo-colonial power) British and French problems – Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and of course Indochina. The French weaker than the British, and in my estimation much worse in terms of human rights and hypocrisy.

    • This blog entry doesn’t laud anyone. It is analysis. Western pundits are implying that people like Sisi are not doing enough against Muslim extremism. Which if you know anything about Sisi, is ridiculous– he has gone way beyond that to marginalize even just adherents of political Islam who are not violent.

  2. Steve Hynd

    The President of Iran and the chief of Hezboullah today condemned the Charlie Hedbo attack too, with the latter saying the gunmen did more damage to Islam than the cartoonists ever could.

    • Hello Steve Hynd,
      I’ve been saying the same thing too.

      These terrorists know they’re ‘radical’ in their so called belief to begin with. I think they’re attempting to get people to defame Islam altogether so as to legitimize their ‘radical’ belief as true Islam, when we all know that it is not. This is how they do more damage to Islam and the press in the West do a good job at publicising it for the terrorists… With guests at FOXNews suggesting threats of elimination of Muslims; to their CEO suggesting at least hold all Muslims responsible; to the various repetitions of said meme across other platforms and affiliations and now it’s in our lexicon; “Muslim terrorists” to “Islamic Jihadists” etc. But, because as we all know that none of that is what True Islam is about, why do we keep repeating the lie by calling it such, Muslim Terrorism?

      These terrorists are just that. Terrorists first and foremost.
      I mean, we don’t regularly associate other religions with other criminal acts, do we? Even the Norwegian terror attack by Brevick wasn’t eventually labeled a Christian Terrorist act and no war was ever declared because of it…

      Sorry to spend your ears, so to say.

  3. Carl Howard

    Where’s the call for condemnation by so-called “White leaders” over the NAACP bombing in Colorado Springs?

      • We have often discussed this subject here. You will not find that condemnation anywhere. When right-wingers talk about “taking our country back” or “restoring the Republic”, they are talking about bringing back a past in which organized racism, patriotic terrorists, lynch mobs, and religious favoritism were a parallel, tyrannical government that required actual democratic government to be kept weak and out of the way. So these plausibly deniable lone wolf terrorists are an integral part of our traditions, enforcing the unwritten laws of tribal dominance.

  4. Justin

    Meanwhile, so many in the west forget that the vast majority of victims of terrorism are themselves Muslims.

  5. When American commentators like Carl Bernstein complain that Muslim authorities have not sufficiently denounced the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris, …

    It might help if American commentators like Carl Bernstein denounced the terrorist attacks by drones and other means in Yemen, Pakistan, Gaza, Iran and other related areas in the Middle East.

  6. IMO it is too bad that the Charlie Hebdo killers were killed. With all the high tech the world thinks offers so many alternatives, killing the killers also guarentees them as martyrs to some and eternal frightening mysteries to others, rather than people tried and convicted as criminals.

    • Killing the Charlie Hebdo killers also denies them a chance to explain why they killed. This is not to say they were justified in their slaughter, but if abuse of fellow Arabs was motivation then the abusers would prefer their own crimes were not given international publicity.

    • Earlier today, one of the brothers called a French TV station and said Anwar al-Awlaki financed them. They went down by charging out of the building like Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

      These two gangbangers for Muhammed went out in style.

  7. Truly a problem for the ages….everyone has their own ox to gore…or a valued point…until and when we all can agree to put the past behind us..and co.operate in a peace effort hope is lost

    • I fully share your point of view though there´s been quite an amount of lost efforts efforts on that side and it looks as intolerance always gets the best part and makes co-living impossible

  8. Robert Fisk, as usual, has important insights:

    “Paris attack brothers’ campaign of terror can be traced back to Algeria in 1954: Algeria is the post-colonial wound that still bleeds in France” by Robert Fisk – link to … “Maybe all newspaper and television reports should carry a “history corner”, a little reminder that nothing – absolutely zilch – happens without a past. Massacres, bloodletting, fury, sorrow, police hunts (“widening” or “narrowing” as sub-editors wish) take the headlines. Always it’s the “who” and the “how” – but rarely the “why”. Take the crime against humanity in Paris this week – the words “atrocity” and “barbarity” somehow diminish the savagery of this act – and its immediate aftermath.”

    • Fisk’s article is exactly what I tried to express above. I read his book `The great war for civilization’ a few years ago. Its compelling albeit tough to read. Another book that provides (much wider) background is `Small Wars, Far Away Places’ by Michael Burleigh. It describes the major conflicts 1950-1970 fuelled by the cold war, placed in the context of decolonisation.

    • I fully share your point of view though there´s been quite an amount of lost efforts on every side and it looks as intolerance always gets the best part and makes co-living impossible. History will always give more reasons for hate. Algeria, Louis Napoleon ,the Crusades , the british everywhere as the dog of every quarrel, the US as the new dog and an atomic one. Thre´s no way to finish this if we go back to history its just a pit full of furious dog´s.
      But pardon an forgetfullness are way afar

      • History will always give more reasons for hate.

        History gives some people reasons to hate and a knowledge of history gives others insight into why they hate. Unfortunately, in the West too many leaders and the led are deficient in historical knowledge with the consequence that mistakes are repeated. In some cases, it appears some leaders probably know enough history but they don’t seem to give a damn about who might suffer.

  9. Were all Jews asked to condemn the slaughter of some 30 Muslims in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, a fanatical Zionist in 1994? Should all Americans be asked to condemn the murderous wars of George Bush? We need to ask why the Muslim world is held to a higher standard! First the West humiliates them by killing them and supporting their dictators, then we wonder why a miniscule number of them commit such heinous acts!?

  10. Muslim countries around the world overwhelmingly condemned the deadly attacks against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as can was reported on the website Judaism-Islam:
    link to

    The Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, which represents more than 250 Muslim organizations across the country, condemned the killings.

    But how much value does free speech have in France when we examine the responses made to those who offend?

    Certainly the staff of Charlie Hebdo continued to publish satirical work despite knowledge that their lives had been threatened and their offices had previously been firebombed. Yet they remained undeterred. That’s moral courage and political conviction of a kind altogether rare given how frequently people self-censor even when under no threats.

    French comedian Dieudonne M’bala created a gesture called the “quenelle” in 2005 as part of his “1905 show” that some organizations have been claimed to represent an inverted Nazi salute. Dieudonne has been found guilty of anti-Semitism by the French state, is now banned from public performances in France and even from entering England. Lurking in the background of Dieudonne’s form of humor and polarizing presence in French popular culture is his anti-Zionism.

    The “quenelle” has also become the source of great controversy because French footballer striker Nicolas Anelka used it after scoring a goal for West Bromwich Albion football club on Dec. 28th in 2013 in the English Premier Club. His penalty: a 5 game suspension and a 50,000 pound fine.

    link to

    Moreover, a range of unrelated people with different professions, ethnicities and nationalities have used the “quenelle” gesture in front of synagogues, a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and even at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    What was once, perhaps, an anti-establishment signature and the equivalent of “up yours,” has transmuted into an inverted Nazi salute within the established narrative. The effects on free speech are revealing: get caught in public, especially captured on video and posted online and you become the recipient of legal sanctions and perhaps even job loss.

    Here’s a useful article from France 24/7 International News: link to

    A more sophisticated analysis but in French can be found here:
    link to

    In many cases, speech-acts are perpetrated out of racism, ethnic chauvinism and hostility to specific religions and people. In France there over a million youth living (actually warehoused) in banlieues such as the Barbès district in northern Paris, whose parents or grandparents migrated from the Global South. They were born and raised secular yet are still not considered fully French. They are spoken of with an almost reflexive mocking disdain that is as unnerving as it is astonishing. After all religious identities are sealed in perpetuity, right? So it’s evidently apparent that anyone of them can shed the veneer of secularism that has defined their lives and suddenly become a fully-formed Muslim terrorist at any time, right?

    Anti-Semitism and xenophobia is a serious problem in France (and Europe). The problem is this: is banning non-violent speech and behavior favorable to inculcating an appreciation for free speech? After all, the whole point of free speech is to allow people the ability to say or imply ideas, to make gestures and perform speech-acts that I find offensive and demeaning. That is not to claim such behavior is morally acceptable. It isn’t. But what kind of freedom remains when offensive speech is banned?

    • Excellent commentary with evidence of how people are using double standards when it comes to freedom of speech.

  11. Charlie Hebdo once ran a cartoon caricature of a naked Mohammed, with a star on his backside the words ‘a star is born’, and that is only one of the more notorious examples. Just consider a journal ridiculing Jews, gays, whatever, in the US where jobs and practically heads can be lost for a private unconsidered remark.

    • Such “journals” as the shows of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc. have given Republicans control of both houses of Congress with their snide and barely concealed bigoted jokes.

  12. This probably won’t pass the moderator’s scrutiny, but I would remiss if I didn’t try:

    Why I am not Charlie by Scott Lang – link to

    On satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks The acclaimed graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco on the limits of satire – and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny by Joe Sacco – link to

  13. Dear Juan,
    What about Saudi Arabia? The elephant in the room? It’s clerics have been silent as far as I can tell. SA continues to export and foment hatred. Am I right?

  14. People who are hostile to religion might find indifference more effective and less disruptive than confrontation.

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