Secularism – not sensitivity – is the key to democracy

January 27, 2015
French Education and Research minister Vallaud-Belkacem in Paris

French Education and Research Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem attends a news conference at the the French prime minister’s offices, in Paris, Jan. 22, 2015. France announced new measures last week aimed at helping schools combat radical Islam, racism and anti-Semitism in reaction to deadly Islamist attacks three weeks ago. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

After the expressions of horror, sympathy, solidarity and determination not to be cowed by jihadists come the “yes buts.”

“We support freedom of expression, but we must not base the response of the state on the anger of the population.”

To be sure, we must not.

“We support freedom of expression, but we must not hold Muslims collectively responsible in any way.”

No, we must not.

“We support freedom of expression, but we should recognize that publishing, repeatedly, caricatures of Mohammad is to pick on a religious and several ethnic minorities — and is racist.”

No, it is not.

The first two statements are the necessary postures of a liberal and democratic society. The third fundamentally dilutes, even cancels, one of its pillars — the freedom of expression, which those who charge racism say they also support.

It’s been widespread, this charge, over the past few weeks – even worldwide. Olivier Cyran, a French journalist who once worked for Charlie Hebdo, wrote a long critique (in French) of the magazine’s obsession with Muslims, which “allows them to take up a significant segment of the uninhibited Islamophobic views of the left.” Writing in the Economic Times of India, opinion page editor TK Arun said, “Nobody had any business to kill” the Charlie Hebdo staff, but that “cartoonists who pander to majoritarian passions of xenophobia against a subaltern minority misuse their freedom of expression.”

Omid Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University, wrote that the Mohammad cartoons were an example of “free speech as applied disproportionately against a community that is racially, religiously and socioeconomically on the margins of French — and many other European — society.” And most aggressively, the British MP George Galloway, who presents himself as the protector of Britain’s Muslims, said in a speech to a rally in the northern English city of Bradford that Charlie Hebdo was “a racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag,” which sought “to further marginalize, further alienate and further endanger exactly those parts of the community who are already alienated, already endangered.”

In the past few days, the objections have gone much further than Galloway’s. At a mass rally in Chechnya, the mainly Muslim region in the Russian Caucasus, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, told the crowd that, “You and I see how European journalists and politicians under false slogans about free speech and democracy proclaim the freedom to be vulgar, rude and insult the religious feelings of hundreds of millions of believers. … If needed, we are ready to die to stop anyone who thinks that you can irresponsibly defile the name of the prophet.”

Why, then, defend the magazine’s publication? Common sense — heard everywhere — would seem to dictate that it’s folly to continue its publication (why stir up trouble?).  Folly — and at least unintentionally racist, one of the gravest charges liberal society can level.

But it’s not. And, curiously, one of the most vivid of the charges that Charlie Hebdo is racist shows most clearly why it isn’t. Joe Sacco, the Maltese-born American cartoonist, did a strip for the Guardian that expressed sadness and sympathy over the deaths of people of “my tribe.” It continued, however, to say that Sacco had long thought that “tweaking the nose” of Muslims was “vapid.” Had he, for example, drawn a black man picking a banana or a Jew exploiting the working class for financial gain (he drew cartoons to show how they would look), he would by common consent have crossed a line. But Muslims have a right to feel that the Mohammad caricatures also cross a line — and to dramatize that, he drew a hooded figure standing on a box with his arms stretched out, an image drawn from the torture gallery of Abu Ghraib. Believing that “something is deeply wrong with them” (Muslims) is “far easier than sorting out how we fit in each other’s world.”

But showing a black man wearing a loincloth falling out of a tree with a banana in his hand or a Jew robbing the working class is repeating prejudice. Drawing Mohammad with a bomb on his head (as Danish cartoons depicted him), and certainly drawing him weeping over the killing of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie” (as in the magazine’s post-murders cover), are comments on a phenomenon of our times. That is, Islam has a radical fringe whose members want to establish a caliphate over as much of the world as possible and are hideously violent — see, beyond Paris, Boko Haram’s slaughters in Nigeria and Islamic State’s brutalities in Iraq.

Doing a cartoon of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a savage bear torturing girl musicians, recalling the imprisonment of some members of the protest band Pussy Riot, isn’t anti-Russian racism — even though most Russians support him. A cartoon of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with skulls in his open mouth, recalling the bloody anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, for which many blamed him when he was chief minister there, isn’t anti-Indian or anti-Hindu — though Modi is wildly popular among Hindus.

Here’s the core of it. In democratic societies, a division has formed between the secular and religious spheres, which has depended upon citizens not insisting their religious beliefs apply to nonbelievers. Indeed, in most such states, the more secularism has increased, the less the populations are attached strongly — or attached at all — to any organized faith. We are reaching a state of genuinely not caring.

Liberal democracies need secularism as a condition of being liberal and democratic. They need citizens, old and new, and visitors not to care enough to murder, or die, for what they construe as their faith — or if they do so care, to restrain themselves from doing so. And when some cross that line to slay those who lampoon or criticize a murderous outcrop of the Muslim faith, they threaten the destruction of a pillar supporting the way democrats live their lives.

41 comments

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I think the central tenet is valid (no faith-based imposition of values or acts of violence) but I also think there is tortured logic with respect to one point. The author makes a completely contrived distinction between satire that “repeats a prejudice” (like a black man picking a banana) and satire that reflects and comments on “phenomena of our times” (a wooly and ambiguous concept if there ever was one). The latter would include the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb on his head, which meets his acceptability test of legitimate political expression.
But there is hardly free expression if citizens cannot freely disrespect and challenge all religious tenets and dogmas. Satire and free expression cannot be contingent upon whether ideas and cartoons incorporate some timely political message (and who is determining that, a government bureaucrat somewhere?), or convey some larger social message about a religion. In a free society, anything goes, and one just has to go on the Internet to see the websites dedicated to demeaning and hating Jews, Muslims, and Blacks,etc. Should these be shut down because they present obnoxious prejudices without any redeeming political value? Of course not. Free expression is exactly that, freedom to express whatever we believe or think without censorship by the government.

Posted by Cassiopian | Report as abusive

This article was so horrifically insipid, it actually inspired me to register to comment on a news site for the first time in my life.

Yes, the cartoons were often racist. Admitting that they were offensive in no way undermines the pillar of free speech. It strengthens it. Freedom of speech is allowed even when it IS offensive and racist. If speech were not allowed merely because it was offensive, then we’d have a weaker society. There is no contradiction in criticizing the contents of the cartoons, and also vehemently defending their right to publication.

Your arguments that the cartoons aren’t racist are even worse. I am sure anyone making anti-black or anti-semitic cartoons would also think they were just fairly ‘commenting on the times’. It must be wonderful to have your sense of moral clarity to be able to look at criticisms of one group and call it ‘fair commentary’ and criticisms of another group and dismiss them as ‘repeating prejudice.’

Posted by WowYoureWrong | Report as abusive

But it’s nothing to do with reaffirming our right to freedom of expression.

It’s about asking what is gained by these cartoons. That’s what Joe Sacco was really asking.

Believe it or not there are Muslims who find these depictions deeply upsetting, yet do not go on a murderous rampage. Why is it that these Muslims should bite their collective tongues, so to speak? Is their freedom of expression less valid? Why do people feel the need to set out to deliberately upset others all for “freedom of speech”? Where is the empathy, respect and understanding?

Myself I am no believer or follower of any one religion. But it seems that true secularism is giving way to state-atheism and this is just as dangerous as any state religion.

Posted by RobertKnolles | Report as abusive

Let’s not forget the profit motive of “journalist?”. People bought the paper because it was sensationalist. So the “journalist/satirist/cartoonist” wrote the material that would sell. The paper pandered to the fear of the public and the public big brained humans bought the paper.

Not much different than fox news/rush Limbaugh and other hate journalist pandering to the big brained humans.

If big brained humans would just live without the hype (from any source – religious, journalist, hollywood) – we could get along much better.

Posted by michaelryan | Report as abusive

To follow up on Cassiopian’s point, supporting free expression does not mean supporting that which is expressed. That is why even horrible cartoons about Jews and black people are permitted as free speech, and it is also why all the people quoted in the article are able to support the right to free speech without supporting a magazine that, whatever hairs you want to split about racism, was clearly being intentionally offensive to Muslims.

Also, the distinction between a cartoon portraying Mohammad, a deceased religious figure who is the symbol of an entire religion, as a terrorist, and one showing a contemporary political figure doing bad things seems pretty clear to me, thought the author weirdly conflates them. The one identifies all of Islam with terrorism; the other is just attacking the specific leader.

Posted by Jammin17 | Report as abusive

Cassiopian is on target. And since Charlie Hedbo is French, I would only add that maybe we should look at “repeats a prejudice” and “phenomenon of our times” with reference to Foucault’s ‘discourse’. When does a phenomenon become prejudicial? If some item in a particular context is judged prejudicial, does that mean the item can not be referenced in other contexts as a legitimate phenomenon? When is context not important? When does the label prejudice become reactionary censorship?

Cassiopian brings us home: free expression … freedom. To restrict the free expression of ideas/opinions, by governments or any other structure in society, is to invite the development of ideologies that are intolerant of dissent. And let’s be clear, by definition, all ideologies have their forms of blasphemy/heresy. The West supposedly prides itself on the ability to express dissent … without prejudice.

This discussion is mostly internal to ideas of the West. What is lurking, actually bursting, to be discussed is how the ideas of one culture influence another and the legitimacy of one culture to restrict the availability of the ideas of another culture, judged as corrosive, as existentially threatening. The freedom for an individual to exercise self-defense, in the West, is a right. Do cultures/societies/religions have that right, as well?

Posted by aeci | Report as abusive

Islam is not a race. It is a choice. And a pretty debilitating one. Muslims often boast that they are the single largest group of people on earth. Great. But when is the last time you heard of a major medical breakthrough come from a muslim university? Or any technological advancement for that matter? These are people who shoot girls in the face for studying. Now one may argue that those are just extremists…. soiling the good name of Islam. So then one must wonder: Why no fatwas issued by the top clerics and muftis to root out these ‘damaging’ extremist elements? They have time to issue fatwas against a cartoonist in Seattle (still stands). But not against these extremists who are supposedly perverting Islam by kidnapping school girls in Nigeria and selling them in child sex rings in the name of Allah. Until that’s fatwa-worthy…. Islam has a deep problem.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

I have to say that I am loving it that the Liberals accusations of “racist! racist!” are coming at them now! Liberals use accusations of racism to try to silence ILLEGAL immigration foes, to try to silence anyone who stands up for personal and/or familial responsibility.

I’m loving that these same people who have hinted that 9/11 was a Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Right conspiracy and NOT stood with us against terrorism, that now their supposed “right” to insult anyone’s religion or beliefs is threatened they are suddenly so ready to demonstrate and stand against terrorism. Total hypocrisy at it’s finest. I will use their own tool they used against me for years:

Racists!

Posted by puchurro | Report as abusive

Saying that “govt and society must be run in a secular way” stomps on the rights of a Billion people who believe other wise. But you only preach “tolerance”, you don’t want to TRULY live it.

Posted by puchurro | Report as abusive

Excellent analysis by Mfr. Lloyd. Best (3) on-topic comments I’ve read in a long time!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Islam is a political system that is supported by individuals who believe they can call for a human sacrifice for an “honor” crime and get away with murdering their daughter because she was raped or for murdering a neighbor couple because that couple is Christian and dared to drink from the same public water cup that Muslims use; this is nonsense, it is a system that needs to be destroyed; it isn’t genetic, it is a chosen system for peoples’ whose egos are so high they worship themselves and not the Almighty. They name themselves Mohammed and worship themselves, they do do not worhship the Almighty, they decided that Mohammed cannot be depicted because the Almighty cannot be depicted. Mohammed created a political system to put his uncle out of power and an excuse to kill everyone else who gets in his way; pure politics for the orphan who had nothing and was treated worse than Cinderella. Islam is NOT a race; it is not followed by only people of a single race, it is followed by many different ethnic groups and by political parties that name their countries after the system. Like the Thuggee, the world needs to outlaw this political system, bar it forever.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

AlkalineState … There is much debate in the Muslim world about IS. And there have been fatwas against it. Here’s an interesting take on fatwas and whether they’re an effective strategy: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/nesrine- malik/isis-islam-fatwas_b_6076310.html

For myself, the conflicts between certain radical Islamists and the West will never be solved militarily. And from what I gather in your response, you feel the same. Namely, that it’s ultimately a cultural issue within Islam itself.

Just for fun, imagine the reverse: that radical Islam is dominant with Western values feeling the pinch. How would you react to the existential threat to your values, your way of life? I’m not justifying radical Islam. Or criminals who cloak themselves in religious texts. I would like to find a way for disparate beliefs (and let’s admit that Western values are just beliefs) to coexist. If someone feels threatened they tend to lash out. If some don’t want to be a part of the globalism/multiculturalism that is pushed today by the West, that’s their choice. Forcing it down their throats isn’t going to work. Nor should it be desired, as it is hypocritical for us. This is the problem for us in the 21st century, are we justified in our view of progress to the point that we force others to comply? Of course I’m speaking internationally, not within our borders. If others chafe at our dominance, don’t they have a right to their dissent? To their own beliefs?

Posted by aeci | Report as abusive

I have no fear that cartoons of Mohammed are going to be censored in Europe. So I find the seeming main point of this editorial – that Europe is in danger of facing censorship of Mohammed cartoons – to be pure fear mongering.

The author calls racism “one of the gravest charges liberal society can level” – as if we live in a society where racism has been eradicated except for a few occasional outbreaks. Racism is everpresent throughout the world – including Europe. It’s like garbage, you have to keep taking it out everyday or the house gets smelly, but the next day it’s there again. “But they’re MORE racistso we’ve got to racist back!” No, I’d rather take my garbage out than leave it in the house to spite the neighbors.

The author mentions several people who have pointed out the racist undertones present in repeated Mohammed cartoons. Then, he plays a game of joining the dots to link them all together to establish a false equivalency to the near-terrorist radical statements of Ramzan Kadyrov head of the Chechen Republic in the Russian Federation. Sorry dear author – it is my opinion that you should respect the right of informed citizens to pronounce social observations and not resort to calling them terrorists because you don’t like what they said.

My opinion about the Mohammed cartoons: part wit, part current affairs, and yes part deliberate insult of a particular race/religion. Wit, politics, insult – these are the major components of satire – an artform which has reached a high level of development in Europe – an artform which by its very nature creates energy from straddling the borderline between the acceptable and the unacceptable. Reviewing the cartoons on the internet my funny bone was sometimes stimulated – and I found the “Je suis Charlie” cartoon of Mohammed grieving over the deaths a perfect expression of my own feelings (admittedly as an ethnic but not practicing Christian) of how I believe Mohammed was betrayed by the murders. However, there are so many Mohammed cartoons, over and over and over, many of them look just stupid or rude not funny, and the more I looked at them, the more it seemed like beating a dead horse, a joke gone stale, the sarcastic wit withered, and only the politics and insult components alive and well. Just my impression – and I’m not a terrorist or sympathizer by the way.

Posted by CharlieCheval | Report as abusive

Let us remember that Western democracy did not develop in secular societies. Instead, Western democracy (especially in the English-speaking world) developed in societies with state religions which gradually moved towards religious tolerance and only later developed secularism as a value. (Look at the English Civil War, in which Puritans from Massachusetts crossed the Atlantic to fight for one side, while Cavaliers from Virginia crossed the Atlantic to fight for the other side.)

Isn’t it more suited to the facts to say that Islamic jihadism is a perversion of a religion which Western democracies are otherwise inclined to tolerate? That way we don’t have to pretend we have an interest in the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo (even as we recognize the right to publish them), which are even less interesting to most people than the movie The Interview (another exercise in global mischief and bad taste).

In addition, by saying that the problem is religion solution is secularism, we trivialize the Hyper Cacher murders associated with Charlie Hebdo, as well as the current wave of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, a government policy of secularism has many attributes of a state position, because it purports to place a value on religious belief (a zero value, but a value nevertheless). for a policy of secularism to be implemented, there much be some way of rewarding the non-religious and/or penalizing the religious. Either way, the effect is to turn religious belief into a liability for the individual holding them.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

“There is much debate in the Muslim world about IS.”

Sure. But Islamic State is only one of many sick Muslim problems. And debate is, well…. what Ted Cruz claims to be doing when he’s reading Dr. Seuss. Boko Haram, Taliban, Jihad, honor killings…. all endorsed to some degree by the Muslim Clerics and Muftis who not only fail to root out the perpetrators directly around them, they don’t even really try. I would say Iran has gone the farthest so far in fighting terrorism. But they really need to take the fight global. China has done the least anti-terrorism work, for how much global resource they suck up, and problems they cause.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

We need to get rid of all religion. They are all simply cults of control with power and money as their target. Once upon a time some religions were for the presentation of a calming reality that kept the imaginations of men from running themselves to fear. The religious leaders were only true believers in that they understood the function and efficacy of the system. Now religion is the fear monger. Down with the cults of fear.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

I understand the difference between prejudice against blacks and Jews and depicting Muhammad, and I agree that just depicting the prophet is not antimuslim. My question is, since Charlie Hebdo in the past fired cartoonist Maurice Sinet “for allegedly writing an antisemitic column”, would they also fire a cartoonist or writer for writing an explicitly antimuslim column? You know what I mean by antimuslim, not one depicting Mohammad, but one reproducing prejudice against Muslims, similarly to what Joe Sacco did with his Jew example.

Would they be equally sensitive to a clear antimuslim attitude or is it considered OK and not politically incorrect to engage in that? Why is the antisemitic card is pulled so swiftly and thoughtlessly, often after a mere criticism against the state of Israel, but being antimuslim is not even officially a term (Google Chrome keeps on highlighting it as wrong, in constrast with the word antisemitic)? And what does that say about this selective application of free speech, racism and political correctness?

Posted by Korios | Report as abusive

This is wrong, too. You can say anything you want about others; they can say anything back. As soon as you start to justify free expression you open the door to suppressing it or finding exceptions.
As to the Muslims, are we to start going around believing that the German public was not responsible for the actions of the state during WW II? No. Nor should we excuse the Muslim faith from the actions of a “fringe.” Some fringe! it is the responsibility of the Muslim Community to take action against this barbarism and until they do so successfully they share the guilt.

Posted by cathghost | Report as abusive

Consent is agreement or permission to do or allow something.

Repeated “free speech” without consent is abusive.
The cause of abuse is lack of empathy.

Peace cannot be had without empathy.

Practice empathy; Stop abuse.

Peace be with you All.

Love
Omega

Posted by Lovetwo | Report as abusive

My belief tells me that each and every life is very precious, because that is the only life we’ll have. It is unique, and a gift. NO ONE has the right to take that life. This is the basic tenet of all religions. You Do Not Step On An Ant when it is on your path.

That Islam has lost this tenet tells me that something has gone very, VERY wrong. I am not versed in religious teaching but if I remember correctly Islam adhered to this tenet for a long time -well into the Crusades. Around about that time Muslims sought a fatwa to be able to kill, and that fatwa was witheld for many years, even causing great frustration. Finally in the face of great pressure, that fatwa was released, and it had certain conditions. The current “jihad” is an aberration. Jihad originally did not mean “war” in the sense of killing. Jihad encompasses expansion, that is their given duty, but it means the spreading of Allah’s word -not killing. The Saudis and even the Taliban know this full well but are loathe to say so.

Posted by Neslihan | Report as abusive

@brotherkenny4,

Even when you express an opinion that can be logically supported, you present it in a way that it can’t. “We need to get rid of all religion.” WHO, exactly is “we”. WHERE would necessary authority originate? From within ourselves, or course.

As man collectively left the trees and learned to walk erect on the ground, to speak, to think, to write, he has, step by step, steadily reduced that darkness within the mind from which every fear springs. In the “educated” mind of today less and less is truly “unknown”. No longer do (most) humans cower in fear during a thunderstorm lest one of Thor’s lightning bolts end their existence because they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If we were to graph the sum of all human knowledge, the line would start from zero and rise very slowly until spoken language is achieved. It then rises faster as philosophy emerges and methods of preserving spoken thoughts are found. The rate of increase is still relatively low so long as complex skills were transferred only through long apprenticeships financially indistinguishable from slavery of indefinite length (with few guarantees).

The printing press put knowledge within the financial reach of any “common man” who could read and had necessary leisure and access to books. This led to an “educational establishment” to give access to more and more.

Even as the apprenticeship “system” disintegrates, the industrial revolution progressively employs the power of water wheels, windmills, electric motors, and internal and external engines to replace the muscles of men and other animals to multiply what single individuals can accomplish. Our graph line is rising ever faster, and the totality of human knowledge is doubling and redoubling ever faster.

But the relatively sudden and rapidly increasing availability of computers and software the average person can afford (and utilize) over the last quarter of the 20th Century literally changes everything. This change is greater in both effect and potential far beyond that of spoken language, written language or printed language. Each is but a means of documenting thought and passing worthy concepts on to any and all interested to utilize as they may, but the efficiency of the computer and the internet at these things is unprecedented and without limit.

The genuine options available to educated thinkers already far exceed that which any single mind can ever explore in a lifetime. Just about anyone with the mind and the motivation can contribute to virtually any field of research, a fact that is fueling an explosion of understanding and shared knowledge heretofore unthinkable. That which is known within virtually every discipline, from the medical to the intellectual, is expanding at a rate approaching infinity

The human genome has been sequenced, as well as that of other species (including that of the extinct mammoth). One visionary has suggested that the first human to live a thousand years may have already been born. More and more a person’s determination to succeed is more important to success than a particular institution/sheepskin and all associated connections and privileges.

Where, within man’s efforts to become all that he can, is there room for those who still choose to cower in the darkness of organized religion? Is man’s “great destiny” to feed the infinite fruit of the loins of those with no land, no money, no skills, no education and no future? Is it to allow those who would be tyrants to subject all of mankind? I hope not.

Only when mankind reaches consensus that our place is beyond the physical limits of Earth does man have a long term future. Anything less is but a transient mirage inevitably ending in ignominy and oblivion.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Let them make all the offensive or tasteless cartoons they like, racist or political – that’s the core pillar of democracy which holds off tyranny of the majority. If you don’t like it, just don’t read it. If you are truly offended and can’t find the psychological resilience to just get over it, then you have many legitimate forms of protest, including demonstration and boycotts. However, when your outrage turns to violence, you are breaking the social compact and shouldn’t be allowed to remain free in a democratic country.

“All causes are ashes where children lie slain” — Stan Rogers

Posted by Tamooj | Report as abusive

“Think what you do” – is a prerogative of a controlled society. “Do what you think” – is a prerogative of a free one.

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

The distinctions you make between comments which are acceptable to you and comments which aren’t acceptable are invisible to me and I suspect they are invisible to most people.

Democracies do not have to be liberal. Your assertion that we have reached a state of not caring about religion is false.

Actually we have seen that liberals cave in to Islamic demands because of their physical cowardice. Other groups will notice that violence against liberal democracies works.

Posted by Yaakovweeeeeee | Report as abusive

I agree with all that. I would just like to add that the freedom to criticise all sacred cows is really important to a democracy. It’s only through criticism that institutions change their practices for something better. Thus society moves on and keeps up to remain competitive among world societies. In this respect those we criticise fairly or whose pomposity we undermine should be grateful. we are helping them remain relevant.

Seen this way freedom of expression is crucial to the long term survival of society. Its lack has undoubtedly contributed to the relative dysfunction of Muslim majority countries.

Posted by GordonHide | Report as abusive

OMG, we’ve got ourselves in such a state anguishing about what’s OK to say and what’s not. In any state that claims to support individual freedom, no one, NO ONE, deserves to die because of what they say, print, broadcast, tweet, or sky write. That is the difference between what these vigilantes did in Paris and the right way to deal with offensive speech. Yes, we can and should have debates about if and how to regulate speech (hate speech, speech that incites violence, etc), but even in the case of speech that “crosses the line”, the redress is tools like censorship or the courts, NEVER physical violence. That the discussion about this massacre has degenerated into discussions about whether being Muslim is a good or bad thing — you should all be ashamed at yourselves and go back to square one and refer to a good civics textbook.

Posted by Sanity-Monger | Report as abusive

The key to Democracy is secularism? What idiots. Can those arrogant asses not look across the pond at the free and brave? Saving their snobbish asses during the last century in two wars should be enough to earn their respect, but we show respect to and allow all freedom of religion and culture…you are free to show as much skin and cover as much skin as you like in this country, pray to whatever direction you like or not pray at all. We lead the world in peace, wealth, technology, education, sports, and gun ownership…we are the only country people are lining up to get in to and not because they are fleeing a worse situation, but because this is the land of freedom. The French can get stuffed…arrogant buffoons.

Posted by AbdullahMikail | Report as abusive

“Think what you do” – is a prerogative of a controlled society. “Do what you think” – is a prerogative of a free one.

UauS this is a recipe for lawlessness.

Try this:

Think what you do – is a prerogative of a “self controlled” society.
Do what you think – is a prerogative of Free Will.

God give everyone Free Will in accordance with the law.

Unconsenting abuse is against the law.

Love one another.

Peace be with you All.

Love
Omega

Posted by Lovetwo | Report as abusive

It is currently very popular to bash Islam. This is for a good reason. Islam is doing a bad job at progressing in the world. Their universities produce nothing of practical or artistic value. The main contribution of their men is to chuck rocks at women and burn down schools with the kids still in them. Cave man religion. Seriously. We do meet smart Muslims in the west, because they were smart enough to leave their Muslim countries.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

How is it that I have the right to say whatever I want, no matter how offensive and insensitive it may be to others, yet if I exercise any action that discriminates against a protected class (i.e. fair housing laws) I am breaking the law? Living a lie of hypocrisy isn’t a solution, either. We are constantly reminded to be tolerant of others, their views, lifestyles, religions, etc., and with this tolerance comes silence, not necessarily true acceptance. Skewing this silence posing as liberalism leads to the beta error.

Posted by SeeAllEvil | Report as abusive

These are the outcome of simple and fundamental forces such as – in the name of freedom of expression or other, if you go about encroaching on the respect and dignity of individuals, groups and their beliefs that are otherwise minding their business, after some threshold it’ll come-back with vengeance to correct the cause.

Learn to leave them to self-correction overtime rather dreaming-up change in these parts of the world with shock-and-awe and such nonsense that has proven to create power-vacuum that cannot be filled leading to spiraling degraded conditions leading to senseless and enormous loss of life.

On the other hand, it’s a good business that feeds off of tax-payer dollars via machines of perpetual corruption – defense contractors and medical industry.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive

The satirical depiction of prophet Mohammed has been done – and I hope will continue to be done by some brave souls – because the religion he spawned has overt supremacist goals to conquer the world, for which violence is deemed necessary, desirable, inevitable. Many Muslims ignore this idea repeated in their scriptures but some don’t. This is totally different from snide stereotyped cartoons that demean particular groups. Lloyd is making this point in this article (‘Islam has a radical fringe whose members want to establish a caliphate over as much of the world as possible and are hideously violent’) but too many want to sweep this incredibly important political point under the carpet because the depiction of a great symbolic figure appears to be painting all followers with the same brush. Certainly many followers of Mohammed have taken it to mean this, hence the acute ‘reaction’.

But if no one can point out that a religious symbol is in fact proposing totalitarian kind of ideas which run exactly opposite to ideas of freedom, democracy, human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, atheist rights – you name it – then we are sinking into darkness, intellectually and politically. If Muslims themselves are currently unable to speak up, because to do so opens them up to intimidation and violence (which it does) then it falls to those unbelievers to speak up as often as possible – and to keep on drawing cartoons that draw attention to this belligerent aspect of Islam. Only by doing so do we stand a chance that some Muslims will speak openly with their co-religionists about ceasing to take the Koran and the Hadith literally. Because we see all too clearly that those texts have doctrines which are just unacceptable in today’s world and which need to die – their energy completely vanquished by collective decision.

Posted by CarolineWebb | Report as abusive

Has ever USA criticized Saudi Arabia for the violation of human rights? Where are the cartoons about them? Or again some personages are untouchable?

Posted by bogdan99 | Report as abusive

Although I agree with freedom of speech (in extension being expression) and a secular’s rightful stance that nothing is above critism. I find articles like these a side show distraction, aimed solely for victim recognition, without examination of facts or real motives. This isn’t a case of a girl who got raped because of the outfit she was wearing… This is a case of a girl, who was murdered because her family had did something horrible and continues to do so. These Islamist militants targeted Charlie’s office for one purpose, not to silence freedom of speech but for the very publicity that freedom of speech brings. They understood very well the repercussions of targeting the government they resented wouldn’t lead to much movement, so they went after the simplest target to provoke a massive reaction (from both non-muslims & muslims). I don’t see why such extravagant and extensive analyses are written as an attack on freedom of speech? They want to silence democracy as a whole because its those same democracies which had and continue to do their own atrocities. So please stop and take accountability. The exact “freedom of expression” has been an ugly, clever mask used to spread as much hate as it has love. Expressions by one side feeling superior enough to ridicule and critique have lead to to deaths of millions in merciless bloody campaigns without religious influence. Have secular’s forgotten human ambition, greed and selfishness don’t need religious, racial or social justification. Now let’s return to the statements made within this article… a black man eating a banana, or a Jew counting money. Are these not the same horrific stereotypes, which at pivotal points in history, through the avenue of “freedom of speech” used to inspire animosity and hatred which consequently lead to the enslavement, abuse and genocides of these groups. All because someone was using his pen for evil, by portraying the other side as inferior or a savage. To say a satire cartoon doesn’t inspire is hypocritical. They have and will continue to do so… Democracy’s fore fathers fought against religious persecution, tyranny and taxation… Using political satire, words of expression to inspire the masses to join in fight against their foes. The same founding father’s used images to depict superiority over savages, which were in dire need of a civilized master. Same satire used to convince the masses it was ok to enslave, rape or kill anyone from a different race, religion or political belief that didn’t match theirs. So yes satire, freedom of expression has done as much as evil as religious scripture. Just like religion, Democracy a belief in itself, has also become arrogant and blind to its own bloody, spiteful history. And if a secular will argue that was the past and “who cares”, then they are sadly delusional to the world at large. Even if you remove religious influence from government, you have not removed the injustice nor will you erase the animosity that is fueling groups set out for revenge. Taking accountability is the first step to implementing change, so Sensitvity over democracy is much needed in order to accomplish peace and harmony for all.

Posted by RealityCheck777 | Report as abusive

Secularism is a belief system and a “religion” in it’s own right.

Posted by zac48 | Report as abusive

The racist caricatures of Mohammed insult all Muslims. You wouldn’t use a caricature of Jesus to represent the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Lord’s Resistance Army.

This plays right into the hands of people who like nothing better than to portray Muslims in general as an evil, monolithic group. Their irrational zealotry perfectly matches that of the Jihadists, who should be mercilessly lampooned. Preferably without alienating the Muslims who also despise them.

Posted by riggbeck | Report as abusive

“Has ever USA criticized Saudi Arabia for the violation of human rights? Where are the cartoons about them?”

Yes. Here are a bunch of them:

https://www.google.com/search?q=cartoon+ about+saudi+arabia&espv=2&biw=961&bih=47 9&tbm=isch&imgil=MVvNFN6uK-sICM%253A%253 BGu9MyWByBz8waM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%2 5252Fwww.cagle.com%25252Fnews%25252FMore SaudiArabia%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=MV vNFN6uK-sICM%253A%252CGu9MyWByBz8waM%252 C_&usg=__4ehvTpRz1mH802g7s1j17fxZw_4%3D& dpr=1&ved=0CDAQyjc&ei=eXjKVOKANZajyATj34 HoCg#imgdii=_&imgrc=MVvNFN6uK-sICM%253A% 3BGu9MyWByBz8waM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fww w.cagle.com%252Fworking%252F021126%252Fv arvel.gif%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.cagle .com%252Fnews%252FMoreSaudiArabia%252F%3 B504%3B348

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

The so called jihadists it France were amateurs at suppression of expression. It takes professionals like product advertisers, the major media and their commercial sponsors to put the real squeeze on freedom of expression.

Has everyone forgotten about the Anti-defamation League? The NAACP could get very testy too. The American public lives with so much suppression of expression it’s the air they breath. They just don’t recognize it or talk about it. The media even caved in to the Little Pudge in N. Korea but they sure will when the advertisers get nervous or too opinionated. They can also reinstate the funding if they think public attention is elsewhere.

The article should say – this country doesn’t really believe in anything you can’t make money on, or not for long anyway.

It may well turn out in the future that western technology built the shell of modern life but Islam and some other religions may be building what actually will live in it.

Don’t worry. It won’t be a vast spiritual or social improvement. The people then will be used to the hypocrisy they are bred too.

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