Paris has recently witnessed the targeted assassination of eight Parisian journalists. Many see their execution as terrorism. Some see it as a justifiable act of avenge or retaliation for insulting Islam and its revered Prophet (S). And then there are many others who are not sure how to categorize the violence – while they are disgusted by the shootings in Paris they may nonetheless have reasons for not embracing the slogan "I am Charlie".
The French government has epitomized hypocrisy and taken it to a level that is rarely seen in our time. It claims to respect religious rights, but such rights are routinely denied to more than six million French Muslims. A third generation French Muslim of North African heritage is still treated as an outsider in France. Mosques get routinely attacked by Islamophobic French hoodlums, but such information, thanks to the French-fried, biased and hostile media, never makes the news.
The French authorities owe the public answers to the following set of questions: if freedom of expression is a sacred cow that has to be kept alive and protected at any cost, why do they routinely punish dissenting voices that see things clearly and smell the gutter rat within the French system of equality, liberty and fraternity? Why is any expression that is critical of the deranged, sick secular fundamentalists there and their divisive and farcical policies, let alone an honest, nonthreatening criticism of Zionism and the rogue Israeli government is always portrayed as hostile and thus, punishable by the state laws? So, when demonic insulting of the most revered men in history (Prophets Muhammad, Jesus and Moses) is not just tolerated but cheered at under the guise of freedom of expression why all these double-standards to stop dissenting views on other matters, which are often conveniently lumped as promoting terrorism? Whom are they trying to fool?
In the past, I have written a few times against the savage, ultra-secular Talibanism promoted within the French society by the deranged and often delusional Talibans running the republic. Obsessed and delusional as they are, they fail to understand that their hypocritical and unjust policies are at the heart of the civilizational crisis we witness today. Like other more genuinely civilized nations around the globe, the French secular Talibans ought to learn the simple fact that while each of us have the freedom to extend our arms, such extension of arms has limits. When our stretched out arms or fists hit someone, it is no longer freedom but abuse or violence against the one who is hit.
The French people and many in the western secular societies have not learned that basic wisdom and continue to do the stupid, moronic thing of violating the rights of others. They abuse and then try to hide under the selective umbrella of freedom. It is an evil ploy that they play, hoping to hoodwink the neophyte elements within their society. In their unfathomed obsessions and Pharaonic arrogance they forget that such violent and provocative acts are bound to get some reactions from their targeted victims. Such reactions may not, of course, happen every time, but to be oblivious of the mere fact that the victims of their abuse and violence has similar rights to hit back – sometimes violently or disproportionately – is mere stupidity. And that is how most of the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America do see the current problem, which is at odds with the popular views in the west – i.e., Europe, Australia and North America – all former colonizers.
So, while the Parisians gathered last Sunday to show their solidarity with the murdered serially abusive cartoonists of the French weekly – Charlie Hebdo – where some 40 world leaders – many of whom are cold-blooded murderers – marched in unison at the Place de la Republique with the bemused – and some confused – crowd, chanting like a parrot ‘I am Charlie’, no rational and conscientious human being can excuse those rogue journalists for provoking violence. Nor can they be in solidarity with those arrogant hypocrites who fail to distinguish insults from freedom of expression. While they deplore the loss of innocent lives, they know that not everyone will filter messages in ways that are not threatening. To some the acts of those slain cartoonists were utterly sacrilegious and highly provocative – thus setting the rationale for avenging the honor of their beloved personality – the best of humanity created by God.
Freedom of press is a bedrock principle of democracy, but when journalists take that freedom as a license to incite violence, promote intolerance and inflame a society for few cheap laughs, claptraps and giggles, they degrade, denigrate and embarrass their noble profession, and need to be shunned by all. As I have noted elsewhere, they are no better than the other terrorists of our time, and can often be worse, more damaging and dangerous.
There is a well-known Persian couplet:
Ba Khuda deewana basho
Ba Muhammad hoshyaar
(Meaning: Play madly with God if you wish, but be careful with Muhammad.)
Sadly, the management and cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo continue to display insanity. One can only take pity on such arrogant fools.
Khalid Baig is a serious intellectual. He writes with conviction. I had the distinct pleasure of being his room mate for a month in Canada where we both went there for our graduate studies in the late 1970s before both of us moving to California to continue our studies in other areas.
Khalid Baig has shared his views on the debate in the Facebook, which I produce below:
Freedom to Insult versus Freedom from Insults
by Khalid Baig
In the media the issue has been framed as a clash between two camps. One camp stands for freedom of expression. The other wants to curtail it. Needless to say the first camp is enlightened and virtuous. The other is a relic of the dark ages. The clash in other words is between a civilized and civilizing West and Islam that just refuses to be civilized.
Once you accept this framing of the whole issue, the outcome is already decided. Are you for freedom of expression or not? It is a loaded question, and just like the yes/no question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” no matter how you answer it, you remain guilty.
Look at the typical Muslim response which begins, “We also believe in freedom of expression but…” It matters little what you say after that. It is obvious that you are trying to add exclusions and limitations to a basic moral value while the other side is asking for no such limits. It is not difficult to see which side will come out ahead.
But this predicament is a result of uncritically accepting a false statement about the nature of the clash. For the real clash is not between those who are for and those who are against a freedom. Rather it is between two different freedoms. On the one hand is the freedom to insult. On the other is freedom from insult. Whether it was the Satanic Verses of the 1980s or the Cartoons of 2005 and their endless reproduction since then, if they stand for any freedom, it is freedom to insult. Pure and simple. Muslims, on the other hand, have stood for and demanded freedom from insult. Nothing more. Nothing less.
These are certainly opposing values. You can be for one or the other. And the question does arise, which one is a better value.
To see that let us imagine a society that truly believes in the first as a cherished moral value. It celebrates freedom to insult and guards it at all costs. Every member of it enjoys this freedom and practices it regularly. In a business everyone insults everyone else. The boss is insulting the employees, the employees are insulting the bosses. The salesmen are insulting the customers. The accountants are insulting the creditors. Everyone is enjoying the great freedom to insult. The same is true of the home. The parents are always insulting the children. The children are constantly insulting the parents. The spouses are incessantly insulting each other. And in doing so they all stand on the high moral ground because freedom to insult is such a fundamental freedom on which the society is built.
Actually contrary to the claims of the pundits if the Western society was truly built on this “cherished moral value,” it would have perished a long time ago — consumed by the fires of hatred and negativity generated by this freedom. No home, no neighborhood, no village, no business, no organization and no society can survive for long if it makes freedom to insult as a cornerstone of its freedoms. Clearly most who advocate this freedom do not practice it in their daily lives. But they are making an exception in the case of Islam and Muslims. The driving force behind this is not any great moral principle but a deep rooted hatred born of ignorance.
Software professionals sometimes use a term called beature. It stands for a bug turned into a feature. A bug is a defect in the software. A feature, on the other hand, is a desirable attribute. A beature is a defect that is presented (thanks to slick marketing) as a feature. Freedom to insult is also a beature. It is the growing sickness of Islamophobia in the West which is being presented as a high moral value, packaged by the slick marketing departments as freedom of expression.
Well, whether or not freedom to insult is a Western value, Islam has nothing to do with it. It lays emphasis on its exact opposite: the freedom from insult. It values human dignity, decency, and harmony in the society. The freedom of religion it ensures includes freedom from insults. While it does not shy away from academic discussion of its beliefs and showing the falsehood of non-Islamic beliefs, it makes sure that the discussion remains civil. In those discussions it wants to engage the intellect of its opponents; in contrast those who itch to insult their opponents are interested in satisfying their vulgar emotions. Thus while its most important battle is against false gods it asks its followers to refrain from reviling them. (Qur’an, Al-anam, 6:108). It also reminds them to stay away from harsh speech. “Allah loves not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who has been wronged.” (Qur’an, Al-Nisa, 4:148). Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, who is being reviled by the scum of the world, taught Muslims to never let the low moral standards of their adversaries dictate theirs.
As a result of these teachings Muslims can never even imagine insulting any Prophet — from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Even when they ruled the world, Muslims treated the religious leaders of non-Muslim also with respect – even during battles. In the Baghdad court Jewish and Christian scholars engaged in open discussions with the Muslim savants. Needless to say they had not been attracted by the freedom to insult but its exact opposite. Freedom from insult is a fundamental value that assures peace and harmony. It leads to healthy societies. And Muslims are very proud of their impeccable record here.
What is true of a home or a village is also true of the world as it has become a global village. Now, more than ever before, the world needs the harmony and tolerance that can only be assured by the freedom from insults.