Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why is Charlie Hebdo Not Being Charged for Hate Speech?

Cover of French Magazine Charlie Hebdo depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a wheelchair while being pushed by an Orthodox Jew
French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, exercising its freedom of expression published caricatures of Prophet Mohammed naked, and with an Orthodox Jew pushing Prophet Mohammed in a wheelchair. In consideration of the violent reaction to the recent anti-Mohammed video and the assault on the U.S. embassy in Libya, what was Charlie Hebdo thinking? Apparently, the French Government tried to stop the publication, and has now closed 20 embassies to mitigate any violent reaction to the publication.

Has freedom of expression gone too far?

Shouldn't Charlie Hebdo be charged for promoting hatred, at least in knowing that its publication would cause hatred?

French Law prohibits Holocaust denial, but has no provisions for comments deemed blasphemous under Islam.

However, France has hate speech laws: these laws "protect individuals and groups from being defamed or insulted because they belong or do not belong, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or because they have a handicap. The laws forbid any communication which is intended to incite discrimination against, hatred of, or harm to, anyone because of his belonging or not belonging, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or because he has a handicap." France Hate Speech Laws

Why show disrespect for another person's beliefs, and if those beliefs are not indirectly or directly a threat to you?

In an optimal democracy, freedom is reigned in to allow all citizens to have a voice, and to prevent economically and politically powerful individuals and groups from dominating.


Commentary:

From Reuters:

The French government, which had urged the magazine not to print the images, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.

Riot police were deployed to protect the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Mohammad in a wheelchair.

On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked. One, entitled "Mohammad: a star is born", depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.

Initial reaction from Muslim countries was critical.

"Of course it will anger people further. It will raise tensions that were already dangerously high," said Sheikh Nabil Rahim, a leading Salafist cleric in Lebanon.

"We will try to keep things managed and peaceful, but these things easily get out of hand. I fear there could more targeting of foreigners, and this is why I wish they would not persist with these provocations."

In Egypt, Essam Erian, acting head of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters: "We reject and condemn the French cartoons that dishonor the Prophet and we condemn any action that defames the sacred according to people's beliefs."...

Charlie Hebdo has a long reputation for being provocative. Its Paris offices were firebombed last November after it published a mocking caricature of Mohammad, and Charbonnier has been under police guard ever since.

Speaking outside his offices in an eastern neighborhood with many residents of North African origin, Charbonnier said he had not received any threats over the latest cartoons. In a message on its Twitter account, Charlie Hebdo said its website had been hacked, but referred readers to a blog it also uses.

The French Muslim Council, the main body representing Muslims in France, accused Charlie Hebdo of firing up anti-Muslim sentiment at a sensitive time.

"The CFCM is profoundly worried by this irresponsible act, which in such a fraught climate risks further exacerbating tensions and sparking damaging reactions," it said.


French Magazine Runs Cartoons That Mock Muhammad
By SCOTT SAYARE and NICOLA CLARK (Source: NY Times)

PARIS — Calling itself a defender of free speech and a denouncer of religious backwardness, a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday published several crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, images viewed as a provocation by many Muslims and condemned by the French government as irresponsible at a time of violence and unrest across the Islamic world.

In South Asia and the Middle East, protests continued Wednesday over an amateur video, titled “The Innocence of Muslims” and produced in the United States, which also disparages the prophet. Given that context, the French government had urged the weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, to reconsider printing the illustrations, some of which depict Muhammad naked and in pornographic poses.

The newspaper refused; after Charlie Hebdo arrived at newsstands on Wednesday, the government announced that French embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in about 20 countries would be closed Friday as a precautionary measure. Security will be raised at embassies and consulates, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, though no specific threats against French targets have been identified.

Accustomed to denunciations by the government, Muslims and almost every other religious or political group in France, Charlie Hebdo stood by its editorial choice. “We’re a newspaper that respects French law,” said Gérard Biard, the editor in chief. “Now, if there’s a law that is different in Kabul or Riyadh, we’re not going to bother ourselves with respecting it.”

The caricatures are meant to satirize the video and the violence it has stirred, he said, and to denounce that violence as absurd.

“What are we supposed to do when there’s news like this?” Mr. Biard asked. “Are we supposed to not do that news?”

French officials acknowledged the newspaper’s right to publish as it pleased, within the limits of the law, but deplored its choice to print images that might be reasonably expected to cause violence.

“In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries,” Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, told France Info radio. “Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?”

In a statement, the French Council of the Muslim Faith warned that the cartoons risked “exacerbating tensions,” but urged French Muslims “not to cede to provocation” and to express their grievances via the courts. An appeal for calm will be read during Friday Prayer in several hundred mosques across the country, the rector of Paris’s Grand Mosque announced.

The Arab League denounced the illustrations, as did the White House. “We don’t question the right of something like this to be published,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “We just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it.”

In Egypt, where protesters last week attacked the American Embassy, the Muslim Brotherhood said the cartoons were blasphemous and hurtful, and called upon the French judiciary to condemn the newspaper. Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman, noted that French law prohibited Holocaust denial. Similar provisions might be made for comments deemed blasphemous under Islam, he suggested.

“If anyone doubts the Holocaust happened, they are imprisoned,” Mr. Ghozlan told Reuters. “It is not fair or logical” that the same not be the case for those who insult Islam, he said.

There were no reports of protests over the caricatures on Wednesday, but demonstrations against “The Innocence of Muslims” continued across the globe. In the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, protesting lawyers broke into the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, shouting anti-American slogans. Protesters rallied in Peshawar and Lahore as well.

In an apparent bid to control the momentum of the protests, the Pakistani government declared next Friday a national holiday in honor of Muhammad, and encouraged peaceful protest. The government has already banned YouTube, where the video first surfaced.

Hundreds reportedly protested in Sri Lanka, where effigies of President Obama were burned, and in Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber killed 14 people on Tuesday, apparently in retaliation for the film. In Lebanon, where the Shiite group Hezbollah has called for protests against the film, thousands marched in the city of Tyre on Wednesday, chanting anti-American slogans.

In France, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would block a series of protests planned in several cities for Saturday in response to the video. “There is no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn’t concern France come into our country,” Mr. Ayrault told RTL radio.

Stéphane Charbonnier, the editorial director of Charlie Hebdo, challenged that decision.

“Why should they prohibit these people from expressing themselves?” Mr. Charbonnier asked. “We have the right to express ourselves, they have the right to express themselves, too.”

Police officers were sent Wednesday to guard the offices of Charlie Hebdo, in eastern Paris. The newspaper’s former headquarters were gutted by a firebomb last year after the publication of another issue featuring images of Muhammad. Mr. Biard, the editor in chief, described the newspaper as “atheist” and “democratic,” but also a defender of France’s fervent secularism, known as “laïcité.”

“We’re a newspaper against religions as soon as they enter into the political and public realm,” Mr. Biard said. Religious leaders, and Muslim religious leaders in particular, have manipulated their French followers for political reasons, he asserted.

“You’re not meant to identify yourself through a religion, in any case not in a secular state,” Mr. Biard said.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Waqar Gilani from Lahore, Pakistan.


Question for Readers?

Should Charlies Hebdo be charged for promoting hatred?

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