While I would not call myself religious, I certainly have respect for the idea of the sacred, and the way people attempt to find their God(s). I am a big believer in worshipping who you want to.
I also recognize that some people (nuts) are zealous to the point of mass murder in the name of their religion. I understand and accept that; however, people often fail to realize that nuts will not respect their right to make fun of their religion. It seems as if France has been cracking down….a lot.
Free Speech? In France? Not Really
According to the Washington Post, In 2006, Charlie Hebdo reprinted controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that first appeared in a Danish newspaper. The Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of French Islamic Organizations sued the newspaper for insulting Muslims — a crime that carries a fine of up to 22,500 euros or six months’ imprisonment. French courts ultimately ruled in Charlie Hebdo’s favor.
In 2008, Brigitte Bardot was convicted for writing a letter to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy about how she thought Muslims and homosexuals were ruining France. In 2011, fashion designer John Galliano was found guilty of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris cafe. In 2012, the government criminalized denial of the Armenian genocide (a law later overturned by the courts, but Holocaust denial remains a crime). In 2013, a French mother was sentenced for “glorifying a crime” after she allowed her son, named Jihad, to go to school wearing a shirt that said “I am a bomb.”
In 2013, The Union of Jewish Students successfully sued Twitter over posts deemed anti-Semitic. The government declared tweets illegal, and a French court ordered Twitter to reveal the identities of anti-Semitic posters. Last year, Interior Minister Manuel Valls moved to ban performances by comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, declaring that he was “no longer a comedian” but was rather an “anti-Semite and racist.” Last year, a French court fined blogger Caroline Doudet and ordered her to change a headline to reduce its prominence on Google — for her negative review of a restaurant.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of prejudice in France against Muslims particularly in schools, workplaces, and even in the form of violent personal attacks. There is a high unemployment rate for French Muslims, many of whom live in slums. Young men and women have no jobs and minimal opportunities, an easy avenue to turn towards violence. Because this cartoon’ incited nuts who happened to practice Islam; sadly, now a majority of civil, decent, humane and non-violent Muslims will have to endure increased attacks, prejudice and harm.
I Don’t Know You
“Jokes”, satire, whatever you want to call it can be mean spirited, derogatory or demeaning, especially when originated by people of other religions for people of other religions. It’s one thing to jab at a religion you are personally familiar with, where you are a part of the community, where you have a deep understanding of the culture and values, allowing one to develop over time love and respect for the tradition while seeing the inconsistencies, ridiculous absurdities and craziness inherent in some aspects of the religion.
It is quite another thing to make fun of a religion that you disagree with, that you are ‘against,’ when you have never actually had any meaningful dialogue or relationship with the object of your ridicule. Hebdo’s ‘cartoons’ actually have communicated some strong oppositional and derogatory depictions of Islam. It would not surprise me that these would be distressing to an average Muslim, let alone a nut.
Did any of the cartoonists or the editor of this journal have any French Muslim friends or engage in meaningful dialogue with French Muslims about the tensions present now towards Muslims in French culture? Were there any Muslims on staff at the paper?
I strongly suggest everyone always try to make an effort to reach out and talk to different people whom you would not normally talk with. Sit down, listen to their stories, their pain, their problems, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. You will find you have more commonalities than differences when all is said and done.