Leaked Al Jazeera Emails Show Angry Internal Rift Over Free Speech And Charlie Hebdo's Mocking Of Islam


I Am Charlie Je Suis Strasbourg France solidarityVincent Kessler/ReutersA person holds a candle next to a placard which reads "I am Charlie" to pay tribute during a gathering in Strasbourg on Jan. 7, 2015.

Across the world there has been strong condemnation of the massacre at magazine Charlie Hebdo's office in Paris.


"I am Charlie," is the slogan which has caught on and brought people together against the Islamic jihadists who killed 12 people in the attack on Wednesday, including the magazine's editor-in-chief and leading cartoonists.

Within most western countries, there has also been strong support for Charlie Hebdo's penchant for mocking aspects of Islam and other religions, despite the fact that such sentiments can be offensive to even moderate adherents. The attacks rallied westerners around free speech, which is considered a fundamental value of most western democracies.

But leaked emails obtained by the National Review Online from within news network Al Jazeera show a different perspective on Charlie Hebdo, one that highlights a deep rift in the modern world.

The email exchanges began with an email from Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr.


After the attacks, Khadr addressed staff with a list of suggestions about how to cover them. His suggestions came with some strong opinions about the attacks themselves.

"This was a targeted attack, not a broad attack on the french population a la Twin towers or 7/7 style. So who was this attack against? The whole of France/EU society? Or specifically this magazine. The difference lies in how this is reported not in how terrible the act is obviously - murder is murder either way… but poses a narrower question of the "why"? attack on french society and values? Only if you consider CH's racist caricatures to be the best of European intellectual production (total whitewash on that at the moment)," Khadr wrote.

That was Khadr's first point. His second included this question: "Was this really an attack on "Free speech"? Who is attacking free speech here exactly? Does an attack by 2-3 guys on a controversial magazine equate to a civilizational attack on European values..? Really?"

Third he asks staff to consider "'I am Charlie' as an alienating slogan - with us or against us type of statement - one can be anti-CH's racism and ALSO against murdering people(!) (obvious I know but worth stating)."

Khadr also says "You don't actually stick it to the terrorists by insulting the majority of Muslims by reproducing more cartoons - you actually entrench the very animosity and divisions these guys seek to sow." 


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Khadr's email started an email chain within Al Jazeera that polarized staff.

US-based Al Jazeera correspondent Tom Ackerman replied, "If a large enough group of someone is willing to kill you for saying something, then it's something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn't really a liberal civilization any more ..."

Doha-based correspondent Mohamed Vall Salem, meanwhile, countered: "what Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them! It's not about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I'M NOT CHARLIE."

 Senior Paris correspondent Jacky Rowland then sent this in response: 


Dear all 

We are Aljazeera.  So, a polite reminder:
Kind regards


And finally, roving reporter Omar Al Saleh replied:

First i condemn the brutal killing. But I AM NOT CHARLIE.  




The difference in perspective here is stark and startling. It highlights just how big a challenge the world faces in reconciling these two views.

You can read the whole transcript of the leaked emails over at the National Review Online.