West Fails to justify satire

Greater Kashmir

West Fails to justify satire The freedom of press is a great idea but greater is the responsibility that comes with it

It is crass hypocrisy “if the shooter is black; entire race is guilty, if the shooter is Muslim; entire religion is guilty but if the shooter is white; he is a mentally troubled lone wolf”. Vanity can easily overtake wisdom and common sense.

Julian Casablanca’s freedom of speech and freedom of press are great ideas but the greater idea is the responsibility and reverence that one should recognize with speech and expression. News without evidence is gibberish. 

I take a deep breath, uncertain how to write about insane shooting spree in Paris and pernicious caricature drawn again after the horrendous incident and then the defense in the name of freedom of speech and expression.

Reading the newspapers and watching the European news on television, it seems things have become normal, "but there’s a presence – this thing that has happened. It’s in the air." A few days earlier I came upon this headline at the McClatchy Washington bureau website: "U.S. airstrike in Syria may have killed 50 civilians." The story reports: "The civilians were being held in a makeshift jail in the town of Al Bab, close to the Turkish border, when the aircraft struck on the evening of Dec. 28. The building, called the Al Saraya, a government center, was leveled in the airstrike. It was days before civil defense workers could dig out the victims’ bodies." But those 50 Syrians failed to get the media attention and those so called peace leaders who attended the peace march in Paris didn’t even utter a single word about Syrian killings and 17 French persons got the entire media attention and condolences. Human loss is condemnable in any case, at any place but then the question arises why double standards.

This is my thought, in any case, as I absorb the weeks of marches, solidarity and media commentary. A "thing" is in the air. Something horrible has happened. I feel the shock and emotional pull of those killings as much as anyone else, but I’m unable to understand why they seem to matter more than the bombing deaths of Syrians or Afghans or Iraqis, which are also acts of terror. I am concerned about the every victim of war and terror. But no, it’s not that simple. The interests of war commandeer some of the murders for their own ends and ignore the others. Thus a simple-minded and righteous rage is stirred into the grief, particularly by that segment of the media accustomed to serving the powerful. Charlie Hebdo is simply a racist magazine. It specializes in crude and vicious islamophobic cartoons. 

The word “terrorist” then, has no dictionary definition which is observed and respected in the dominant political and media culture. It’s simply used as an islamophobic code word.


As expected, the media has used the attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to once again beat Muslims with the “freedom of expression” stick, arguing that they should accept the right of individuals to insult and offend the religion of Islam because having the right to offend and insult the faith of others is the mark of a civilized and progressive society.! Utterly absurd! It’s indicative of the irrationality of the liberal philosophy on life that ignores the blatant fact that people have deep sensitivities about many issues in life – from religion to race. Allowing individuals freehand to insult and offend those sensitivities is not the path to harmonious, cohesive and safe societies but one that breeds hatred and violence. S.P Scott in his book, The History of the Moorish Empire writes: “the glories which invest the history of Islam may be entirely derived from the valor, the virtue, the intelligence, the genius of the man. In any event if the object of the religion be the inculcation of morals, diminution of evil, promotion of human happiness, the expansion of human intellect, if the performance of good works will avail in the great day when mankind shall be summoned to its final reckoning, it’s neither irreverent nor unreasonable to admit that Muhammad (SAW) was indeed an apostle of God”. He did not move only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties and more than that he moved the altars, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and most importantly the souls.

I feel that the lines between free speech and hate speech have been blurred- but this line is not so thin. A sound mind can indeed tell the difference.  Anger, dismay and cynicism are a common response to the new Charlie hebdo caricature. Now we Muslims are left with two options we can follow; either we settle for dignified and civilized protests against those caricatures, which will make green with envy or we take the modern smart armed weapons in our hands and go on with a killing spree of newspapers and magazines. Doing the former means we act like a community which suits the Prophet of mercy and following the latter means inflicting more harm on our beloved Prophet than these caricatures could ever cause. Therefore it is the time to ask ourselves, can cartoons that insult the prophets of all religions, including the Prophet of Islam, truly undermine the stature of these prophets? Are such events a worthy cause for millions of people to rise up and damage their future, their plans, their relations with other nations and peoples? I acknowledge that we are hurt, offended and upset but, our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the Prophet (SAW).