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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“ISLAMIC” VIOLENCE OVER THE LAST 50-100 YEARS

WITH ALL KINDS OF ATTACKS HAPPENING IN THE WEST TODAY, HOW CAN ANYONE CLAIM MUSLIMS LOVE PEACE?

In an introspective article exposing the role of violence in Western history, with excerpts below, France’s pre-eminent 20th century philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte put it best in condemning his fellow French for their brutal rule in Algeria:

“First, the only violence is [ours]; but soon they will make it their own; that is to say, the same violence is thrown back upon us as when our reflection comes forward to meet us when we go towards a mirror . . . So by all means, let us blame Islam for the carnage done in its name. But let’s be honest about how much all of our most cherished ideals, identities and ideologies have contributed to the death and destruction piling up around us”. (Source: Go ahead, blame Islam by Mark LeVine, 15 November 2015, Aljazeera.com)

MUSLIMS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF THE WORST VIOLENCE OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS.

Since 1980, the U.S. has bombed, invaded or occupied at least 14 Islamic countries. Who invented and actually used the atomic bombs? Who invented and used the chemical bombs? Who launched illegal wars under the pretense of bringing freedom to a country? Who launched illegal wars under the disguise of WMDs and War on Terror? How about Catholic IRA bombing versus Protestants bombings? How about the destruction of black churches by white racists? In fact, who was behind the bloodiest wars that is, WWI & WWII in human history? Did Islam have anything to do with any of the above? (Source: Unknown)

Also, what about people with no religion who are just as much, if not more – guilty for crimes against humanity? Citing only a few brief examples, how about Pol Pot, Stalin, Chairman Mao, among others? Last but not least and given what a number of oil-producing Islamic countries are going through, further complicated by the failed Arab uprising disappointingly unsupported by the West; Western-led misdirected foreign policies that has led to several civil and sectarian conflicts under the pretense of the “War on Terror” – And yet even at its worst, violence by Muslims doesn’t compare with the horrific atrocities committed by the West’s global and colonial wars over the last hundred let alone fifty years.

BUT ISLAM IS A VIOLENT RELIGION AND THE MUSLIM WORLD MUST BEAR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE RISE OF EXTREMISM.

Considering the wars waged by the Christian and secular West over the last 50 years killing millions of Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide in Africa, the Middle East let alone Central Asia, it is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle back to accuse Islam of violent tendencies. In fact, Raba K writing for Huffington Post neatly surmised the following points:

Individuals who seek to blame Islam for all that is wrong in history, the world, and anything in between [need to be asked] how through centuries of history, spanning the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, European Anti-Semitism [The expulsion of Jews from Christian Europe], the Cuban genocide, the American genocide of more than 100 million Native Indians, and the brutal British colonisation which stole the lives of more than 15 million Indians [as well as deaths that occurred in] the First World War, Second World War, nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (with a lasting impact to this very day), the British concentration camps of Africans and the enslavement of black Africans which resulted in the death of 158 million as well as the ethnic cleansing of Australia’s Aboriginals, Vietnamese being subjected to phosphorous gas by the US [during the Vietnam war in the 1970s], up to 200,000 killed in the Mexican Caste War of Yutucan, and millions of Russians by the hand of Stalin, etcetera, and yet not one of the above [more than a billion] corpses piled, involved the role of a Muslim or individual associated with Islam . . . (Source: How the Islamic State & The Mainstream media lies about Islam, 28 Oct 2014 by Rabah K, Huffington Post)

Given such, isn’t the secular atheist West or Christianity many times over more violent than Muslims collectively can ever be and whether each and every Christian or secularist today ought to apologise until he is on his dying bed for something well outside the pacifist teachings of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) and Christianity?

BUT AT LEAST THE JEWS AND CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER BEEN THIS VIOLENT TOWARDS PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS.

A man of a Jewish and Irish background should know better about religiously motivated violence. Both Judaism and Christianity had their own violence-ridden dark ages and how the Old Testament in Christianity talks a lot more about violence, than the Qur’an does. The stoning of fornicators, blasphemers and the killing of homosexuals can all be found in the Old Testament. The Jewish Torah is not so different from the Old Testament either but this has no bearing over whether this makes a person following the Christian or Jewish faith any more violent than an atheist or agnostics could be. (Source: An Atheist’s (Somewhat) Relaxed View of the Qur’an on 1 Aug 2014 by Ronald Lindsay, President, Center for Inquiry)

Therefore let us all have a little sense of perspective. Muslims today are going through what it must have felt like being a Catholic in the 16th and 17th centuries. They too had “religious terrorists” who caused mayhem and bloodshed or in fact in some ways: “Muslims have become, at least in many ways, the new Jews [of the 19th century].They have become the scapegoats onto whom Europeans are projecting their anxieties about the future. Conservative and far- right politicians constantly intensify and exploit these anxieties in order to enhance neoliberal and nationalist agendas, while most liberal and left-wing parties have imitated the racist right, perhaps hoping it will bring them more votes.” (Source: On anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe on 5 June 2014 by Dr. Sara R Farris, Aljazeera.com)

STILL, THERE IS SOMETHING INHERENTLY VIOLENT ABOUT MUSLIMS AND ISLAM.

The imperialist West always try to dislocate the blame. It’s always the foreigner’s, the non-Westerner’s, the Other’s fault; it’s never the fault of the enlightened West . . . The West is incapable of addressing its own imperial violence. Instead, it points its blood-stained finger accusingly at the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and tells them they are the inherently violent ones . . . This does not mean we should not mourn the Paris attacks; they are abominable, and the victims should and must be mourned. But we should likewise ensure that the victims of our governments’ crimes are mourned as well . . . If we truly believe that all lives are equally valuable, if we truly believe that French lives matter no more than any others, we must mourn all deaths equally . . . The West, in its addiction to militarism, played into the hands of the extremists, and today we see the rotten fruit borne of that rotten addiction: ISIS is the Frankenstein’s monster of Western imperialism. (Source: Our terrorism double standard: After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves by Ben Norton, 15 November 2015, Salon)

WHY THEN ARE MUSLIMS FIGHTING EVERYWHERE?

Not all of the world’s Muslims live in countries with civil war. In fact, most of them do not. Among the 10 countries with the largest Muslim populations, only three – Pakistan, Nigeria and Iraq – saw civil war in 2014. (That’s the last year for which the Uppsala Conflict Data Program has data.) . . . The other seven – including Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Egypt, four of the five countries with the world’s largest Muslim populations – haven’t faced civil war for a decade or more. They may not necessarily be peaceful – certainly countries such as India and Egypt have seen their share of turmoil that has turned violent at times – but that violence hasn’t been sufficiently severe to be defined as a civil war, an armed conflict with at least 1,000 battle-related deaths in a calendar year . . . Over the past 15 years, several military interventions replaced relatively stable dictatorships with unstable semi-democracies where civil war still rages. The Arab Spring, which was at first a nonviolent popular uprising, wasn’t successful in toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, leading to the chaos and humanitarian disaster we see today. (Source: Are Muslim countries more violent? By Nils Petter Gleditsch and Ida Rudolfsen, May 16 2016, The Washington Post)

WHAT ABOUT VIETNAM THEN? THE COUNTRY WAS ATTACKED BUT THE VIETNAMESE DID NOT GO ON MURDER SPREES.

33,000 people were killed by Vietcong terrorism in South Vietnam in the 1950s, according to Carol Winkler, author of In the Name of Terrorism or how about the 80,000 people who died between 1954 and 1975 from Vietcong terrorism, according to Benjamin Valentino, author of Final Solutions: Mass Killings and the Genocide in the Twentieth Century? Surely, this classifies as a murder spree.

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