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Gerard Biard, editor of the satirically-based newspaper Charlie Hebdo is expressing anger at a range of western publications for refusing to reprint its now infamous anti-Islamic cartoons in the wake of the January 7 shootings at its Paris offices. The Muslim world is literally aflame with indignation as Biard and the satirical newspaper continue to argue that this is a freedom of speech, religion, democracy and secularism issue. With the world already facing an increasing threat by Islamic radicals with bad intentions it may be high time for the thoughtful and well intentioned people of France and the international community to see Charlie Hebdo and the cast of characters behind it for what they are, not just a moral disgrace but arguably complicit in the mayhem that will ensue.
While no sane or otherwise civilized person would condone or defend the January 7 mass killings done in the name of Allah and the prophet Muhammad and most join in grieving their loss, there are otherwise sane and civilized people defending a newspaper for not just dragging a world religion’s most sacred sentiments and beliefs through the mud but expecting in return only the support and good will of the international community. Biard, by his own testimony, expects the world to stand back, without complaint, and endure the subsequent unrest and sure loss of life that will continue to follow. The kind of venomous speech Biard and his leftist, generally socialist ilk in the European halls of academe, government and world media see as the stuff of fundamental human rights, when adjudged within the framework of an enlightened and educated utilitarian ethic, should more appropriately be seen not just as hate speech, but incite-to-riot speech.
It has by now become beyond cliché but one, no matter the pretext, rationalization or self-serving justification, simply does not have a fundamental human right to falsely scream fire in a crowded theater. To do so is not just a breach of civility, decorum or protocol but an egregious assault on, and fracture of a social contract that clearly articulates and demands that some types of speech, moving beyond the venom we generally see in public dialogue, are clearly calculated, with malice of forethought, to bring ruin upon a community. In this particular case, Charlie Hebdo is not just a disgrace, but is, within the context of the rising threat of radical Islam, as its editor and staff continue to, without compunction, bring ruin and the threat of same upon innocent people, arguably criminal.
One might well ask Mr. Biard if his freedom of speech trumps the right innocent others have to be free of the threat of harm and even death. The smugness, arrogance and childish hiding behind the skirt of freedom of speech demonstrated by Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editors is not only a disgrace but more correctly a metastasizing cancer that good people everywhere should work to root out. In civilized society this removal should be a process that starts with dialogue but must be informed by a quality of good will that will help liberal and social agitators alike see Muslims not just as violent perpetrators with crazy ideas and beliefs but as human beings deserving of love and respect. The satire that informs the pages of Charlie Hebdo however is less informed by good will than religion-baiting and humiliation.
As it turns out it is not just Islam in the cross hairs of so-called satirists but the good faith and religion of people everywhere that is regularly lampooned, lambasted and otherwise caricatured by a brand of prodigal intellectualism that does injustice to not only the sacred beliefs of others but to the very higher critical theory championed by same. The screed that informs Baird’s rationalization, when properly understood for what it is, represents a very real and present danger to the world community, very much less satire and free speech than invitation to riot, mayhem and ruin.
Baird and Charlie Hebdo claim that whenever the newspaper depicts the prophet Muhammad they are actually defending freedom of religion not attacking it. Indeed, they claim not to be provocateur but community servant. Baird claims that artists are not murderers and that it is one thing to incite riot and quite another to engage in riot. The disgrace and hypocrisy is on full display as Charlie Hebdo appears to be, despite protestations to the contrary, about the business of supplying pretext to a radical and dangerous community h*ll-bent on mounting an offensive calculated to destroy innocent lives and going about that business in a manner that mocks and undermines the very freedoms Charlie Hebdo claims to be protecting.
Opinion By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Rob Watling Flickr License