There is no need to relitigate the main points in Charlie Hebdo’s defense. The context of those cartoons stupidly flagged as bigoted has been explained by a number of baffled French observers. And ask yourself: Should you trust the judgments of newly minted French satire experts, most of whom don’t speak French and have never held a copy of the newspaper? Or should you trust Dominique Sopo, the Togolese-French president of SOS-Racisme, France’s most celebrated anti-racism organization, who made the obvious point that Charlie Hebdo was the “most anti-racist newspaper” in the country? Those accusing his murdered friends of supporting the very things they so passionately opposed, Sopo said, were either motivated by “stupidity or intellectual dishonesty…Every week in Charlie Hebdo—every week—half of it was against racism, against anti-Semitism, against anti-Muslim hatred.”
Indeed, the assumption, repeated ad nauseam since January, that the newspaper was “obsessed” with Islam was effectively rubbished by two French academics writing in Le Monde, who pointed out that in the last decade only seven of 523 covers Hebdo covers dealt with Islam. Twenty-one attacked Christianity. Having extensively reviewed the paper’s political content, they delivered a straightforward verdict: Charlie Hebdo was “undeniably an anti-racist” publication. And barely mentioned by either critics or supporters of the PEN decision was the small detail that when the shooting began, the Charlie Hebdo staff members were discussing their participation in an upcoming anti-racism conference.