It is now over a month since the murderous attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo; since the ensuing siege, the solidarity marches and vigils, the seemingly endless outpourings of opinion and comment; and a month since the publication of the special issue of Charlie, financed by the French state to the tune of 3 million copies. The dust has settled somewhat, the news cycle has moved on, but the reverberations continue to thrum in the background.

Typically, the cover image of this special issue was controversial. It portrays the Prophet Muhammad holding a ‘Je suis Charlie’ placard and shedding a tear. The caption above him reads ‘All is forgiven’. If the wording is ambiguous – who is forgiven? Who is doing the forgiving? – the image is ambivalent. It simultaneously distances the Prophet and, by extension, ‘ordinary’ Muslims from the terrorists that committed this atrocity in his name, and at the same it mocks those same ‘ordinary’ Muslims by offending their belief that the Prophet should not be visually represented. This doubleness – some might call it duplicity – warrants further investigation because it raises some very important and awkward moral questions that have not yet been posed.



My new book, Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech after Rushdie was published earlier this month, and I thought I would alert people to it, and to a couple of articles I wrote to accompany its publication. There is one I wrote for  (I’m not totally happy about the title, but that was out of my hands), and one for The Conversation. Please feel free to link, tweet, re-tweet, facebook them or whatever.

With the piece for The Conversation, I have been involved in an in-depth debate with the writer and free speech campaigner Kenan Malik in the comments section. Have a look and see what you think and do feel free to join in. The more that people debate these questions, the better.