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Charlie Hebdo and the Arab Shia: instrumental rhetoric and freedom of expression

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Duncan Needham.

Following the attacks on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in Janurary 2015, statements were issued by both Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah, and Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist Movement. Yet, when these two seemingly similar Shiite Islamist figureheads spoke about the attacks, each was talking on two distinct levels. Their statements concerned not only those specific and terrible events in faraway lands, but also their own very pressing political dilemmas. Those situations both informed their discourse and represented its secondary-level subject, the statements of each speaker being made in order to advance his interests with respect to those situations. When the rhetoric of Nasrallah and Sadr on the Charlie Hebdo shootings are juxtaposed against prior, seemingly inconsistent statements on other perceived insults to Islam, one can appreciate a striking similarity in how each uses its discourse as an instrument to advance its interests and a fundamental difference in what those specific interests actually are.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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