Michael Cavna has published an eloquent review of “Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia and the True Enemies of Free Expression,” an 82-page manifesto that was completed by Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier two days before the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine’s offices left 12 people dead.
Writes Cavna: “What Charb most often does, in ‘Open Letter,’ is wield a self-assigned moral authority as he “calls out” those he sees as guilty and complicit: the “racists” who view Muslims more as symbols than as citizens; the journalists who irresponsibly use terms like “Islamophobia” to sell papers and stir up clicks; the unmoored politicians who blow with the winds of cultural change and hate; and all critics who willfully misstate what Charlie Hebdo means and says. Many self-interested parties benefit by peddling fear and hate and misunderstanding and mistrust, he writes — and he believes that Hebdo’s humor shines a light on these dark forces . . . ‘Open Letter’might make the reader mourn for not just the man, but also the thinker he was. Agree or disagree with his ideas, or his intentionally offensive/provocative modes for getting them across, but Charb brought sharp insights to France’s national conversation — beliefs on which he preferred to stand rather than live on his knees.”
The entire review can be read at Michael Cavna’s Washington Post column, Comic Riffs.