By Maryam Ansar
The recent attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the death of eleven individuals, including one Muslim policeman, has been succeeded by countless debates on freedom of speech and its limitations.
The magazine in question, drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in order to be amusing it seems, seeing as that is the entire point of their publications. That in itself is a huge mistake; making a mockery out of religion, let alone making a mockery out of Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) who millions of Muslims around the world love and honour. It is clear that Muslims would go out of their way to protect their religion and Prophet (pbuh) from being disrespected; as was evident from the 800,000 people in Chechnya who protested the actions of Charlie Hebdo and even went so far as to supporting the killings that took place. The killings in Paris are not something that many Muslims supported, however, simply because murder of such likes is not permissible in Islam. Muslims should follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet (pbuh) did not mercilessly kill those who disrespected him, therefore Muslims have no reason to so. It is because of the aforementioned, that Muslims condemn terrorism in all its forms; Islam does not teach its followers to be violent and blood thirsty, and nor did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) do so.
The Charlie Hebdo attack also puts to task the issue of freedom of speech and questions its limitations and context. Freedom of speech exists to allow an individual to express their views without fear or reprimand; and it was under the right of freedom of speech that Charlie Hebdo decided to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). However, freedom of speech does not mean people can disrespect religion to such an extent that would come under inciting hatred towards Islam and said religion. If freedom of speech is a right, then one must also remember that decency is a virtue; in society we are taught to never hurt another person’s feelings, by the same standard, this means non-Muslims should not act in ways which upset Muslims and all religions towards others.
In fact, freedom of speech can be a rather hypocritical concept at times; for example, if someone speaks out against the crimes Israel has committed against the Palestinians, the individual is branded as an Anti-Semitic and one’s right of freedom of speech is taken away if they talk about Israel in a negative light. Yet, when individuals talk about Islam and Muslims in a negative way, freedom of speech is encouraged; many Muslims have noticed this hypocrisy since the rise of Islamophobia.