by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1436)
The west’s claim that freedom of expression is absolute contradicts its practices. Even the pro-Zionist Islamophobic magazine, Charlie Hebdo, does not believe in absolute freedom as evident from its own selective practices.
Every time the West insults Islam, Muslims and their revered personalities and books, it is presented as “freedom of expression.” This has become something of an absolute in Western society that we are told must be upheld regardless of the consequences, as was demonstrated by the Charlie Hebdo affair. The pro-Zionist Islamophobic magazine has for years published insulting cartoons of the noble Messenger (pbuh) totally disregarding the sensitivities of Muslims and whether such conduct is appropriate even for the larger good of society. Its editor, cartoonists and workers have insisted they have the “right” to do what they like regardless of the consequences.
Following the January 7 attack on the weekly magazine’s offices in Paris, not only France but virtually the entire Western world and Western puppets in the Muslim world went into a frenzy of grief. The French government, no less, called for a march on January 11. An estimated one million people marched through the streets of Paris and perhaps a million and a half in other French cities, according to corporate media reports. The Paris march was attended by such “upholders of press freedom” as David Cameron of Britain and Benjamin Netanyahu of the illegal Zionist entity. Cameron’s regime does not allow Julian Assange who is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the freedom of passage out of the country. What was Assange’s crime? He leaked diplomatic cables about American spying operations worldwide.
The Zionist war criminal Netanyahu came to Paris, his hands still dripping with the blood of innocent Palestinian children. He was accompanied by fellow Zionist war criminals as if they were not guests in Paris, but conquerors. And he kicked the French in the teeth by telling French Jews to migrate in even larger numbers to Occupied Palestine (aka Israel) because they were not “safe” in France.
On January 10, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said his government had declared war against “radical Islam” because its practitioners had attacked “our values, which are universal.” Hubris is not confined to American warmongers; the French, British and Zionists are just as susceptible to flights of fancy. The formal declaration of war, however, has come a little late. France has been at war with Muslims for decades and if we take its colonial history (Algeria, other parts of Africa and Indo-China), we are talking about centuries. French and indeed Western colonial legacy is horrible and gory.
Let us, however, consider France’s claim to having “universal values.” Did France not participate in the slaughter of millions of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria in recent years? What about Algeria where more than a million people were killed before the North African country gained independence in 1961, or Indo-China (Vietnam) between 1946 and 1954? Are the lives of millions of Vietnamese, Algerians, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and Afghans not worth anything? Is mass murder, even if perpetrated in conjunction with other Western do-gooders, something to be proud of? And why are 17 — yes a grand total of 17 — French lives more important than the millions of people, almost all of them Muslims slaughtered elsewhere? Are these the kind of values people can or should be proud of?
Let us first examine the Islamophobic magazine’s track record. Founded in February 1969 under the original name, Hara-Kiri Hebdo, it espoused leftwing causes associated with the oppressed. In November 1970, the French Interior Ministry banned the magazine (no freedom of expression there) because it insulted the memory of Charles de Gaulle when it published a cover upon his death, with the headline, “Tragic prom in Colombey [de Gaulle’s city of origin], one dead.”
In 2000, the magazine now renamed, Charlie Hebdo, under its new editor Philippe Val, shifted direction to the right and became extremely hostile to Muslims and Palestinians. It fully supported the Zionist aggression against Lebanon in 2006 where the invading Zionist army murdered more than 1,100 Lebanese civilians and destroyed infrastructure worth $12 billion. Perhaps this was the magazine’s way of exercising “freedom of expression” — more like freedom of aggression.
There are other anomalies as well. In 2008, one of its cartoonists, Siné, made fun of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s son. The junior Sarkozy converted to Judaism in order to marry a Jewish woman. Siné ran a caption under the cartoon, “This lad will go far in France,” hinting at the inordinate influence Jews enjoy in the country. While reflecting the reality of French life, the editor of Charlie Hebdo considered this “anti-Semitic” and fired Siné.
When asked whether he would make fun of Jews in the same manner as he has consistently done of Muslims, the magazine’s recently dead editor, Stephane Charbonnier (aka Charb), said he would not because this would be politically unacceptable. So, the issue is not one of freedom of expression per se, although it is most often touted as a cherished Western value, but one of what is politically acceptable. Nicolas Sarkozy promoted Charlie Hebdo’s editor Philippe Val to executive editor of France-Inter (a public radio station).
It is also revealing that “freedom of expression” is invoked only when the powerful, especially whites, insult and abuse others. There is no freedom of expression for the weak and the oppressed. This was most graphically illustrated by the arrest of black French comedian Dieudonne Mbale Mbale in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo affair. On his Facebook page, he wrote, “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” [Amedy Coulibaly was the alleged kidnapper of people in a Jewish store in Paris where four people died. He was shot and killed by the police]. Mbale referred to both Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly but this was unacceptable in France where it had just held a million-strong rally in defence of “freedom of expression.” He was accused of supporting terrorism! One would be hard pressed to find a better definition of hypocrisy.
Freedom of expression is not an absolute and never has been, although some journalists try to push the limits as much as possible, not to support freedom but to advance their pre-determined agenda.
Freedom of expression is not an absolute and never has been, although some journalists try to push the limits as much as possible, not to support freedom but to advance their pre-determined agenda. There have always been limits to freedom of expression and they become even more pronounced in the face of social pressure and consequences. At a time when Muslims are facing extreme rightwing attacks in France, Britain, Germany and many other countries and marches by fascist neo-Nazi groups are growing throughout Europe (think Dresden), Charlie Hebdo’s attacks against the Prophet (pbuh) have only added fuel to fire.
It is dishonest to claim that the press enjoys absolute freedom or that there are no restrictions on attacking religion. In Britain, there is a law against blasphemy but it only covers the Protestant branch of Christianity. This has now been extended to Judaism as well but Islam is excluded. The Jews did not always enjoy this privilege. In fact, Europe has a long terrible history of persecution of the Jewish people. In most European countries today, however, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust.
Even more fundamental to this discussion about media responsibility is the case of the Nazi publication Der Sturmer that carried vehemently anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish people both before and during the Second World War. Charlie Hebdo indulges in the same obscene depiction of Muslims and the Prophet (pbuh) to incite hatred and ridicule. The French government’s support of such publications and their policy of Islamophobia, and by extension of those Frenchmen that support them, put them in the same category as the Nazi newspaper during the Second World War.
What happened to the editor of Der Sturmer, Julius Streicher, when the war ended? He was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed. In light of this and the fact that the French resisted the Nazi occupiers of their country, it is hypocritical of the French government to now support Charlie Hebdo’s campaign of spreading hatred against Muslims. Unfortunately, this is part of Western policy: to demonize and, therefore, marginalize Muslims. The neo-Nazis in Germany are calling for the expulsion of Muslims; and the French and British are vilifying them. The French regime of Francois Hollande went further: it announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of one million euros! Western hypocrisy about “freedom of expression” is further exposed by their ban on Iran’s PressTV and Lebanese satellite channel al-Manar. The latter is linked with Hizbullah. Unlike Charlie Hebdo, these two channels do not spread hatred against anyone; they simply provide news and analysis that the Western corporate media refuses to do.
The French conduct in support of Charlie Hebdo is also in violation of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which it acceded in 1980 with the following reservation: (6) The Government of the Republic [of France] declares that articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant will be implemented in accordance with articles 10, 11 and 16 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950.
Francis Boyle, one of the leading International Law professors in the world today (he teaches at the University of Illinois, in Urbana-Champaign, in the US), has provided the text of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as set forth below:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
(2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
From the above it is clear that freedom of expression comes with responsibilities and that it “may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.” (emphasis added).
Professor Boyle states, “Strangely, there may be a perverse correlation between how much blood is shed and our eventual moment of self-examination. It took two world wars to produce such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How much blood has to be shed before we actually honor them? The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights… is considered to be international implementing legislation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The learned professor then gives his legal opinion on the issue of Charlie Hebdo’s insulting cartoons about the noble Messenger (pbuh). He writes, “…The cartoons degrading Mohammed [r] fit within the exception to the right of freedom of expression set forth in there [ICCPR]. It turns out that when France acceded to the terms of the Covenant it made a Reservation to article 19 on the basis of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950… Certainly the cartoons degrading Mohammed [r] clearly fit within this exception to Freedom of Expression under both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
The French government is not constrained by its legal obligations or the covenants it has signed. The same goes for its allies. They are obsessed with targeting Muslims — the most vilified people in the world today — and they want to do it in the most degrading manner by publishing insulting cartoons of the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Forgotten in this modern-day crusade is the fact that Muslims are forced to migrate to the country of their former colonial masters because their own societies have been so horribly deformed by centuries of colonialism.
While direct colonialism may have ended in a formal sense, it continues in the form of Western puppets ruling Muslim societies. Thus, even while nominally independent, Muslim societies remain in bondage. Western colonial powers refuse to accept responsibility for their conduct and the manner in which they ravaged colonized societies. They insist that colonized people must accept Western cultural norms but refuse to treat them as equal. The five million Muslim French citizens lead marginalised and abused lives. They face racism and discrimination in employment, housing and education and constant harassment at the hands of the police. In 2005, this exploded into fury leading to several days of rioting in France. Muslim girls are banned from wearing the hijab in French schools (no freedom there!).
The situation in other Western societies is hardly different. Additionally, they continue to attack in the most brutal manner Muslim majority societies killing millions of innocent people but insist their lives do not matter. These are mere “collateral damage.”
There is bound to be negative reaction against such racism and Islamophobia. Instead of blaming Muslims, rulers in the West should look inward and see what their own policies have created.