No, I am not Charlie …

Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom & no such thing as publick liberty without freedom of speech, Benjamin Franklin, 1722. For TMT collection on Free Speech, click here

Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom & no such thing as publick liberty without freedom of speech, Benjamin Franklin, 1722. For TMT collection on Free Speech, click here

Publication in TMT is courtesy of Munir Varaich

Dear Charlie,

It was a pleasant surprise to receive a message from you after ages. However, I was disappointed that there were no news concerning you but just the declaration and the query: “My name is Charlie… and you?” I hope you are doing all right and everything is fine at your end.

It is also curious that your mail is addressed mainly to the Muslims and I wonder if it is a racially profiled mail wishing to know the reaction of us Muslims. For me it is a disturbing thought. I cannot write for others, but here is what I think about the whole affair. And since I am not a politician and contest no elections, I shall not pull any punches.

No, I am not Charlie. My name is Mustayeen. I did not become an American on a certain September 11; neither did I become a Spaniard after the Madrid’s Atosha Station tragedy; nor even an Englishman in 2005 in the aftermath of the London subway bombing. No, I do not change my nationality or my name after every mass emotive tide. I remain myself.

Now what do I think about the Charlie Hebdo massacre? It is a barbarous and monstrous, evil and wicked, and hideous and horrid act. I am ashamed such acts are perpetuated by such Muslims who make it difficult for other simple Muslims to lead a simple life in a simple society. I am glad that the perpetrators of this awful act have been killed. Otherwise we would have put them in prison and paid to keep them there for the next 30 years, for even life imprisonment does not really exist in France. I am convinced that Badinter, the Justice Minister of Mitterand, erred when he entirely abolished the death penalty. To this extent he was right that it were mainly the poor who were so condemned and there were often judicial errors. It would have been simple to forbid capital punishment if there was an iota of doubt. There was really no point in swinging the pendulum to the other extreme. However, in cases of open massacres (such as now) or those of the Belgian paedophile Dutroux or his French equivalent Fourniret, who raped and killed many a young girls and indicated to the police where they interred their victims: where is the doubt? Why is the society now adamant to save their lives?

The French law has to be revised and updated. This new terrorist Amedy Coulibaly was condemned in December 2013 for five years of imprisonment. He was not serving his term! What was he doing out of prison and why? If you repeatedly release hardened criminals and who are free to roam about, what else can you expect?

If I strongly condemn the extremists and the terrorists, I do not condone at all the attitude of the provocative cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, or for that matter those of Jyllands Posten, or others of that ilk. Insulting and provoking is not freedom of speech. Caricature of Prophet Muhammad, or of Jesus or of Moses, is a simple provocation. In Dernière Nouvelles d’Alsace (DNA, Thursday, January 8, page 5) Charb, the editor of Charlie Hebdo is reported to have said “we can represent the Pope buggering a mole, and there is no reaction.” If the Christians do not protest, it does not mean that others should not either. And in any case, they stopped at the Pope and did not show Jesus in the act! Would you approve of this? Do you approve of this?

Of course, I laugh and have fun and enjoy cartoons. The cartoonists can caricature and mock the Muslims, even the imams, and they have done so and there was never a problem. Why this wish to ridicule specifically Prophet Muhammad? It is this march of stupidity and vulgarity and sham that the secular society has undertaken which has instigated a revolt against all inhibitions and moral restraint.

Indeed, we should not live under the authoritarian rule of the religious people. And at the same time, we should not live under the authoritarian rule of the secular people as well – who also think, like the extremists, that only their opinion is the best and is to be followed. I would concur with Sophie, a young lady who commented on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: “When you provoke the devil, you pay the price… but it is intolerable to kill for this.” (DNA, Friday, January 9, 2015, page 3)

We should combat extremism, be it religious or secular, but with the pen or speech and should not perpetuate the Kalashnikov culture.

And do not give me the crap about freedom of expression. I recount here an anecdote which really opened my eyes. In the eighties while I was teaching in Algeria and there was the scandal of Rushdee’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’, my Algerian associates asked me why the French government would not ban the book. And I naively explained to them that in France there is freedom of expression and it is not the role of the government to ban books or speech. Just a few months after that, on my return to Strasbourg, I read in the newspaper that the government banned two Neo-Nazi books. Ah! The government does ban books then, but decides for itself which ones! Again, I read a few years later, the French government banned another book; this time it was the “White Paper on the Algerian Civil War” brought out by the Swiss government. Since the Algerian government was shown implicated in atrocities, France which was in favor of the Algerian government, banned the book by the Swiss authorities. And then they continue to harp on about the freedom of speech! Can anyone here write a book criticizing the tragedy of Holocaust! Just try! I shall certainly come to visit you in the prison!

There are a thing or two which have constantly disturbed me during the last few years and since we are on the subject I shall put them bluntly here:

1) How is it that every time a tragedy strikes in the West everyone wants to be American or Charlie, but when thousands and thousands of Iraqis or Syrians are bombed, maimed and killed nobody wants to be Iraqi or Syrian? Is white man blood more precious?
2) For the peace of the region, the West immediately bombed Iraq and the Islamic State. But when Assad continued to kill and gassed his countrymen, we just offered menaces: Beware, chemical use is the red line, and then, too… What is the agenda?

I hope, and I think, I have amply answered your query. Now let me ask you a question or two. Are you against Muslims? Are you against immigration? What is your Weltenschauung? I have laid bare my thoughts. Would you do the same?


Dr Mustayeen Ahmed Khan

Brumath, France; Mustayeen Ahmed Khan is an associate professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Angers, France.

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