Charlie Hebdo Cartoon, Holocaust Denial, and Freedom of Speech

In 1990, France passed legislation declaring the Jewish Holocaust denial as a criminal offense, which is called the Gayssot Act. Thirty years later, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a caricature of the prophet of Islam.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon
flickr/photos/londonmatt

Charlie Hebdo has recently republished a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad ahead of a trial of 14 people, accused of carrying out an attack in 2015 at the satirical magazine’s editorial office.

In 1990, France passed legislation declaring the Jewish Holocaust denial as a criminal offense, which is called the Gayssot Act. Thirty years later, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a caricature of the prophet of Islam.

Charlie Hebdo first published Muhammad’s caricature in 2006, and the commercial success of the paper was coincided by the mass protests by the Muslims around the world. Now the republishing coincides with the trial.

The overall development from the publication of borrowed incitement through caricatures from Denmark in 2006 to the most recent event involving the reproduction of the same article presents itself for scrutiny.

It tends to raise various questions ranging from Islamist terrorism to France’s forceful commitment to freedom of expression. It is by now obvious that both are irreconcilable as each represents the extremist aspect of ideology.

If Islamist terrorism is one extreme that represents religious intolerance by allowing those who kill anyone making fun of their religion, the French system presents another extreme. Its representation of a culture that takes pride in national political liberty at the expense of global moral consciousness is seriously questionable. It is ironic that French national liberty allows Charlie Hebdo to publish the cartoon of a figure who is revered by every fourth person in the world.

Yet, the biggest representative of French Muslims, who roughly make up the ten percent of the country’s population, called on people to ignore the cartoons. The president of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) also urged people to condemn violence.

The majority of the Muslims around the world, too, condemn violence in any form. But they also denounce the mischief aimed at flaring the inherent violence in some of those individuals the world derogatorily calls “Islamists”.

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The act of the satirical magazine would be blasphemous by any standard had Charlie Hebdo been based in any Islamic country. However, by law, the magazine can print such material in France.

On September 1, after the loss of 17 people, exposing the entire nation to uncertainty, and hurting the religious sentiments of around 1.8 billion adherents of Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo chose to reprint the cartoons.

Was it worth it in the first place?

The front cover of the latest edition depicted the prophet’s caricatures, in one of which the leader of Islam showed wearing a bomb instead of a turban, with the headline reading “All of that for this?”

Should Freedom of Expression Be Unbridled?

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a democracy and must be protected. But should it be unbridled? Should it contain no scrutiny?

If so, then why France or other countries penalize those who deny the existence of the Holocaust? Why citizens’ right to opinion is comprised of that particular instance?

Personally, I support the Gayssot Act as it attaches a sensitivity towards a religion. But then, this sensitivity should be respected across the religions with an exception. If Holocaust denial can draw litigation, then why not making fun of Islam’s prophet?

Laws are made to regulate people’s behavior, which tends to inculcate a specific attitude among people, becoming a norm over time. This is how humanity evolves, and cultures flourish and form conditions conducive for tolerance and harmony.

About Abubakr Farrukh

Abubakr FarrukhMy focus is on politics, history, religion, and philosophy of life. I present news analysis and opinion on current affairs and occasionally produce satire articles

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