Art by Sarah McIntyre (
Art by Sarah McIntyre

Sacred and Sequential, a group of scholars who study the intersection of religion and comics has released a statement on Wednesday’s still reverberating attack on the officer of Charlie Hebo that left 12 dead. The statement was posted by A. David Lewis, author of The Superhero Afterlife.

Nothing can justify the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015. Some of the cartoons published by the magazine were offensive and at times deemed Islamophobic, but that in no way legitimates violence. Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish what it did under the protection of free speech. Just as freedom of speech did not guarantee the victims of the attack immunity to criticism, the right to dissent does not include murder.

In the aftermath of yesterday’s killings, the response has been varied. New Yorkers took to Union Square to offer their support in an impromptu vigil. Cartoonists such as Sarah McIntyre and Carlos Latuff, politicians such as Barack Obama and David Cameron, and pundits across the planet have offered their support and condolences to the victims’ loved ones. Among those who have voiced their sadness and outrage are Muslim individuals and organizations from all over the world, such as the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

Others’ responses have been of a more combative tenor. Internationally, and on a far too familiar pattern, an imaginary “Islam,” simplistically conceived as a monolithic, murderous, West-hating, and terrorist ideology, has been blamed for the attacks. In some places, the response has not been limited to words but has spilled over into violent acts perpetrated against a number of sacred spaces and places of worship. Several French mosques and Muslim prayer halls have been subject to attacks, placing many innocent worshipers in the line of retaliatory fire for the actions of a select few.

“Islam” did not do this; adherents to a particular, marginal, and extreme interpretation of what Islam is and what it means to be a Muslim did. They do not represent the planet’s more than one billion self-identifying Muslims. Neither the Qur’an nor the traditions attributed to the Prophet of Islam uniformly oppose illustrations nor modern comics and cartooning. Moreover, wherever and however they are published, comics as a medium has no innate aversion to religion but, instead, is a fertile site of opportunity and engagement with all faiths and beliefs. We must conclude that these events cannot be attributed to Islam as a religion nor to comics as a medium. Protecting this art and its artists is just as necessary as protecting Islam and Muslims from reduction to ideological extremism.


  1. Worldwide polling data on wikipedia shows 30% or more support for jihadi activities among Muslims worldwide. 30% of 1.6 billion people is 480 million. That’s not marginal by any definition of the word.

  2. [citation needed] “Wikipedia” isn’t a source.

    And your statistic isn’t information. For example, did “jihadi activities” include murdering cartoonists? Was that even clarified in the survey question? The Arabic word “jihad” means “struggle”, and can represent the internal moral struggle to be faithful in a world of infidels, or war against all infidels for their infidelity alone, or anything in between. What did it mean to the people answering this question? How would they have answered if the question were clearer? (Much like, if you ask people if they’re “pro-life”, you’ll get a different percentage than if you ask if they think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, and different still than if you ask if they approve of bombing abortion clinics.)

    And even taking your vague hearsay at face value, what of the 70% who said “no”? That’s a pretty huge majority that doesn’t deserve to get lumped in with the 30%, which is what the reactionary blaming of “Muslims” does.

  3. Yeah, I think at least a link to that Wikipedia page so one could see their citations would be a bare minimum requirement here.

    On a related note, I’m still waiting for white Conservative Christians to apologize for Anders Breivik’s attacks.

Comments are closed.