The left in general is going at lengths to apologise for the fanatical terrorists who stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In part, this grotesque response from the left comes from identity politics advocates wanting to be seen as siding with oppressed Muslims. John Moore argues that rather than siding with the oppressed and taking a 'nuanced' take on the Paris terrorist attack, the politically correct left is in reality acting as apologists for religious fascists. And although the left wing intelligentsia may claim that the ‘Islamic’ rage we have seen in Paris comes from a genuine feeling of offence amongst Muslims, in fact such rage, as author Salmon Rushdie has pointed out, is completely manufactured and political and ideological in nature. That is, this is a manufactured rage used by fundamentalist Islamic leaders and politicians for their own pursuit of power.

ALTHOUGH OSTENSIBLY condemning the murders, many social-leftists, so called advocates of the oppressed, have been at pains to point out the apparent ‘racist, ‘sexist’, and ‘Islamophobic’ nature of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.

 Perhaps the most disturbing example in New Zealand of such apologising for the killers’ actions has come from former Maori broadcaster and Maori Party candidate, Derek Fox. In a bizarre rant on Facebook, Fox chose not to condemn the fanatical terrorists, but rather the editor of the French satirical magazine, Stephane Charbonnier. The former Maori Party candidate argued that the Charlie Hebdo editor had acted as a ‘bully’ for ‘insulting other peoples culture’. 

Fox then went on to claim that the editor and his colleagues have ‘paid the price’ for criticising and lampooning religious beliefs. And on a sinister note, Fox even went as far to condemn the New Zealand media, who he claims are equally guilty of such ‘cultural insensibility’. A chilling statement, which could easily be used as a future justification for violence against New Zealand journalists.

 Other politically correct pundits chose also to 'explain' the apparent motivation for the killers, by pointing out at length the 'Islamophobic' and 'racist' nature of the murdered French satirists. For such liberal and leftist commentators, merely acting to mock or ridicule religious belief equates to being a bigot and a racist. This is despite the fact that all currents of liberal and left wing thought are derived from the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers, who aimed to put an end to political power of religious obscurantists. But for the modern day leftists, 'respect' and 'tolerance' supersedes any right to criticise others beliefs.

And the logic of such political correctness has led to a number of left wing bloggers, including The Daily Blog editor Martyn Bradbury, effectively laying the blame on the Paris terrorist attack on the staff at Charlie Hedbo themselves. One New Zealand left wing activist and anarchist rightly put ridicule to such an outlook:

 “There was a time not so long ago when the left stood up for free speech, against censorship, and against religious bigotry. It is quite depressing seeing how much has been written in the last 24 hours about how offensive and unpleasant the murdered cartoonists were, and how freedom of speech is some sort of dangerous establishment trick that exits to oppress us.”

On the face of it it is rather perplexing that majority modern-day liberals and leftists feel unable to condemn outright the actions of reactionary fanatics. The ideology of such religious extremists is certainly antithetical to any form of progressive thought.

 Certainly, when Christian extremists, with a similar obscurantist world view to Islamists, carry out acts in the name of God, then the Western left are all to quick to condemn the culprits. And rightly so. Yet when reactionaries who claim to act in the name of the Islamic faith, attack those they see as sinners, including ‘blasphemers’, Jews, gays, liberated women or even fellow Muslims, politically correct leftists either remain silent or try to 'contextualise' the actions of such obscurantists. Why is this?

 For the modern-day social-liberal and leftist, Muslims as a whole represent an oppressed or marginalised group. And so to criticise any ideology stemming from this demographic is to effectively side with the oppressor. The oppressor in this case being Western imperialism or even Western society in general.

 Supporting struggles of marginalised people is certainly a good thing. But acting as apologists for perverse ideologies, whose adherents claim to represent a marginalised or oppressed people, is something else all together.

But modern-day leftists just don’t get this.

So for example, while many Western leftwingers rightly show solidarity with the Palestinian people when they attacked by the Israeli state, such liberals go further and act to support reactionary organisations such as Hamas, a rightwing Islamist organisation with a base within the Palestinian community. The reason why social liberals fail to condemn such rightwing, or not outright fascist, groups such as Hamas, is because of the perverse logic of identity politics which now holds sway in the West.

The western left’s response to the Paris terrorist attack, where many pundits have felt the need to act as apologists for the terrorists, comes from an ideological crisis of the left. The left’s inability to unequivocally condemn right wing Islamists partly comes from equating Muslims, and other oppressed groups, with the proletariat. Now that working class struggle and consciousness has all but disappeared in the West, the identity politics left has transferred their championing of the working class with certain identity politics favoured groups. So because groups such as Muslims are seen as oppressed and marginalised, the left therefore sees as something inherently progressive, or at least anti-Establishment, in the politics stemming from modern-day Islam.

 In many ways this response is a continuation of where the New Left set off from in the 1960s. The New Left ditched the old left’s class-focused politics, and aimed to find other groups and movements to replace the working class as the agents for progressive change. So at various time the New Left hailed, Blacks, Third World peasants, and left wing nationalist and Maoist anti-colonial movements, as the new agents for an anti-capitalist revolution.

 The difference between the New Left ideology and that of the contemporary identity politics left is that now oppressed groups aren’t supported as agents of change, but merely because of their marginalised social position. Therefore the modern left doesn’t so much advocate liberation for marginalised and oppressed groups, but merely an environment of ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’.

The Western left’s response to the Paris terrorist events shows, in an odd way, the inherent racism and elitism of this current. 

An argument put forward by communist philosopher Slovoj Zizek is that multi-culturalist leftists essentially have a condescending view of non-whites. They view communities such as Muslims as being inherently unable to give up their traditions and religion, and of being also unable to handle any form of critique off their beliefs. Only the middle class leftist apparently can engage in rigorous debate and critique, whereas a censoring environment of ‘respect’ and ‘tolerance’ must be the norm for others. Essentially, identity politics left wingers position themselves as culturally superior to the ‘sensitive’ and ‘easily offended’ non-white masses:

 “One of the most irritating liberal-tolerant strategies is to oppose Islam as a great religion of spiritual peace and compassion to its fundamentalist-terrorist abuse …This is liberal-tolerant racism at its purest: this kind of “respect” for the other is the very form of appearance of its opposite, of patronizing disrespect. The very term “tolerance” is here indicative: one “tolerates” something one doesn’t approve of, but cannot abolish, either because one is not strong enough to do it or because one is benevolent enough to allow the Other to stick to its illusion – in this way, a secular liberal “tolerates” religion, a permissive parent “tolerates” his children’s excesses, etc.”

 Left wing apologising for the reactionaries who murdered the staff at Charle Hebdo reveal how bankrupt identity politics is. For a return to the politics of class and universalism, and for a rejection of liberal-tolerant racism! 

This article was first published by Liberation.


  1. Great post...congrats on being one of the few in the NZ blogosphere to fiercely defend the right to free speech. Here's my take;


    John Black


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