Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo Has a Right to Offend You

Charlie Hebdo

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, Mehdi Hasan has decided that free-speech has its limits and he also believes that Muslims are being held to a hypocritical double standard.

Are they? Is there truth to Hasan’s claims?

The answer here is simple. No! There is no double standard here and Hasan is doing nothing but excusing the terrorists actions (even though he claims he is not) by claiming that Charlie Hedbo went too far and violated free speech rights.

Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.

No one has said that your right to offend comes with no responsibility, but what sort of responsibility do the cartoonists at Charlie Hedbo have here? A responsibility to possibly defend their cartoons? Maybe, but they don’t have a corresponding responsibility to beg for their lives.

And why don’t they have a duty to offend? Charlie Hedbo spoke out against crimes against humanity, racism, social injustice and that offended many right-wing fascists in France, should they be careful not to offend those people? Or does Hasan only mean Muslims and doesn’t want to be offended by images that make him uncomfortable by confronting the villainy inside his beliefs.

I am sure some readers found the images of Mohammed offensive, but so what? Offense is taken, not given, readers who are attacking the magazine now are failing to understand any sort of context to which the cartoons represent.

When you say “Je suis Charlie“, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey?

Actually yes, because the context of that cover is not a racist attack on Taubira. Hasan clearly failed to spend two minutes of his time researching that cover.

Now to someone totally unfamiliar with French politics, as Hasan seems to be, this could seem racist. However, a 30 second Google search terns up this:
You see a black woman’s head on a monkey body. RACISM ! Except that every french person will recognize our french justice minister, Christiane Taubira, and the blue-white-red flame on the left. This is the logo of the Front National, the far-right party in France.

And, if you still haven’t got it, the title of the comic by Charb is “Rassemblement Bleu Raciste” which literally means “Blue Racist Gathering” and is a pun on the slogan of the Front National “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy Blue Gathering, in French the name of the Front National leader is Marine Le Pen, and Marine means Navy). So, this comic is actually an attack mocking the Front National and their bullshit.Is it tasteless ? Maybe. Is it racist ? No.

Hasan couldn’t be bothered to give up a moment of his time in order to play the racism card. Hasan continues to rant,

Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic.

You mean, satire. The racism charge against Charlie Hebdo is intellectually lazy. It shows a gross ignorance of French politics and even more importantly French culture. Many in the US and the UK are looking at these images ethnocentrically and assuming the same rules in their country apply in others. They simply don’t. What the magazine is doing is calling out injustices and the French citizens understand this, it is not the magazines fault that you don’t.

And onto Hasan’s claims of double standards in which he shows he cannot tell the difference between people and beliefs,

And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark?

An anti-Semitic remark is much different than an image of a prophet. If someone at Charlie Hebdo had made remarks against Muslim people, it would stand to reason they would lose their job as well. Mocking a person or a people is one thing, mocking a belief is totally another. Not a hard distinction.

Were you not aware that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet in 2005, reportedly rejected cartoons mocking Christ because they would “provoke an outcry” and proudly declared it would “in no circumstances… publish Holocaust cartoons”?
First, the word “reportedly” is important here as Hasan provided no link to his claim, but what is more important is, Hasan thinks images of a prophet are just as sacred as a cartoon depicting a war crime that resulted in millions upon millions of deaths. Are you kidding me?

Muslims, I guess, are expected to have thicker skins than their Christian and Jewish brethren. Context matters, too. You ask us to laugh at a cartoon of the Prophet while ignoring the vilification of Islam across the continent (have you visited Germany lately?) and the widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and public life – especially in France.
The widespread discrimination in question here is exactly what Charlie Hebdo was speaking out against! Again, context does matter as Hasan himself states, but doesn’t listen to his own advice. If he had bothered to research the magazine for five minutes he would see the magazine was on his side, but that would require journalistic integrity.

And he still doesn’t understand the cartoon of Mohammed, “That cartoon was not making fun of the prophet, it was excoriating the believers who would kill,” says Art Spiegelman, the American creator of “Maus”, a graphic novel about the Holocaust.

Hasan has done journalism and freedom of speech a great injustice in this piece. He shows he lacks any intellectual integrity and simply doesn’t want to be offended. His desire to not be offended is so strong he is willing to remove free speech rights to do so.

Hasan needs to learn about French politics and culture and then educate himself on the difference between people and ideas. Until then, he is not to be taken as a serious critic or voice in the fight against injustice around the world. His fight is one sided, his side, offend anyone you want, but don’t you dare offend him.