My “Freedom of Speech”

Back in 2008, a cartoonist who worked for Charlie Hebdo, called Siné, wrote an article and drew cartoons targeting Jean Sarkozy, ex-president’s son, and his intention to convert to Judaism in order to marry the heiress of a prosperous appliance chain (Jessica Sebaoun). Siné was fired on the grounds of “Anti-Semitism”.

Yesterday afternoon, a barbaric attack was committed against the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, leaving its main catoonists and two policemen dead among other victims, declared 12 by the French authorities. Accused of committing the assault are three men believed to be from a “salafist” background, or as some reports say, members of “Al Qaeda”, the attackers announced in French.

Charlie Hebdo has had this kind of experience before, 3 years ago, when it was firebombed as punishment for re-printing the Danish cartoons that insulted Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Bouts of anger were expressed worldwide as a form of solidarity with the French Magazine and in defense of “Freedom of Speech” that journalism is supposed to represent.

But that was not represented by Charlie Hebdo. It has gone “far left”!

It is wise to start by saying that such attacks do not represent Islam or Muslims around the world. In fact, they cause Islam and Muslims as much harm as the victims themselves. Think of the way people, especially westerners, have been thinking about Islam. Think of the “terror” stereotype “glued” to almost every Muslim now that has been portrayed and influenced by media mainly. Such attacks are certainly condemned wherever and whenever they happen, no matter who the victim is. “Opinions” cannot be expressed by the use of guns and the murder of unarmed people.

I don’t think it is sensible to be caught in a rush of emotions that completely blinds one’s common sense, leaving him or her repeating words of anger, which many are saying, without stopping for one minute to think reasonably and objectively about the reasons behind such attacks. I mean, expressing emotion and solidarity is great, humane and necessary unless it all turns into a crazy “fiesta” of anger, cursing, mockery and insults without any aim or suggestions on how to solve the problem that leads to similar attacks.

It is important for people to try and understand that Muslims were NEVER ordered to murder or torture or bomb other people or states or organizations just because they have different views or don’t believe in Islam. These aggressive actions by such people, radical people, are not “newly-born”. They have deep roots in sociology and politics. They are also a result of the repression being practiced against Muslims by societies or states where they are not welcomed.

The idea that Western countries and societies have developed about Islam and Muslims was formed by government policies and falsified media reports, news and facts that “brainwashed” people. Muslims do not attack or hurt or kill. They are as peaceful as their religion is. However, all the accusations and horrendous inclinations that all the terror in the world is caused by people with beards and screaming “Allah Akbar” have led the world to think that Muslims are actually “satans” and breed on violence. Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Ladin, ISIS or Daesh, and all sadists think they are empowering God’s word on earth. All have harmed everyone and especially Islam (the religion they think they are empowering or protecting).

An extremist point of view would not have arisen, in the first place, if it were not for the unjust and unfair treatment that Arabs mainly, and Muslims specifically, had experienced. Nevertheless, this extremist point of view is an ideal getaway for poor people. That is why it has grown and continues to be adopted by people in poverty-stricken areas; and that is not a coincidence. After that came the fact that states have had an indirect benefit from this spread of extremist behavior which has led some countries to actually fund such radical groups. Voilà!

Going back to France, it is unfortunate to note that the French state has not resorted, in the past years, to any course of action that brings all of  its residents together – residents who come from different backgrounds. There has always been a dividing line between the concept of being “French” and of being a French “Muslim”. Though, in my opinion, they do not contradict at all, the “created” fear of Islam (Islamophobia) has made every person coming from an Islamic background feel unwelcome at all times. The French government has made it explicit that the Muslims of Europe and France in particular are not accepted within the European society.

Some might bring the theory of “Islamisation” of Europe to the table. For those who don’t know, “Islamisation” or “Islamification” is not at all a goal for Muslims, not a target to think of or plan for. Their goal in life is completely different and does not come near thinking of conquering or spreading Islam all over the world. The only person who was asked to spread Islam was the Prophet himself; that was during a certain period in history for particular reasons and circumstances that surrounded the “birth” of this religion. Anyway, that’s a whole different and critical issue to untangle now.

One had better take a look at verse 29 from Surat Al-Kahf : «And say, “the truth is from your lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve”.»; or at verse 99 from Surat Yunus : «And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, {O Muhammad}, would you compel the people in order that they become believers?»

If people actually take time to read and understand Islam, they may be able to discern the huge difference between the real Religion and the false image that is being portrayed by radical groups or maniacs such as ISIS and Al Qaeda who have misunderstood its real aim. They believe that the use of force is legitimate if it serves religion while Islam is a religion of PEACE. Have people read what Western writers, professors, scientists, and philosophers have written about Islam and its prophet?

What is the rationale behind the sudden emergence of such terms?

If one looks into the definition of “satire” for a moment- which is “exposing human folly to ridicule”., one ought to realize that his or her “freedom of speech” does not include the right to “ridicule” (which is in other words a form of degrading and insulting an idea or topic or person one is talking about). One’s “freedom of speech” is to criticize, constructively, without crossing any lines and resorting to insults or mockery. How are the mockery and jokes used when referring to the person of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) considered as constructive criticism or “freedom of speech”?

How would satirists respond to the  use of phrases such as “Charlie is about wiped out” in response to banners held yesterday in Paris saying “Charlie lives”? Wouldn’t that upset anyone? But why would some care? Isn’t that the same “satirical” way of “freely” expressing one’s thoughts?

We all need to defend “freedom of speech”, resent and denounce all “terrorist” acts caused by differences in beliefs and opinions. In fact, we should denounce any terrorist act of any kind against any human being for whatever reason. But that does not give anyone the right to cross the line and call it “freedom of speech”!

The bottom line is that not every Muslim is a radical person; not every Muslim is a member or fan of ISIS and its horrific actions; not every Muslim is trying to impose his or her religion through the use of force; but EVERY Muslim was insulted by the drawings and jokes that were published by some magazines.

There is a thin line between “Freedom of Speech” and “the violation of someone’s right to ”. But that does not mean, in any way, that people are murdered for their views and idoeologies.

Yesterday’s attacks are neither accepted nor justified.

Fanatics from both camps, those who defend extreme freedom of speech and do not believe in religion or god, and those who are radicals and might consider my words as against Islam’s preaching, will probably not approve of what I have written.

But, then again, that is my “right” to “freedom of speech” !