By Yuktes Vijay
France President Emmanuel Macron is being verbally attacked – insulted, in some cases – by the leaders of several Islamic countries for defending France’s right to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The barrage of insults against Macron today is due to the fact that the Islamic leaders clearly took offence to a brief passage in Macron’s homage last Wednesday to Samuel Paty, the teacher brutally murdered after he showed Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons of Muhammad to a civics class in the western Paris suburbs.
To those who have been living under a rock for the past week, or have been too engrossed with the latest in our national political episodes to bother about the rest of the world, Paty was a history and geography teacher who was the victim of a terrorist attack near his school, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Paty was decapitated following an Internet campaign against the use in his class of a caricature of Muhammad. His killer, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee who had been living in France since he was a child, was shot dead by police. Before his death, he posted a picture of the teacher’s severed head on Twitter.
Freedom of Expression
Paty had used the same caricature in his courses on freedom of expression published by the controversial “Charlie Hebdo”. That publication was used as a “justification” for an attack on 7 January 2015, where 12 people were killed and 11 injured. People accused of helping the killers are currently standing trial for their role in the attacks.
That attack prompted a massive response in France and globally against the attack combined with the defence of freedom of expression. Contrarily, Paty’s beheading this time however, has prompted a Muslim and non-Muslim divide, not just in France, but throughout the world.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan labelled Macron as “mentally unwell.” The Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, said that the French president had “chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens.” Demonstrations are being held everywhere, effigies of Macron are being burnt. Many Islamic countries are considering breaking diplomatic relations when French products are being boycotted (everything except ‘french kisses’ if you were to believe the internet jokers).
Even our country Malaysia made our displeasure let known against what detractors are calling an incitement of Islamophobia by the French president.
But hey, why are Muslims so angry with Macron instead of the Chechen extremist?
Basically, French President Macron had a verbal diarrhoea when he literally labelled Islam as “uncivilised” and “a terrorism brand” in a ceremony to honour Samuel Paty. In that same ceremony, the deceased teacher was also posthumously given France’s highest civilian honour.
Macron’s remarks as well as the fact that someone who condemned Islam is being regarded as a top civilian naturally angered the Muslim world who have long been subjected to unfair and unjust treatment at the hands of the rest of the world (this coming from a non-Muslim by the way).
Besides insulting Islam, you also honour him as your top civillian? Seriously, Macron?
And no, I am not doing a Dr Mahathir here. It takes a senile mind with a desperate situation to justify terror in any form. I am neither 95 years, nor desperately trying to make my son the next PM before closing my eyes. What I am trying to establish here is the fact that how everything, when practised without proper discretion regardless if it’s God’s law or man made, tends to end up being a spectacular disaster to mankind at the end of the day.
French law indicates two main guidelines regarding religion and employment. One is the “Protection of Individuals” and the other “Proper functioning of the firm”. They both basically imply that religion must never interfere with performance or one’s relationship with work.
These French policies conflict with Islam, ultimately dismissing one’s ability to practice the religion. And this is not due to the Muslims being rigid with their practices, radicals or hardcores. It is because the French government is too stringent with its laws, which itself discriminates Islam.
For example, prayer breaks may be disapproved because praying five times a day is a religious obligation. And since it’s a religious obligation, Muslims in French are compelled not to follow it because of the aforementioned law. No discretion is allowed for this, rather strangely I might add.
France may consider religious satire as one of the things underlying freedom of expression, while many Muslims consider any alleged satire on the Prophet to be a serious offence. In a normal world, when something is deemed offensive, the simplest solution would be to restrain mocking Islam in the name of satire or comedy.
But no, the West feels that it would rather offend and infuriate people than compromise their liberty. Strangely though, those who vocally call for the right to exercise their civil liberties conveniently forget that the limits of freedom of expression vary with each person.
Guys, whether it is a religious practice or liberties afforded by constitutions, it has to be practiced in moderation and discretion to avoid an unwanted tango between religion and politics.
The logical thing to do would be to not create humour using Islam. But those who vocally call for the right to exercise their civil liberties conveniently forget that the limits of freedom of expression varies in each people. For example, I would find it perfectly okay to label someone ugly, but the same would be deemed offensive by many. “No one whom God created is ugly,” they would say. But hey, isn’t that against freedom of expression? MY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION? By merely using God in the sentence, isn’t it akin to the MK Ultra methodology whereby an opinion is forced upon using the name of God.
This is the problem with western manners, or rather a lack of it. When God’s teachings are contradictory to your way of life, it is alright apparently to ditch God to please you. But when someone chooses to ditch you for God, they automatically become “uncivilised” and certified morons. Where is the logic in that?
Previously, I asserted that the politics in Malaysia is race-based politics.
This is why the Chinese continue to rally behind Lim Guan Eng, despite a Penang Undersea Tunnel yet to appear in Penang today. Heck, even a feasibility report is yet to be submitted mind you, despite the government having paid out RM305 million thus far! This is also why many others are refusing to believe about the RM2.6 billion in former PM Najib’s account to be an Arab donation. How else to explain the bemusement Pakatan showed in Najib’s Arab donation issue when they themselves are beneficiaries of various such donations from the western world?
So many things could go wrong if you have too much of anything. Everything in excess can really be bad.
If you eat too much, you could get a stomachache.
If you drink too much, you might drown yourself (Yes, that’s a thing).
If you have too many desires, you will live till you’re 95 with a son who is too inept to become PM despite all his efforts todate.
If… If… If…
Clearly, let it be verses from any holy book or it’s a freedom afforded by lines in our constitution, it has to be practised with discretion and viewed with all due respect to others as well. If you want to run naked, do it. But do not compel me to do the same in the name of freedom.
A wise old man wrote in Thirukural once upon a time – that ‘Alavirku minjinal amuthamum nanju’ (meaning – in excess, even life-giving sweet nectar becomes poison).
Good luck if you intend to over-exaggerate and turn elixir into poison. I on the other hand will strive to be the antidote. – New Malaysia Herald