French Freedom of Speech & Islamophobia A Systematic, State-run Hypocrisy -Abdullah Al Mahmud
Along with the projection of the caricatures insulting Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) onto the town halls in montpelier and toulouse, France government has once again proved that they will never accept Muslims as French citizen as long as they don’t abandon their own Muslim identity. “If you want to live in France, you have to live with it (insulting of prophet, calling Muslim as terrorists), because we promote freedom for every individual, not hatred”- that was the literal brief of France’s modern-day napoleon- Mr. Macron.
If Donald Trump is the truest face of the Americans, then Emanuel Macron must be the truest face of the French people. French freedom of speech has at least two waves; one is practicing a hypocrisy and vaguology (originated from vagueness and mostly used by Economist Akbar Ali Khan) at its state level administration and the other one is- neglecting a ‘selective ethnic people’s very basic civil right of not being offended. It all started, seemingly, with the terror incidents happened at Charlie Hebdo office after the news platform published some “satirical caricature” of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeatedly from 2006 to 2012 and announced to republish the caricatures recently which later sparked all over the world offending Muslims everywhere.
Was Charlie Hebdo satirical? Politically, something is satire when one directs anything political (it can be graffiti, murals, writing, slogan, and what not) either at oneself, causes his or her people to think twice about what they are doing, thinking, and saying, or directs it at people who have power and privilege. Does Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons depict anything satirical, ideal or it is completely a dense ethnic-tension provoking utterly failed approach to mock a person and his followers?
World known political scientist Finkelstein said to an interview: “There’s a big difference between satire and sadism. Charlie Hebdo is sadism, It’s not satire”. Finkelstein wasn’t even naive to say that Charlie Hebdo’s display of those mocking caricatures of Prophet Mohammad are just as same as the “Fighting Words” doctrine which sort of speech is punished under the US jurisprudence. The doctrine refers to a certain category of words that would likely cause the person to whom they are directed, to commit an act of violence. This controversial category of speech is still unprotected by the First Amendment.
Should cartoons be sensor free? Should the media be allowed to print mocking caricatures and cartoons that offend a group of people? The west must say, in the meantime, that “there’s nothing called freedom of speech if there are not some sort of offending”. This statement isn’t wrong unless their (western) hypocrisy is exposed. Today, they are promoting freedom of speech even at a cost of offending a large number of people. But, when Julius Streicher (a cartoonist who printed and drew caricatures and cartoons in world war II that highly offended Jewish community at that time) was hung for those cartoons at Nürnberg, they didn’t say it wasn’t okay to hang a cartoonist. After all, he had the freedom of mocking anybody as he wanted, as they say now. Western media and civil society went into a complete backlash when this metaphor came across, how can they respond positively to the same act of crime they opposed when it happened with Jewish community? Is it then selective freedom of speech? French freedom of speech allowed this hypocrisy on and on.
France is a battle ground for intellectuals to foster their ideas and ideologies, even the radical ones. In a state of secularism and anti-Islamism like France, the media outburst whenever any criminal offence takes place by Muslim. Indeed, these incidents are not welcomed at all and shall be taken into jurisprudential measures. But, when the media itself works as a morbid hub for spreading Islamophobic hatred and the French administration itself promotes these “Fight Words” doctrine with a vague idea of defending people’s right to speak then there must have been some historical linkage with these happenings from the past events of French politics and culture.
The hypocrisy colloquy of the French media and government is not new. The hypocrisy in Mr. Macron’s idea of social justice and freedom is outspoken all over the world right after his speech for “protecting people’s freedom” by all means which later transcended into a public threat to a journalist. French media didn’t void this incident, they remained silent. But they weren’t silent for even a second when the news of Niche attack and Venice attack came to the press box. They headlined “Islamic terrorism knows no bound” “The guy wore a medieval attire, so he must be a Muslim” without even fact-checking the incident’s actual cause. As if the medieval history is all about Muslims wearing medieval attires, rest ethnic and racial tribes wasn’t wearing anything at all. But The man who shot the Orthodox priest in France last month was not even a Muslim. He was another Orthodox priest. The dispute was merely personal. The thing got utterly sidelined when it was confirmed that the alleged shooter was also a member of a far-right party. So, either the reports of him yelling “Allahu Akbar” were bullshit or he just got confused and thought he was Muslim for a second. But is their media confused on what to print and when to change the printed stuffs once the fact comes at hand? Or, they are just happy printing fake news and rumors?
The tail won’t stop there. Few more hypocrisy were too exposed. The man who dressed in “medieval attire” and stabbed people in Montreal has been identified as Carl Girouard. Again, despite viral news claiming otherwise, he was not Muslim. This is the third viral terrorism story in the last month which turned out to not be a Muslim. When mediocrity like this happens in a rapid succession, it leaves a community (in this case, west liberals) feeling under siege from some kind of coordinated attack.
This media outcry goes far beyond the horizon of hypocrisy when we talk about the current wave of world movement. For instance, if a guy is black and he’s treated unequally, unjustly and worst of all, he’s being insulted and offended by a group of people or a system – what’d the media describe this incident? Injustice, Social disparity, Racism- all are true. But, when a complete ethnicity is being insulted as “serious problem” for the world, “Mohammad was pedophile”, a religion that promotes “terrorists” -what’d the media call it? Freedom of speech! Is it okay to say “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie” when Charlie Hebdo promotes Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism? But French people and their media stood up in favor of this hypocrisy. Finkelstein urged the media first to define what racism is and what is not, from their point of view. If speaking out against the Zionist propaganda (Israeli aggression) becomes treated as anti-Semitism, then calling a whole 160 billion people “a problem for the world” isn’t racism?
The concerns are absolutely far deep. To the academicians, it’s just seeing a surge conflict of mediocrity and facts when it comes to the talking about the multi-variate races and ethnicity, yet a facile look must be given onto this – this is so scary! Why do this injustices and social disparities go unheard only If It’s about the Muslims? Why don’t they just freak out after listening to this statement “A priest killed another priest, his fellow worshippers right in the churches and adjoined the “blame” toward Muslim terrorist?”
But, as the curiosity intends, should the French people too be blamed for this sort of freedom hypocrisy? Of course, they should be. Most of the French people think Muslims are barbaric. But that is utterly hypocritic for the reason that Muslims never invaded France, Muslims never killed thousands of French people. But France did. From 1954 to 1962, France destroyed Algeria. They killed thousands pf Algerian Muslims in that 8-year long trash colonial occupation and even today, most French people support this annihilatory war. In 1961 and 1962, the apartment of the great French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre was bombed twice once he came out in full force against the Algerian war. Police didn’t do that bombing, French people did. French freedom of speech banned women from wearing headscarves and Burkha. Women of white color and French liberals rallied around the Paris and other major cities of France for banning the Burkha and headscarf. Isn’t that controversial for freedom even from the neo-liberal doctrine? Because, in absolute freedom, everybody shall be speaking anything they want, everybody shall be wearing anything they want!
Following the incident of beheading Samuel Paty, the high school teacher who showed insulting caricature of Prophet Muhammad at his class, CCIF (Collective against Islamophobia in France) became the first victim of the French government’s hypocritic freedom of speech. The closure of this non-partisan independent organization, in fact, shows the ultimate route of the France government’s direction. Within all these highly offensive and tension provoking incidents, the word Islamophobia has become almost an intellectually devalued political nomenclature. In this atmosphere of hatred and bigotry, France has still been working to promote a Muslim-free France by shutting down the mosques in biggest cities around the France. The output of this hatred and state-run bigotry may shower the Eifel throne once again upon Emanuel macron. But, can the France people outrun the state hypocrisy? Can they say “No” to Macron’s chauvinist propaganda in coming 2020 election?
The writer is a freelance contributor and studying at the University of Dhaka.