The world is still reeling from the many protests in Muslim countries stemming from a film, Innocence of Muslims, which portrays the prophet Mohammed as a womanising idiot; now the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has (again) published cartoons which mock the prophet and Muslims. France is now heightening its security at embassies, schools and consulates across the world. Last year the magazine published an issue entitled Charia Hebdo, which resulted in its offices being firebombed.
This time, all 75,000 copies of the paper have sold out; it plans to print more. The magazine’s website was hacked and briefly shut down. The editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, remained unrepentant. Commentators are discussing whether it’s an issue of free speech or deliberate provocation.
What the French said
Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, warned against excess and asked for responsible behaviour; he also added that “we are in a country where the freedom of expression is guaranteed, along with the freedom to caricature.”
What Muslims said
Essam el-Erian, head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party, said that these catoons were “an insult to a whole people. The beliefs of others must be respected,” quoted on The Guardian.
Free speech or folly?
At the time of writing a poll on The Guardian showed that 75 per cent of respondents said the cartoons were free speech.
Mocking allowed, but in this climate?
Since Voltaire, said Philippe Marlière in The Guardian, France has regarded religion as mockable. Charlie Hebdo has a long history of anarchy, which it lost in the late Nineties; its new editor is trying to reposition it “firmly on the left.” But it’s “doubtful that he can manage to restore the publication’s past glory.” Yes, we shoud be able “to mock Islam and any other religion.” But how can it be “helpful” in “the current climate?”
Sharia law incompatible with the West
The cartoons also mock Jews, said Right Side News; but they’ve taken it in their stride. Muslims, however, are in “full angry grievance, Islamic supremacist mode.” The fact is that Sharia law is incompatible with “western conceptions of freedom.” If we don’t “defend freedom of speech against Islam’s Sharia-based, liberty-crushing totalitarianism, it will disappear.”
Charlie Hebdo know nothing about religion
The Daily Shame said that Charlie Hebdo is “run by a bunch of self-important little knobs” making it seem as if there’s a divide “between the Muslims and the rest of us,” with us “on the side of good, free speech, and equality and rights and stuff,” and them “on the side of chopping hands off, bombing people, not fitting in and getting angry about cartoons.” But that’s not really how it is – it’s more like “stupid vs not-stupid.” Charlie Hebdo “understand[s] nothing about Islam.” Yes, we should have “free speech, but don’t be surprised when that stick you poked across the metaphorical divide gets snatched from your hands and ends up in your bum.”