The slain former editor of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo called “Islamophobia” modern-day racism in a book he finished only two days before he was gunned down in the worst terrorist attack in France in decades.
The 88-page book, whose title translates as “Letters to Tricksters of Islamophobia Who Are Playing the Game of Racists,” was written by Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, and released Thursday in France.
In the book, Charbonnier condemned journalists, politicians and others whom he accused of using the fear of Islam for their own purposes.
Charbonnier was one of 12 people killed by gunmen who opened fire on a staff meeting of the satirical newspaper in Paris on Jan. 7. Several others were wounded.
The two attackers, French brothers of Algerian descent, appeared to have been motivated by disgust over the weekly satirical newspaper’s caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. The brothers were shot dead two days later by French police.
In an eerily prescient reference, Charbonnier wrote in the book that “one day, just for laughs, I should publish all the threat letters that I received at Charlie Hebdo from Catholic fascists and Muslim fascists” alike. Charbonnier received death threats after Charlie Hebdo first published cartoons of Muhammad in 2006.
In the book, which contains no cartoon caricatures, Charbonnier criticized people who demonize Muslims.
“If one day all Muslims in France converted to Catholicism . . . these foreigners or French of foreign origin would still be seen as responsible for all ills,” he wrote.
Charbonnier accused the media of helping to popularize the term “Islamophobia,” saying that “any scandal that contains the word Islam in its title sells. A terrorist is scary, but if you add that he’s an Islamist, everyone wets themselves,” he wrote.
He suggested that such attitudes should be called “Muslim-o-phobia” rather than “Islamophobia,” targeting the people involved rather than the religion.
Charbonnier said the problem is not religions but those who practice and distort them.
“The problem is not the Quran or the Bible — sleep-inducing, incoherent and badly written novels — but the faithful who read the Quran or the Bible like you read assembly instructions for Ikea shelves,” Charbonnier wrote.
The slim book also defended his magazine’s policy of poking fun at world religions, including the publications of cartoons of Muhammad, something that offends many Muslims.
“The suggestion that you can laugh at everything, except certain aspects of Islam, because Muslims are much more sensitive than the rest of the population — what is that, if not discrimination?” he wrote.
Deane reported from London.