THE CHARLIE HEBDO CARTOONS CONTROVERSY: A STATEMENT BY DR UMAR AZAM
3 April 2021/21 Shaban 1424 A.H.
First of all, please see my Power of Durood Website: https://powerofdurood.weebly.com to appreciate how the Muslims respect the Prophet Muhammad [Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him}
Next, please read my essay 'Rushdie's "Satanic Verses": An Islamic Response' on www.dr-umar-elahi-azam.com The arguments I put forward against Salman Rushdie apply equally to Charlie Hebdo.
Freedom of speech cannot include causing offence to others. There has to be some regulation and editing. Name-calling, for example, may be seen as freedom of speech but if it causes emotional pain to the victim, then it is insulting not freedom of speech.
Hebdo is causing offence to the world's 1.9 billion Muslims, as well as countless other decent people, by mocking the Prophet of Allah. It is this giving of offence which led to the 2015 massacre of Hebdo staff in which 17 victims died. If Hebdo does not want trouble, then it should not, must not, ask for bloodshed. If Hebdo persists in ridiculing the Prophet of Islam, it is only a matter of time before other tragedies strike. Unrestrained freedom of speech leads to anarchy.
A cartoon is fiction. So Hebdo staff drawing the supposed Prophet does not mean that it is the Prophet's image. But the danger lies in tying the image to reality, associating the image to a person who did exist, especially a religious figure. So it is an injustice.
Hebdo has also caused offence to those who respect Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by drawing cartoons of a record-breaking Sovereign who is the longest-serving Monarch in English history. Royalists and the British general public are rightly outraged.
The French government should intervene and solve the problem by regulating Hebdo's cartoons if the Firm cannot regulate itself, or by even shutting down the Firm. Cartoons of fictitious characters ought to be drawn instead. Closing the Firm down would not strangle freedom of speech, but end the problem of a provocative Company which seeks to gain monetary benefits by enraging others and causing them offence.
The editors of newspapers, books and magazines do edit content, or should editcontent, to make sure that it is not offensive to others. Extremist political parties are banned by democratic countries because their ideas and actions are offensive to others. So Charlie Hebdo's cartoons should similarly be censored because their mockery of esteemed figures causes offence to others. Yes, there should be freedom of speech - but within the limits of decency.