In the wake of the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charles Hebdo, this has once again blitzed the debate wrestling between the freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination. As reported by the New York Times, 12 people were killed during the attack on its Paris offices by “Muslim extremists” a week ago. It will be un-Islamic to perceive the killings as a justified act under the pristine precepts of Islam and it will be totally un-Islamic to say that the satirical caricature of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a mere exercise of free speech and not an injectant of provocation. First, it is imperative to explain why this heinous attack is not an indicative of the Islamic doctrine and secondly, the conception of free speech [as practiced by Charlie Hebdo]is in fact a “freedom with inconsistencies”.
Truly, the Paris attacks cannot be considered a show of heroism, and cannot be profoundly defended under the Islamic jurisprudence. Though, in the deep fascia of every Muslim emotional status lies an inclination to which the utmost love [not blind exuberance]for the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) is well grounded, which in turn may be inflamed by the injection of an Islamo-phobic fluid that may cause a violent transfusion reaction in the body system of the Muslim community. Therefore, there is no true Muslim except that he finds the depiction of Prophet Muhammad [and every other Prophets of Allah]in such humiliating fashion as offensive and blasphemous against the supreme Lord of all the worlds who sent them as purveyors of glad tidings of Paradise (and mercy) and Warner of the painful torment (of Hell). It is blatantly unacceptable to defame the one who is regarded as a Prophet of God by over 1.5 billion people around the globe as a figure of ridicule.
The assassins obviously thought of themselves as avenging satirical illustration of the Prophet Muhammad, published in the iconoclastic newspaper. These perpetrators falsely obligated themselves to carry out “their misconceived notion of Jihad” [even though Jihad is a complete departure from extremism]and they go haywire putting Muslims around the globe in a state of ruination. Just ask as rightly expressed by Ahmed Deedat; “the fieriest enemy of Islam is the closed minded Muslim who, with his foolish and stupid behaviors ruins the true image of Islam misleading the world to think “this is Islam.” It is reported in the authentic compilation of Imam Al- Bukhari, that, Knowledge precedes both speech and action.” The deficient of knowledge of the Qur’an and the Prophetic narrations is symptomatic to oppression –to the one who is ignorant and others (innocent masses) just like those who claim they are performing Jihad by killing. Forbidding evil has principles, which means it cannot be executed with rage and blind exuberance. Shaykh Salih Al- Fawzan said; “you will see that their so called ‘forbidding of evils’ leads to greater evils, greater restrictions, greater subjugation of the Muslims, and more people stepping forward to challenge the honor of the noble Prophet of God”. Hence, the consequence of this heinous perpetration is lethal to the invitation to Islam and such is highly condemnable. As a Muslim, I won’t smile at the sight of those cartoons, and when I saw one of the caricature; I prayed for the cartoonists that May Allah reward the deceased (cartoonists) with what He has promised them. Ameen.
Can I shout in a church in Nigeria saying there is a person with Ebola or there is a suicide bomber here and watch people run helter and shelter, trampling upon one another for my own personal entertainment and say I am just exercising the freedom of speech? The most logical answer to this question is NO, which means my freedom to say whatever either sensible or senseless is restricted if my expressions is intended to vilify or scare others. Charles Hebdo is known for her self-occupying career of ridiculing prominent personalities and authorities under the veil of humor even the Pope Francis had a fair share. One of the unexpected commentators on this noxious attack, Pope Francis said as reported by The Guardian “you cannot provoke… you cannot make fun of the faith of others.” He imagined someone insulting his mother, surely the “epitome of papacy” won’t turn the next cheek. Anyone who defames his mother should be expecting a “holy punch”.
Free speech is not “just” in its creed as preached by most western societies. It is a freedom “that is not free for all”, just as rightly expressed by the Turkish leader Erdogan, that such inflammatory representation “equates to wreaking terror by intervening in the freedom space of others. We should be aware of this. There is no limitless freedom”. Maurice Sinet wrote a column in Charlie Hebdo in 2009 suggesting that the Son of Nicolas Sarkozy – Jean Sarkozy, intended to convert to Judaism for financial reasons, he was dismissed from the Magazine and charged for “inciting racial hatred”. So, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons depicting the Prophet in such pornographic illustration is an incitement of Love? Conspicuously, No. The French authorities claimed that Charlie Hebdo was exercising mere freedom of speech, then why was Dieudonne arrested? For informative purposes, France arrested a comedian for his Facebook comments, again displaying the inconsistencies of free speech. The comedian, Dieudonne whose post was viewed from the criminal spectrum by French authorities posted on Facebook: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly”. Investigators were quick to declare that this was intended to mock the “Je suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris Killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Every logical being would question the arrest, won’t they? If free speech is truly free, then a Facebook post shouldn’t be a ticket for an attack, except, there is an iota of biasness in one’s justification.
The French authority has boasted to have arrested about 54 people on the account of glorying or defending the attack. As pernicious as this arrest seem, coming so soon after the epic demonstration of free speech which underscores the point that “yet again – why those who want to criminalize the ideas they most dislike are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they target at least” [GLEEN GREENWALD].
It is worthy of note, that in July 2013 after about 50 non-violent Morsi supporters were slaughtered in Egypt, this same newspaper, Charlie Hebdo published a barbarous front page with the caption (translated to English) : “The Qur’an is Shit, it doesn’t stop bullet.” Such jingoistic caption is utterly unacceptable and will only receive a violent backlash.
However if we state that ‘Paris, as a capital for love must know that love makes us take extreme decisions and one of the decisions was to kill by our love for prophet’. Will it be acceptable? No. As much as the attack is unacceptable, it is also the boiling rage of each and every true Muslims to ridicule Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is to ridicule every Muslim. When you shake the core of the earth, an earthquake is probably a consequence. And the media deserve a huge applause for successfully covering all the good things of Islam and telecasting only the bad thing done by Muslims which are in fact un- Islamic. It’s like blaming an accident caused by a drunk driver on a car company itself. As humans, you must respect to be respected. And if freedom of speech does not respect the belief of millions of people, then harmony is impossible.
By Usman Abiola