Almost everything worth saying about the “I Am Charlie” campaign has already been said. Most of the left was united in its condemnation of a protest movement about free speech whose spokespeople were imperialists, some of whom suppress speech as part of business as usual. The usual points about imperialism producing these attacks, or the context of racism in France, were made by more than one organization and individual.

Now that everything has been said, the “I Am Charlie” campaign can be forgotten. It will remembered only as a clever hashtag in the way that similar campaigns, such as “Kony 2012,” will be remembered. The problem, however, is the ugly side of this campaign that continues with little to no recognition.

On January 22, the Collectif Québécois Contre l’Islamophobie [CQCI] held a conference to discuss hate crimes since January 7th, the date of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, that were not only ignored by media that was openly encouraging Islamophobia but that were not abnormal. Ranging from racist remarks, to physical attacks, to burned and/or defaced mosques, many of these attacks had reached an earlier apex with the white supremacist movement cohering around the PQ’s proposed charter.

Before the charter controversy, the War on Terror had already provided the ideological foundation for Islamophobia. Two of the CQCI’s spokepeople—Siegfried Mathelet and Adil Charkaoui—claimed that Islamophobia has become a normal part of Canadian life. The sentiments produced by the Charlie Hebdo attacks, then, were just more of the same: a focused protest about “the reality of Muslim barbarism” that was always one thesis of the War on Terror, the justification to be openly racist when the time is right.

So what, then, was the “I Am Charlie” movement daringly protesting? Surely not Political Islam: it seems quite obvious that religious fundamentalism belongs to the past, nor is it very daring to protest a political ideology that is already being targeted by imperialism in a far more effective manner than Charlie Hebdo was targeted… And besides, this movement did not protest the murder of thousands of Nigerians by those who identified with the same ideology, Boko Haram. Here, the message was clear: the lives of a handful of western journalists are for more important than the lives of Africans—the former deserve a campaign, the latter anonymity. And surely this campaign has little to do with the right to free expression since to express oneself as Muslim in Canadian society has, in the past few decades, been considered either barely tolerable or unacceptable by those who give us campaigns such as “I Am Charlie,” as the recent Charter controversy demonstrated.

Although the “I Am Charlie” campaign has come and gone—to be replaced by the next liberal protest fad when another western journalist is killed by the enemy identified by the War on Terror—the day-to-day campaign against Muslim Canadians will persist without similar popular campaigns to defend their right to free expression.

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