The response I would expect from probably about 99% of human beings is: YES! But most people have given up on the Islamic fundamentalists and preventing them from committing violent acts of terrorism. Instead of agreeing with the likes of George W. Bush and simply believing that these terrorists “hate our freedoms,” why not take the time to think about what could really prompt men like Chérif and Saïd Kouachi to take up arms and in so doing, to end any prospect of a future for their own lives. By now, everyone has surely heard the arguments for why these men did what they did. Whether or not they have taken the time to consider their legitimacy is another story entirely. The way I see it, this act of hatred was provoked by another.
Now, before you jump to defend the Charlie Hebdo caricaturists who depicted the prophet Muhammad in various ways, many of them not flattering, please finish reading. I have spent the last week and a half listening to colleagues and friends rant about the importance of the freedom of speech to the preservation of our democratic system. Let me take a moment to explain why the freedom of speech was developed in the first place, and has continued to be protected for centuries. This right, which is even included in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, is important because it helps us recognize that there are those who are not allowed to express themselves freely. In fact, many countries, including Algeria which is the birth-country of the Kouachi brothers’ parents, restrict the freedom of expression and of the press. This right allows those of us who live in countries that protect it to express our dissatisfaction with governments, to speak up against corrupt police or officials, or to blow the whistle against sex offenders, thieves, murderers and other criminals. Even in the most democratic countries like France and the USA, however, there are restrictions to the freedom of speech because those who legislated this right understood the danger of abusing this freedom.
Therefore, in these democratic countries which are adamant about protecting the freedom of speech, there are laws against using fighting words, incitement or hate speech. Essentially, you can say anything you want, as long as you do not EXPLICITLY incite violence or hatred against others. Now, I am not saying that the caricaturists at Charlie Hebdo were intentionally inciting violence or hatred, but their cartoons had exactly that effect. Despite it being quite well-known among journalists that Islam prohibits the depiction of the prophet Muhammad in any way, these artists not only depicted him but did so in negative ways to arouse laughter and increase readership. They knew that doing so was blasphemous and insulting to Muslims, but they did it anyway. These drawings aroused anger and contempt among many in the Islamic community, then this anger culminated in the use of violence against the caricaturists. This violence should not, under any circumstances, be tolerated! But neither, then, should the cartoons that incited it.
I can already imagine some of the comments that will be aroused by my argument, so let me address some in advance. Freedom of speech is important to democracy, but it does not mean that the media should push the envelope to its furthest just to get a laugh. For those of you who would argue that by restricting cartoonists from drawing such insulting, blasphemous caricatures, we would be compromising our democratic values, I ask this: What values do you hold more dearly? The freedom to disgrace others, their beliefs, their deities, their prophets, their religion? Or the freedom from violence and war? Hatred is what causes violence. Not just the hatred that grows within Islamic fundamentalists upon seeing these comics, but the hatred (or utter lack of respect, if you prefer) that prompts caricaturists to draw them in the first place. Before you buy another edition of Charlie Hebdo or laugh at another cheeky, unfounded depiction of the prophet Muhammad, ask yourself how your Muslim friends would feel if they saw you laughing. If you don’t have any Muslim friends, maybe you should get some before you argue with me about how hateful the cartoons really were.
#JenesuispasCharlie #stopthehatred #learntolove