Charlie Hebdo & Muslims: Free Speech or Provocation?

Five years after the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked, in a faux sense of patriotism, the French magazine has once again published the controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

As the trial begins, the paper’s act was seen by many as defiance, a challenge to the terrorists, whose equally faux religious conviction led them to kill and injure others.

📚 Read Also: Stories and Lessons from the Prophet’s Leniency

Why in the author’s view were they both wrong? Strength of character is not to purposefully insult or attack others, strength is to say that “I am free to draw insulting cartoons, but I won’t, as I have manners and do not wish to offend you.”

Strength is also to say, “You mocked the prophet of my religion, but my faith is not contingent on your drawings so I will not attack you.”

We speak to three British Muslims to see how they feel about the republishing of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Charlie Hebdo & Muslims: Free Speech or Provocation? - About Islam

Ammad Khan, Teacher

How to respond to the reprinting of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons? Impotent rage or silent indifference. It depends on which point of the kaleidoscope one chooses to look from.

There is double jeopardy of narratives at play here: Muslims can’t take criticism, or even a joke; and “We” (the western media and culture) have the “right” to poke fun at Muslims and their perceived sense of insult is their problem. 

If Muslims choose to take offense, how shall that manifest itself? Violence? Book burning? Flag burning? Loud street protests? All instantly condemnable and fodder for the former narrative.

If we stay silent and studiously ignore the cartoons, will it embolden others to push the envelope?

What matters is what the star of those cartoons would have made of it all. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had litter thrown on him by a neighbor, was chased out of town, was insulted to his face several times — what was his response? Nothing but kindness.

He tended to the litter thrower when she fell ill, he gave rights to the citizens of the town he was chased from and those who insulted him later served at his side willingly. 

Charlie Hebdo editors are provocateurs, they crave a negative response. It’s what they do. If you’re foolish enough to be lured into the political trap they set, you will be doing Islam a far greater disservice than if you look at the cartoon, roll your eyes and move on. Less a case of j’suis Charlie and more a case of tu es basique!

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About Farrukh Younus
Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the EU in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.