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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Charlie Hebdo and Islam: The provocations need to end NOW!

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Once again, here we are talking about terrorism and Islam. The topic never goes away. It is true that terrorism exists. It is also true that there are groups of people from Al-Qaeda in the Middle East to Boko Haram in West Africa who are bent on taking innocent lives in the name of Islam. But what is also true, which is rarely discussed, is that Islam despises taking innocent lives and it doesn’t recognize terrorism of any sort.  And, what is also genuinely important to note, is that terrorist groups always react to words, actions and images considered derogatory to Islam. It’s always been like that but it’s always been one news outlet that keeps doing exactly that.

In 2005, Danish daily Jyllands-Posten newspaper published provocative cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. It sparked a huge outrage in the Muslim world, mainly in Arab countries.

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However, in 2016, the same images were reprinted by Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine. It attracted a similar backlash.

The iconoclastic French publication continued its defiance in provoking Muslims with subsequent publications in 2011 and 2013.

The anger in the Muslim world turned into a more tragic action when in January 2015, two brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris with guns, killing 12 people and injuring at least 11. The actions were condemned around the world, including by Muslims.

The massacre left a deep scar and sparked global debates on free speech, blasphemy and religion.

Again, a day before the trial of those accused of complicity in the massacre, Charlie Hebdo republished the same cartoons. Many believe that by republishing the cartoons a day before the landmark trial, sought to make a loud and defiant statement in support of free speech and expression. However, what is true is that by its provocative action, Charlie Hebdo is needlessly reopening old wounds.

France has one of the largest number of Muslims in the Western world primarily due to migration from Maghrebi, West African, and Middle Eastern countries, with at least 6 million Muslims. But France has not been the best place for Muslims. It should be possible to condemn violence by Muslims without giving a free pass to those who defame and vilify Islam, prophet Muhammad and the holy scripture. And the world needs to see that these satirical publications are causing chaos. Samuel Paty, a French teacher was brutally beheaded after reportedly showing the same cartoons to his tudents in class.

Inasmuch as we all fight for free speech and of the press, it is also important to avoid unnecessary provocation of religious sensibilities. Charlie Hebdo needs to find other leaders to caricature and allow the prophet to rest, especially if their persistent provocations are causing deaths of innocent people.

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