Hargeisa (Somalilandsun) – The Republican- It has been an imprudent of Charlie Hebdo to rain fuel on the flames. Perception is that the magazine have unwisely done so to advertise 1.7 billion Muslims for minutes of fame and millions of bucks that will last no long. In its last issue, the magazine distributed over 7 million copies in a replacement for its regular circulations of 40,000.
Alas, the editor in chief is deficient of the intellect to realize that he has circulated the same number of temptations for another evil to visit him in office. And here, the question vestiges, why should the editor incite extremists who are tedious to violence?
Gerard Biard, editor of Charlie Hebdo disregards that question and would rather censure the western publications that have declined to reprint his controversial cartoons in the aftermath of the January 7 mass shooting at his Paris.
“This cartoon is the symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of democracy and secularism,” Biard told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday. “When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out, when they decline to publish it, they blur out democracy.”
To challenge that proclamation, let’s reverse the wheel three years back and visit Charlie Hebdo offices.
In November 2011, the magazine’s office was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The attacks were alleged to be linked to its verdict to rename that new edition “Charia Hebdo”, with Muhammad listed as the “editor-in-chief”.
After that episode, in his critique, “Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr”, Bruce Crumley, Time’s Paris bureau chief wrote, “Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.”
The writer warned against the enticement of extremists in the name of free speech while the cartoonists are with the intent of offending millions of moderate people.
Mr. Crumley wrote, “The violence inflicted upon Charlie Hebdo was outrageous, unacceptable, condemnable, and illegal. But apart from the “illegal” bit, Charlie Hebdo’s current edition is all of the above, too.”
Immediately, Bruce Crumley was accused for blaming the victim, Charlie Hebdo. Mollie Hemingway, in his piece Free speech meets firebombs affirmed that “If Time magazine’s leaders have any moral sense, author Crumley would already be fired.” Do they want to fire him for his professional ethics, courage and decency?
Last week, Pope Francis approved the verdict of Crumley. Speaking of the attacks in Paris, the Pope has defended freedom of expression, but said it was wrong to provoke others by insulting their religion and that one could “expect” a reaction to such abuse.
On his flight to the Philippines, the Pope has said there are limits to freedom of expression, “one cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” said the Pope.
Gerard Biard, the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, notoriously, responded to the Pope in defense to his magazine’s controversial satire of Muslim Prophet Muhammad, saying the cartoons protect “freedom of religion” and, at some level, “freedom of speech”.
Sadly, that absurd response of Gerard Biard is defended by the (western) leaders. Challenging Pope Francis’ assertion that there are “limits” to free speech, the British Prime Minister David Cameron said that “in a free society, there is a right to cause offense about someone’s religion.”
“I’m a Christian,” Cameron said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on last week. “If someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don’t have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them.”
That is not the authenticity in Europe. A paradigm of the conspiracy is avowed to the French authorities in litigating Charlie Herdo for a cartoon that had been deemed “anti-Semitic” by Maurice Sinet. In 2009 the cartoonist was sacked while the magazine was sued for 40,000 Euros. Sinet also reported a death threat posted on a site run by the Jewish Defense League.
As a matter of fact, it is a criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo scorned Islam. A Holocaust denier can be imprisoned for a year and forced to pay $60,000 fine.
One year ago, French Muslim activists booked Charlie Hebdo at the court of Alsace-Moselle over a headline that insulted the sacred Koran. The court was known of a past set of laws forbidding religious blasphemy against Christianity and Judaism, but not Islam. Before the verdict, the editor, Stephane Charbonnier, illustrated that he was confident of the suit’s outcome, saying at the time, “We know in advance that the trial will not go through because Islam is not in the code.” Accordingly, the editor was exonerated by the court.
But the editor, the editor was lately indicted and killed together with his colleagues by the brothers Saïd and Cherif Kouachi,in the January 7 shooting at his office.
Currently there is no law, in France, banning blasphemy. However, “the incitement to commit crimes and offences” is still a violation (Art. 23), as is the vindication of crime against humanity, the incitement of hate or violence based on religion, nationality, ethnic group, race, sexual orientation or handicap (Art. 24), and slander or libel against any religious group, nationality, ethnic group, race, sexual orientation or handicap (Art. 32).
But for the five million French Muslims, the law bans public wearing of female’s traditional dress (burqa and niqab) in covering their body.Women who wear these in public can be arrested, fined the equivalent of about $200 and forced to carry out community service.
This follows years of controversy over such caricatures. The question residues, what freedom of thought encourages offending some around 2 billion Muslims? Is that Moral? Is it civilization? Or is it rather a deliberate exasperation to create a conflict between two civilizations?
Hassan O. Horri is the Director General of the Commission for Good Governance & Anti-corruption, Hargeisa, Somalialand. He is a journalist in profession and commentator on African and Middle East issues. Previously he was Editor-in-chief for several local papers, founder and managing director for Horn Cable TV.