This morning we awake to the news of yet another terrorist attack – once again inflicted by Islamist extremists. In Paris, twelve people are dead and eight are injured (four critically) by the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo; a weekly French satirical newspaper. The newspaper has become well known throughout the world over the years for featuring cartoons, reports, jokes and aggressive attacks on religions, politics and culture. It seems nothing was held sacred or out of bounds.
For some English translations of their more provocative material click on this link:
Two thoughts immediately spring to mind when I consider the horrendous events that took place in Paris yesterday.
Firstly, how far should free speech go? Now I’m not suggesting the extremist anti free speech of some Communist and Muslim countries. What I am asking is where does self control, respect and decency limit what we say, write and publish? If I know that saying something is going to offend or hurt someone else I practice self control out of respect for that person. Jesus encapsulated this when He taught people to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The French government had requested restraint of Charlie Hebdo several years ago when it published drawings, some of which depicted Mohammad naked and in demeaning or pornographic poses. These were met with a swift rebuke by the French government, which warned the magazine could be inflaming tensions, even as it reiterated France’s free speech protections. Charlie Hebdo went ahead and as a result France had to increase security at its embassies across the Muslim world. Protests occurred across the Muslim world like the violent protests that targeted the United States over an amateur video produced in California that left at least 30 people dead. In 2005, Danish cartoons of the Prophet sparked a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world that killed at least 50 people. Many innocent people have died because of the sacred cow of freedom of speech.
This leads me to my second thought. As I’ve watched reports on various news networks it is almost laughable to watch reporters side-step the “M” word. One reporter said it was too early to attribute this attack to any particular ideology. Really? The assault was carried out by two masked men brandishing AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, with at least one shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic. When are the media going to rise above some distorted sense of political correctness and state the obvious? Several reporters also went to extremes to explain that Charlie Hebdo also mocked Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and various political persuasions. And that is true. But other religions don’t riot and shoot people. We don’t hear about Buddhist suicide bombers. Jews don’t put car bombs outside hotels. Christians turn the other cheek although we are just as offended by the constant mockery and insults to our faith by the media and Hollywood.
It is true that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, pious people who suffer more from terrorism and violence than non-Muslims. Ninety-three percent of Muslims do not support extremist views of terrorism according to a conservative Gallup poll. But that means that 7% do. Current estimates suggest there are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. That means there are about 112 million Muslims who hold extremist views – and they are obviously living among us, as has been made painfully clear by the recent events in France, Australia, Canada, America and many other nations.
So, out of love and respect for others let us limit our freedom of speech but, at the same time, let us call Islamic extremism what it is and work in unity with all peaceful people to see an end to it.