By LSS member Sadikur Rahman *
*Update: very shortly after this post was published, BBC’s Newsnight showed a clear image of this Charlie Hebdo depiction of Mohammed*
If there was ever a day when British newspapers and TV stations should have shown courage and defiance and published the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, it was today.
Instead, not one single British newspaper or TV channel has chosen to do so. It is a monumentally cowardly response which shows the attackers have won.
What we had were the usual “debates” condemning only the act itself, but not unequivocally defending the right to free expression. On BBC’s Newsnight yesterday evening, Sir Iqbal Sacranie suggested the prophet of Islam shouldn’t be mocked because he was like a member of his family.
We had the now inevitable debates about “alienation”, “marginalisation”, “provocation”, and foreign policy, and the things the French state had supposedly done to cause grievances amongst Muslims, thereby implicitly providing justification for the attackers’ grievances, if not for the act itself. This creates obfuscation.
The best that the Independent could do on its front page was to essentially stoop to a playground insult. I’m sure the attackers are quaking in their boots.
We should be clear: this attack was not about the niqab ban in France or about “alienation” or “marginalisation” or foreign policy. Charlie Hebdo was specifically targeted because it had exercised its right to free expression and published cartoons depicting the prophet of Islam, which is considered blasphemous and therefore offensive to Muslims. The attackers felt so offended by the cartoons that they believed the only answer was death for the offenders. This was the sole cause of the murders.
To suggest that the murders have nothing to do with Islam or that the attackers did not find any justification from within Islam for their actions is false, because as we know many Muslim majority states criminalise blasphemy with the death penalty as punishment. Some Muslims hold a different view and have been lining up to condemn both the act and also support the right to free expression; what they don’t need is for newspapers and TV stations to desert them at this hour and bow down to the enemies of free expression – indeed, the enemies of freedom.
I wish I had paid more attention to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Looking through them now, they seem very funny, harmless, intelligent, witty and superbly irreverent. Sadly we might never see the like of them again since British institutions – not even today when they could have done it without much criticism – have not been brave enough to do what they did, which is to publish the cartoons.
* Sadikur Rahman was an LSS member from May 2013 to Jul 2015
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