At the outset, let me say this categorically that anyone having a shred of humanity will not resist in condemning the deadly terrorist attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th in Paris. However, instead of analyzing the ghastly attack from open and multiple perspectives (for which, ironically Charlie Hebdo stand for) whole Western media, with the exception of lone pieces in New York Times and CBC, are marching on old mantra of freedom of expression.
If there were a freedom of expression, then it has to be absolute. One cannot pick and choose. Why are there laws against hate crime or anything that could make someone uncomfortable as ‘politically incorrect’? One can be put into the prison for denying Holocaust — while there could be different interpretations of that in the history — but no actions can be taken against denying scientific facts such as climate change (more than 30% of Americans believe that climate change is a hoax and more than 20% still believe that world is flat). One cannot say publicly a fat person fat, but has to be rephrased as physically challenged or a lunatic, only as mentally challenged. One cannot say anything against homosexual or transgender. That is against the law.
But in contrast, one has open license to ridicule Prophet Mohammad, who to the entire Muslims community is the holiest of holy man in the history of mankind and any negative gesture against the Prophet inflicts untold pain and agony. And Muslims are not smaller in number in Western countries, they are in millions: five million alone in France. One can tell all Muslims and their descendants living in the West to pack up and go home and impose a complete ban on future immigration of Muslims. But these are impossible steps to take because the world has become a globalized village and is too much inter-dependant both economically and culturally. Most important, such measures will challenge the very notion of freedom of religion, expression and equality of citizens in the West.
Diversity and multiculturalism is reality in Western countries. The only solution is to be sensitive of religious feelings of minorities, especially of Muslims who are so dominant by their numbers. One cannot be insensitive to such a large segment of the population without thinking about any repercussions, especially when Muslims see double standards and hypocrisy in the western legal system.
In the context of cartoons against Prophet, what rational is there to keep millions of citizens under terror (from unknown terror attacks), spend billions of dollars on questionable and illusive security measures (instead of productive investment on education, employment and health), for the sake of allowing a few to satisfy their intellectual gratification in the name of dubious freedom of expression.
In Western media, commentators often say that as Christians or Jews do make fun of their prophets and religions, why do Muslims have problems? One can do anything one wants with his or her religion, it is his or her choice and prerogative. Why should one expect that Muslims should also accept and practice of their liking?
The bigger question is that why one would not be offended by derogatory comment or ridicule of any prophet but offended by someone being called fat or faggot? Is an ordinary person on street holier than any prophet (irrespective of religion)? What kind of twisted logic is that?
The civilized and sensible way of responding to an offending comment or caricature is to respond in kind. But in reality, it would depend on the level of maturity, degree of hurt and the level of tolerance. In case of offending comments, some would respond verbally, some in terms of slap, some with knife and some with Kalashnikov. The issue is complicated and needs a higher degree of expertise to understand the problem. We all know that Muslim societies would need hundreds of years to reach the same level of sophistication, maturity and tolerance as the West.
This however does not rationalize by any means any form of violence and terrorism by any agent against anyone. We just need to understand and realize the nature of sensitivity and flaw of carte blanch application of the law of freedom of expression in a multicultural society, especially when the law has already so many loop holes even on minor considerations.