Charlie Hebdo — Clarifications and Questions

It’s been an incredibly stressful week for Muslims around the globe. The horrific shootings that took place in Paris last week seem to have dominated the news agenda. Despite 2000 people being killed in Nigeria, and Muslims killed and driven out of their homes in CAR, the 17 lives lost in Paris seems to be what everyone wants to talk about. When I say everyone I mean non-Muslims. Muslims are pretty fed up of the hypocrisy, Mehdi Hasan sums it up pretty well in his piece this week. The backlash since the shootings has been extortionate. From mosques being vandalised in France to people like Rupert Murdoch (perhaps one of the most powerful people in the world) stating Muslims are collectively responsible — Muslims are really feeling the brunt of this. We’ve heard condemnations from many Muslim scholars and organisations but what does it all mean and what are we really thinking? Here are some clarifications that I feel need stating.

  1. Murder is a sin. It is haram (not permitted) in Islam. Blasphemy is a punishable crime in Islam. But the punishment can only be carried out within a legitimate Islamic state, after a fair trial has taken place and only then by the appointed executioner. The shootings were unislamic on so many level. For a start France is not a Muslim country nor does it have Islamic laws. Secondly a normal citizen is not under any circumstance permitted to go and murder people they believe have committed blasphemy. I hope I’ve cleared that up? So if you hear Muslims condoning the shootings then they are ignorant of Islamic teachings and have let their emotions run away with them.
  2. Just because I think Charlie Hebdo is a blasphemous publication, doesn’t mean I want the writers/cartoonists dead. I hate the rubbish that Charlie Hebdo print in the name of satire. I AM NOT Charlie. For me Charlie Hebdo represents racism, Islamaphobia, anti-semitism and vulgarity. 
  3. The Prophet Muhammad NEVER responded with violence to anyone who hurled abuse at him verbally or physically. Examples of how he dealt with haters are can be found here.
  4. Depictions of any prophet of Islam are not looked at favourably. I have blogged about the reasons why. To explain further, the Prophet Muhammad is as important to us as a parent. He is our role model, we emulate him and live our lives by following the Quran and using his examples as our moral compass. He was kind, humble, patient and tolerant. From how to eat to how to pray, his example dictates a Muslim’s daily activity. To then go and insult, make crude jokes about him, you can begin to see why Muslims would get upset. Upset, frustrated and provoked are some of the feelings you would feel if somebody kept mocking and insulting your loved one over and over again. Out of 1.8 billion Muslim some will lose their mind and commit violence. Not justified but it should explain why we get so upset. Also note not all Muslims care, some do and some don’t. We are a diverse bunch. The cover of Charlie Hebdo after the shootings showing an upset Prophet Muhammad stating ‘you are forgiven’ and ‘I am Charlie’ didn’t offend me. The actual depiction may offend some people — the image shows Prophet Mohammad with beady eyes and a big nose. Not flattering but then caricatures never are.
  5. There is no such thing as true freedom of speech or expression. In Germany, it is a crime to deny the holocaust, in France pro-Palestinian marches were banned this year after so many Palestinians were killed by Israel, and in the UK a man was convicted for burning a poppy. There are many examples. Many things are distasteful and offensive and editors make decisions every day about what they should print and what they shouldn’t. They don’t want to offend anybody deliberately, which leads to my next point. 
  6. We are British, and the one thing British people don’t like doing is offending. We maintain a stiff upper lip if we don’t like anything. That’s not to say we should always be politically correct, but be mindful of people’s sensibilities. Why is that such a bad thing? Why should we seek out to offend a minority? What is one going to gain out of it? It’s not British and it’s not clever. Perhaps the French don’t have this in their culture? This is not a curtailment of freedom of speech. As journalist and novelist Will Self said on Newsnight — ‘Freedom of speech is a right, and with every right comes responsibility.’ Absolutely spot on, just because we are allowed to make disgusting jokes about somebody, does that mean we should just for the sake of it, without thinking about how it will affect thousands of people?
  7. The media has really whipped up a frenzy with the continuing news coverage of the Paris shootings. Giving attention to terrorists is what they want and we are giving them exactly that. Who were the killers? Were they just evil men who hated the West or was it more to it then that? Finding out what drove them to commit such a dreadful act is important and relevant. Writing them off as evil enemies of freedom is not helpful. The root cause of their actions must be examined. Their background and their upbringing all count.
  8. Stop asking Muslims to apologise. The more you ask ordinary Muslims to apologise the more cheesed off they’re going to get. Christians weren’t asked to apologise for Christian fundamentalist Anders Breivik who killed 77 people so why the double standard? The impression I’ve got over the years is that if I don’t say anything as a Muslim it means that I condone it. Where does this logic come from and why does it apply to Muslim crimes only? 

I’m going to leave it there for now and hope to have a weekend free from terrorism talk. More next week!

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