Islamic Terrorism Attacks Charlie Hebdo. Is Insulting Religion “Freedom of Speech”?

On January 7th 2015, two gunmen, who identified themselves as being part of Al Qaeda, broke into the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper, and killed 12 people including the editor in chief, staff, cartoonists, and police. The running assumption regarding the motives behind the attacks is that it was revenge against the newspaper which had run satires of Muslims.

These acts of terrorism, of course, cannot be condoned, as has been the widespread reaction to the attacks. We would like to offer our condolences to those who have been killed, and pray for their souls.

Western media have been describing the latest attacks as an attack against the freedom of speech. After the attacks, upwards of 100,000 citizens gathered in a demonstration against the terror attacks carrying signs saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). French society has spoken to protect the freedom of speech.

The freedom of speech is indeed important, but in this present article, we would like to point out that it isn’t without its constraints.

Charlie Hebdo takes a leftist, anti-religious stance in its articles, and has written countless articles satirizing religion. In 2011, they issued an article showing the Prophet Muhammad, saying “100 lashes if you don’t die from laughter”, taking over as the new editor-in-chief of the newspaper. The next day, the Paris headquarter was firebombed.

Later in the same year, the newspaper showed an article of Muhammad as being gay, resulting in the the paper’s website being hacked. The contents then became increasingly provocative, showing the Islamic State cutting off the head of the Prophet Muhammad. Predictably, the newspaper came under heavy criticism from Muslims around the world, but they continued to use the freedom of speech as a rationale for their provocative articles. The paper not only continued to satirize not just Islam, but all religions, including Christianity, where, in one case the Virgin Mary was shown giving birth to Jesus Christ with the face of a pig.
While it is helpful for the media to discuss religion through insightful discourse, to target religion for laughter and for the specific purpose of desecration should be decried as being wrong.

Stephane Charbonnier, the editor-in-chief and satirist of Charlie Hebdo, once mentioned in an interview that he didn’t believe that he was harming anyone, but the articles were extremely offensive to the faithfuls. His position toward his work was that he wished to enjoy life and provide light hearted laughter. There were no signs that his views were informed by any deep knowledge or insights toward religion.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that the freedom of speech historically came about from the freedom of religion.

Master Ryuho Okawa, the founder and CEO of Happy Science described the relationship between the “freedom of religion” and the “freedom of speech” as follows:

Freedom of religion is what ensured that freedom to profess one’s religious beliefs. The freedom of speech came about to protect that right. The freedom of speech followed the freedom to profess one’s religious beliefs.

However, today, the freedom of speech has become paramount, and those in the media use that freedom to criticize religion and God. But this logically reverses the order of things. It is contradictory.

The fact that media uses the freedom of speech to lampoon God and religion is an arrogance that comes from the lack of understanding of religion.

However, the reaction of the two terrorists that attacked the Charlie Hebdo headquarters also show a narrowness in its teachings. Even when faced with hate speech, the teachings of Islam and of God do not permit the use of violence to exact vengeance. It’s worthy to note that it is the responsibility of religion to engage in discourse to alter the perceptions of those who have a skewed view of religion.

Islamic Terrorism Attacks Charlie Hebdo.  Is Insulting Religion “Freedom of Speech”?
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