Nick Cohen

Charlie Hebdo: Murdoch’s Sky News bows to the demands of murderers

Charlie Hebdo: Murdoch's Sky News bows to the demands of murderers
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Caroline Fourest is a French journalist and feminist. Unlike so many of her Anglo-Saxon sisters she does not think freedom is only for white women, and is ready to condemn the oppression of women wherever it occurs.

For instance, she exposed Tariq Ramadan, who on the one hand appeared the ideal moderate Muslim, while at the same time refusing to take a stand against clerics ordering the death of women by stoning.

'Double speak' she called it. He says he is a 'Muslim feminist' to Western intellectuals, who admire him and offer him posts at Oxford colleges. Only when you ask what he means by that – and hardly anyone does – do you learn that he believes that in Muslim feminism the man should have power over the woman.

Perhaps Sky News's broadcasters did not realise who were they dealing with when they invited her on air to discuss why Sky had banned not only irreligious and satirical images of Mohammed – and let's face it, virtually every British editor has done that – but to submit so totally to the demands of gunmen that it had banned the anodyne cover from this week's Charlie Hebdo too.

Fourest first denounced Sky's lack of solidarity:

'I am very sad, very sad that journalists in UK do not support us. That journalists in the UK betray what journalism is about. By thinking that people cannot be grown {up] enough to decide if a drawing is offensive.'

She was making an argument that is not heard often enough. By bowing to demands for censorship, the West is infantilising European Muslims. Everyone else can take robust and irreverent arguments about their politics and religious beliefs. But Muslims must be treated with kid gloves and told white lies because they are prickly and dangerous. No one seems to realise that they are providing an excellent reason for employers and the rest of society to shun Muslims. 'Their sensitivities are so delicate they might explode at any moment.'

This is insane (and racist too, if you think about it) and the magnificent Fourest said so:

'You are not even showing it, which is completely crazy that in UK you cannot show a simple drawing.'

At this point she reached down and pulled up a copy of Hebdo's image of Muhammed weeping at the murders. (Quite a generous way for Hebdo to treat militant Islam.I thought, in the circumstances.)


The camera cut away.

'Sky News has not chosen to show that image,' the presenter said before going on to apologies to 'any viewers who may have been offended'.

By this I don't think she meant viewers offended by Sky News' contempt for the very principles of freedom of speech under the law, which have made Rupert Murdoch a billionaire.

It is one thing to self-censor on grounds of taste, journalist do it, everyone does it, all the time. Equally, we all avoid giving unnecessary offence for trivial reasons – or at the very least only give it on occasion.

But it is another to censor because men with guns tells you to censor your thoughts on and satires of religion. It is not trivial but claims vast power over the minds and bodies of humanity.

To then imitate Sky and censor out of fear and not admit you are censoring out of fear is more contemptible still. As I said at the end of my book on modern censorship (still in the shops you will be pleased to hear)

If you are frightened at least have the guts to say so.

If the controller of Sky News had made a public statement saying that he or she (I don't know the wretch, so it could be either) was terrified of attacks on Sky studios and correspondents, that would have been one thing. He/she would have admitted the fact of censorship. He/she would have shown a kind of solidarity with the victims of radical Islam everywhere by accepting that it was a terrifying force.

As it is, he/she left everyone, including liberal Muslims who have to take on literalist readings of the Koran and hadiths, isolated. Look, their persecutors can now say, you are so blasphemous even Western TV stations are better at respecting our taboos and going along with our demands than you are.

But hold on just a minute. Sky News is not owned by some craven, limp-wristed liberal appeaser. It is owned by that conservative ultra Rupert Murdoch. He is quite happy to damn all Muslims and hold them accountable for the actions of their blood- soaked religious right. After the attacks he tweeted:

'Maybe most Moslems [sic] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.'

In other words, they are collectively liable and presumably have no grounds to complaint when they receive collective punishment. Meanwhile his Fox News feeds right-wing America's lurid nightmare of 'Eurabia' by describing our own dear second city of Birmingham as a no-go area for non-Muslims.

But, and here is the point, no one is going to kill Murdoch for saying that. He and his American staff can attack all Muslims, while steering clear of taking on the extremists who just might hurt them, which is about as cowardly a way to behave as it is possible to imagine.

The rest of us aren't much better. The right wing press gives space to extremists because they want to pander to their readers fears of dangerous immigrants. The liberal press gives them space because they fuel infantile left fantasies that radical religion – yes, religion – is a substitute for anti-western communism. Broadcasters do the same, because, admit it, who want some boring Pakistani doctor urging moderation when you can thrill the viewers with a clerical fascist?

As I am sure Madam Fourest already knows it is not only Tariq Eamadan who has double standards. In the media, they are all Ramadan now.