Halter: "Muslims are our brothers"

interview with the French writer

Demonstrators in Paris brandish pencils, the symbol of freedom of satyre

Demonstrators in Paris brandish pencils, the symbol of freedom of satyre (AFP/Martin Bureau)

On 8 January at 4 p.m. the Muslims of France under the lead of their imams went in front of the seat of Charlie Hebdo to honour the editors killed by the jihadist fury. Gariwo interviewed Marek Halter, the French writer, founder of “SOS racisme” and supporter in 2012 of the call to establish the European Day of the Righteous, a man who has always struggled for freedom of expression and civil coexistence between the peoples of Europe.

What is the climate like in France?

It is definitively not good. There have been two more assaults this morning. A police officer was killed. Also a mosque was attacked. There is a deep in security. We plunged into fear and this is the strategy of the jihadists, a strategy in which many things have changed. This are not the terrorists of Bin Laden, who were a kind of an old-school group, so to say, like the Italian group “Lotta continua”. This is a new kind of terrorism, these are ideologists who know what they are doing. They are well-prepared people, who want to provoke an anti-Muslim psychosis to spark a response among the Muslims, who are 10 per cent of our population. From now on, millions Muslims will feel suspected and will be easier to mobilize and recruit for the jihad. These are well-trained people, who are not afraid of dying because they think if you die in the name of God you are absolved.

What do the French imams say?

The imams of France have invited al faithfuls to pay tribute today at 4 p.m. to the editors “Charlie Hebdo” in front of the paper’s building. They will go there to lay flowers and to state that islam is not about violence.

How can you fight fundamentalism without causing a clash of civilizations?

This is no clash of civilizations. Averroe and the other Arab thinkers belong to our very civilization. We are all part of the same civilization. It is instead a problem od religions. We live in a particular century where there are no more ideologies. Nobody believes anymore in communism, socialism or fascism.. Today the only safe value is God, which has more names: God, Allah. The Lord, Adonai, Buddha, … If people come to oppose one of these denominations it is war of religions. The first Crusade was in 1095, do you realize? It caused millions deaths. Constantinople was blocked and set afire.

Do you share the call by Abdennour Bidar, the Muslim philosopher author of a recent “open letter to the Muslim world”, to “collectively resist hatred”?

I don’t sign other people’s calls. If I want to forward an appeal I write it personally. But I agree with this in principle. As I said, this is what is happening with the delegation of Muslims in front of the seat of Charlie Hebdo. France will resist horror collectively. France is stronger than them.

Do you think terrorists can cause divisions between European countries, for instance between France and Germany on the theme of “Islamophobia”?

No, they cannot absolutely. On the contrary, the governments will unite as it is normal because all European countries host important Muslim minorities, like Germany with the Turks. Of course, there are some racists. Ms. Merkel was obliged to demand Germans not to take to the street against immigrants. But there will be no divisions, instead the attacks will get the European countries to unite.

Libération wrote that the Muslims in France feel caught between “two convergent fires, the eruption of more and more fanatical a version of Islam and the surge in the power of ‘fachosphere’””. How do moderate Muslims live today? Is it possible to defuse the trap that the terrorists pose to Muslims?

First of all we must express forcefully that the Muslims are our brothers, not enemies. And Muslims in turn should demonstrate and respond with us.

We must encourage them. In this moment the role of the media is extremely important. We must let them speak up. It is necessary that fascists and racists, both in France and in Italy, understand that a civil war would be their death, too.

You used to know personally Cabu, Wolinski and the other designers of “Charlie”.

We have been friends for over 50 years. They belonged to the history of France. With Cabu we fought together against the role of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. In front of me there is a caricature they made of me 30 years ago.

Is it true, as Le Monde wrote, that they chose to “die standing instead of living on their knees”?

They struggled for justice, but not with weapons. They fought with their pencils, instead. They are Righteous of freedom of expression.

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