THE BLOG

Kebabs, Kurds and Charb

14/01/2015 13:48 GMT | Updated 15/03/2015 09:59 GMT

The third national Kebab awards last week in Westminster attracted hundreds of Kurds, Brits and MPs. The event was organised by restaurant owner and well-known Kurdish activist, Ibrahim Dogus, and highlighted the growing popularity of quality kebabs.

The event began with a minute's silence as a mark of respect for the journalists and two police officers, one a Muslim, who had just been brutally murdered by jihadists in Paris. There was no dissent in the religiously mixed audience of over a thousand people. This will not surprise those who know that pluralism and tolerance are attractive aspects of Kurdish soft power that have helped win allies in opposing Daish. Over 100 countries have supplied military support to Kurdistan.

The grossly obscene attacks by Al Qaeda and Daish supporters on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris aim to maximise religious differences so extremists can claim the mantle of defending Islam. There will be more spectaculars, probably including London.

Much ink has been spilled after the spilling of the blood of those who used pencils. The overwhelming consensus is for defending free expression, including the right to satirise and scrutinise all belief systems as opposed to inciting hatred or violence against people for what they were born as - colour or nationality, for instance.

The British Cabinet Minister, Sajid Javid, who is of Muslim heritage, rightly wrote in The Times that the Paris murderers "... inhabit some bizarre reality in which they want to benefit from the fundamental freedoms that make the west great while denying those same freedoms to people they disagree with. They want both the right to speak and the right to silence others. To offend, but not be offended. In the 21st century that is simply unacceptable."

Charlie Hebdo, described by the former far-right French leader Le Pen as "anarcho-Trotskist" and by itself as "irreverent," is not everyone's cup of chai in lambasting all religions and authority but ignore it if you don't like it or sue it if it breaks the law, and that does not and should not include mocking belief systems.

The huge demonstrations in France of maybe four million people drew a line on free expression. Next will be a reckoning of the domestic position of six million French Muslims to reduce the reach of radicalisation, including those fighting with Daish and who can return with the lethal military skills displayed in Paris. This is another powerful argument for eradicating the so-called Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. French Jewry also needs greater protection.

In its foreign policy, France has long backed the Kurds, although I draw a veil over President Chirac's opposition to liberating Iraq in 2003. The French will have appreciated the message of solidarity from President Barzani and Foreign Minister Mustafa joining world leaders in Paris to protest against what the KRG High Representative in Paris called "obscurantist" extremism.

As it happens, Charlie Hebdo also passionately supported the Kurds. The slaughtered editor Stephane Charbonnier, wrote "Je suis Kurde" just as people now chant "Je suis Charlie" after his murder. Last October, Charbonnier penned an editorial about Kobane: "I am not a Kurd. I cannot even mention the name of a Kurdish writer. Kurdish culture is alien to me. Today I am a Kurd, I think as a Kurd, I sing and cry Kurdish. The Kurds in Syria are fighting not only for the Kurds, but for all humanity against the dark forces. They protect their own lives, their country and their children. They fight not only against the fanatical Islam, but also against barbarian bands around to protect us all." And, he added, "Oh yes, I occasionally eat Kurdish dishes."