CHARLIE HEBDO, MUSLIMS & FREEDOM OF SPEECH

WHY ARE ALL MUSLIMS, ANTI “JE SUIS CHARLIE”?

If I [had responded] to the attacks in Paris by saying, “Je Suis Charlie”, what would I be insinuating? Of course I would be condemning the attacks, but I would also be promoting the mocking of Muhammad [PBUH]. I unequivocally condemn [all] the terrorist attacks in France and pray for the families of the victims. Terrorism has no place in Islam. (Source: Ibrahim Ijaz, San Jose, Letter to The Editor, 15 January 2015, L.A Times)

“The killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are abhorrent. But let us not forget the daily abhorrence of our wars in the Muslim World, wars that have seen over a million Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians and Yemenis killed and millions more wounded and maimed physically and psychologically, while millions of men, women and children endure another cold winter, homeless and hungry . . . For to believe that the attack in Paris was a tragedy singularly about a cartoon or as an event solely to be defined as an assault on freedom of expression, is to be daft and incongruent with the history and reality of American and Western policy in the Middle East”. (Matthew Hoh, Veterans for Peace (Source: I stand with Charlie Hebdo but I also stand with the victims of Our bombs, January 9 2015, Huffington Post)

BILL MAHER IN EARLY 2015 ASKED: “SINCE THEY WERE PROTESTING ME FOR ONCE SAYING THAT ISLAM IS ‘THE ONLY RELIGION THAT ACTS LIKE THE MAFIA (AND WILL) KILL YOU IF YOU SAY THE WRONG THING OR DRAW THE WRONG PICTURE . . .’ AND THEN TWO JIHADISTS GUNNED DOWN 12 PEOPLE IN PARIS FOR SAYING THE WRONG THING AND DRAWING THE WRONG PICTURE,” HE ASKED: “YOU HAVE TO TELL ME, WHERE DO I GO TO PROTEST YOU?”

No one is denying there are individuals with Muslim names today who will go on a violent rampage if you “say the wrong thing or draw the wrong picture . . .” but why is Islam as a religion on the dock if an individual with a Muslim name does not obey its teachings? Where does it say in the Qur’an, Muslims should kill person X if he/she “says the wrong thing or draws the wrong picture”? Did most ordinary Muslims, Islamic community leaders, Islamic scholars and Islamic countries condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings or celebrate the shootings?

Was it not a French Muslim police officer (Ahmed Merabat), who was gunned down by the self-claimed Muslim attackers who killed 17 people in France in January 2015? Was it not a Muslim supermarket clerk (Lassana Bathily) that saved the lives of 15 French Jews the next day? How is it then “Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia”?

People with twisted ideologies are the problem, whether you follow Islam, Christianity (Anders Breivik), Judaism (Baruch Goldstein), Hinduism (RSS), Buddhism (Ashin Wirathu) or for that matter, Atheism (Craig Stephen Hicks – UNC North Carolina). Not religion, not race nor country of origin.

BUT MUSLIMS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHARLIE HEBDO ATTACK.

While the shootings was a global outrage given how 17 lives were mercilessly lost, the fact that the gunmen shamelessly did it “in the name of Islam” helped reinforce the myth that Islam promotes violence. An untruth when again, it was none other than a French Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabat who was the first to arrive on the scene and also killed by the gunmen or the fact that it was a West African Muslim immigrant, Lassana Bathily who saved the lives of 15 Jews the next day. Unfortunately it is too easy broad-brushing Islam and Muslims for the crime of a group of retards who committed a cowardly act of violence in direct contradiction to Islamic teachings of a true Muslim, Muhammad (PBUH).

Also, why do so many people in the West instinctively decide Islam is the reason the Islamic State attacked Paris, but would never attribute the Oklahoma City bombing to the fact that Timothy McVeigh was Catholic? Nobody associates all Seventh-day Adventists with David Koresh, who belonged to a splinter sect, or all of Judaism with Meir Kahane but when a person with a Muslim name is involved, the whole religion of Islam is besmirched. Why?

MUSLIMS LOVE CALLING FOR “RESPECT” FOR THEIR FAITH BUT DO NOT RESPECT CHARLIE HEBDO’S SATIRE OR FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

If freedom of speech is truly valued in the West, why did the French government stop climate change protesters during the summit in December 2015 or why were over 100 Muslims arrested who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks, however anti-Islamic the stance of supporting the killers or the barbaric killings were?

Does this not illustrate how “the French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace”, in the fine words of Gary Trudeau, the first cartoonist recipient of the George Polk Award in April 2015 who said: “Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny – it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech . . .

Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another”. (Source: The Abuse of Satire by Gary Trudeau, 11 April 2015, The Atlantic)

In other words, shouldn’t satire focus on those who are rich, proud and the powerful instead of those who are less fortunate than we are since satire targeting victims of hatred is nothing less than bullying, an act that can never be worth a laugh.

In 2008, the left-leaning satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo fired a cartoonist who illustrated a crude image about President Sarkozy’s son alluding to a Jewish link and yet no one in Paris screamed for the need to defend “the right to freely express themselves”, illustrating apparently there are indeed limits to what can be written and drawn and that not everything can be said.

Unfortunately, when the public over-reaction that is, urge to “defend freedom of expression” in response to the tragic events from January 2015 unfolded, the troubling double standard at play became far too obvious for ordinary Muslims in France and the world over to ignore.

FRANCE AND AUSTRALIA ARE FIRM BELIEVERS IN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

If this were true then why are people in France prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech at higher rates than those spouting anti-Islamic views, (although Jew-baiting is wrong in every shape and form but by using the example of the double standards at play when it comes to Jews, the objective is very much to highlight the flaws in the system where certain people are criminalized for certain speech while the others have a free reign to o end).

The same argument could be applied to the French pro-Palestinian protesters whose demonstrations against Israel’s assault in Gaza in 2014 were banned. While the fight against anti-Semitism against the Jews is alive and kicking but regrettably, some parts of the West appear to be light years away from recoiling from its subconscious stance on Islamophobia.

In fact, politicians are in favour of provocation and free speech until Muslims exercise those freedoms, it seems (at which point it is quite conveniently called a “debate” like the Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s April 2017 statement about Anzac day for which she was heavily criticised and following a series of events, migrated from Australia to Britain in July 2017).

Given the right wing’s obsession with freedom of speech and their vitriolic rhetoric defending their right to o end, it is more than just interesting when the tables are turned. When something as holy as Anzac Day comes into the mix, then suddenly free speech becomes hate speech and causing offense is actually a big deal. But when it’s Muslims, people of colour, LGBT communities, etcetera, who are the victims, then it’s a whole other issue. Their freedom of speech does not need to be respected then. (Source: Freedom Of Speech Is A White Man’s Privilege by Masrur-Ul Islam Joarder, 28 April 2017, Huffington Post)

This reaction of course is not only limited to Australia but in Europe: Muslims are told to get used to be being offended and provoked by cartoonists but if the French public gets offended, oh well lets get the police to intimidate a woman into undressing in public to prove their worthiness as a free woman (Source: France defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to o end – so why can’t a Muslim woman in a burkini ‘offend’ us too?, Sunny Hundal, 25 August 2016, The Independent), one of many examples of how freedom of speech appears to be a white man’s privilege?

Last but not least, why is it okay to offend Muslims by making fun of its revered Prophet (PBUH) but not the Jews, victims of Jewish concentration camps or deny the Holocaust altogether such as by saying Holocaust was a mere “point of detail” of the second world war or that Nazi gas chambers were merely a “detail” of history. (Note: The Holocaust should not be denied nor any other wartime massacre or victims in history overlooked or mocked). It appears nevertheless Anti- Semitism is treated as a crime, while Islamophobia is tolerated if not given the denial, blind eye treatment.

GROUPS WITH MUSLIM NAMES HAVE CITED VERSES FROM THE QUR’AN BEFORE COMMITTING ACTS OF VIOLENCE WHENEVER MUHAMMAD (PBUH) IS CRITICISED OR MOCKED.

Cherry-picking or citing verses out of context is simply wrong. The Qur’an says in clear terms: “And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”. (Qur’an 25:63). Yes, there are indeed a minority of Muslims who have zero patience for any criticism against Islam or Muslims but their actions do not represent Islam, especially when the injunction above, always to be read and understood with proper context and detailed interpretation, is crystal clear.

MUSLIMS ARE CLEARLY AGAINST FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

The famous dictum attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, may not be far from the Koranic call for Muslims to “stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for God can best protect both”. (Source: What Muslims must learn from anti-trump protests in America, Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, 5 February 2017, SCMP)

Along a similar vein, Linda Sarsour, a leading Muslim American activist was quoted in an article titled “Muslims Defend Pam Geller’s Right to Hate”, saying “[Pamela] Geller can draw any damn cartoon she wants and I defend her right to do so. I have always fought for her right to be a bigot and I have the right to counter her bigotry with my own speech . . . The only hope is that the media covers our responses with the same zeal they cover the attack.”

But of course this is rarely the case:

“When you attack African-Americans, they call it Racism. When you attack Jews, they call it Anti-Semitism. When you attack women, they call it Sexism. When you attack homosexuality, they call it Intolerance. When you attack your country, they call it Treason. But when you attack the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), they call it freedom of speech and expression.” (Source: Widely circulated Facebook quote, unknown author)

FREE SPEECH IS ALL ABOUT DOING GOOD IN THIS WORLD.

If free speech absolutes were genuinely fighting for fearless freedom of expression and are sincere about doing true and lasting good in this world as they often claim in their defence, aren’t there countless of other urgent issues that these free speech heroes ought to consider giving some coverage to?

From writing about rights of the poor, minorities, disabled people, asylum seekers, working class migrants, rape victims, sex trafficking, teenage pregnancies, capital punishment, violence against women, human rights activists in jail, the role of western pornography in pedophilia, Western arm producers selling weapons to repressive regimes or abandoned army veterans who are sent overseas for war and come home scarred from emotional (PTSD) and/or physical disabilities or the hundreds of LGBTQI killed every year in Christian-majority as well as Muslim-majority countries around the world, – there are hundreds more worthwhile albeit controversial issues that deserve the right to be discussed and yet are very often overlooked by these so-called “free speech absolutes”. Why is that?

In fact, author and American journalist Glenn Greenwald rightly called this the “Bill Maher Complex: thinking you are brave and subversive for mocking the most marginalized while reliably sycophantic to actual power”.

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