If I were asked to sum up this whole week of Charlie Hebdo debates and discussions, it would come down to one word: hypocrisy.
I have already written about my thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and my belief that the whole issue isn’t about freedom of expression, so much as it is about extremism (see Je suis, Je ne suis pas, Je ne sais plus…). But online and offline discussions in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo have invariably turned to debates on freedom of expression, and that has led me to think of nothing else but hypocrisy.
From the list of countries whose leaders participated in the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march on January 11, where freedom of expression is anything by protected. [Fellow London School of Economics’ student Daniel Wickham does a great rundown of those leaders and their freedom of expression record on Mic.com.] To the host country itself, France. With the Charlie Hebdo murders, many stories about France’s own repression of freedom of expression came to the fore. This includes Charlie Hebdo’s firing one of its journalist for anti-Semitic remarks in 2009 or the recent arrest of comedian Dieudonné for supposedly defending terrorism and anti-Zionist remarks.
I don’t intend to list all the violations against freedom of expression here and the double standards adopted to protect these freedoms around the world. But what I will say, given that this blog focuses on the Middle East and Arab World, is the following: Middle Eastern leaders have no shame in having participated in the rally. Israel, meanwhile, a country that kills and intimidates journalists on a regular basis, let alone taunts the world by equating any criticism of it, its state, or religion as being anti-Semitic, isn’t in a position to talk about or walk for any freedom at all, in any rally whatsoever. This is something that people in the Middle East know but doesn’t harm to remind them of. As for the world, you probably know it already, but are too afraid to say anything about it. Hey, at least that’s one freedom that we still have in the Middle East, criticize Israel and its policies and not be labeled as anti-Semite.
What happened at Charlie Hebdo isn’t about freedom of expression, but partly about extremism. I wonder how long it will take us to truly discover what this is all about…
Moving on now…
2 Replies to “Je suis…hypocrisie”
J’aime and there are many reasons to be skeptic but:
– Giving this crime the extraordinary amplitude is rightful and can do only good to everybody, though this is not only freedom of speech, but also to stop committing crimes in the name of Islam.
– The participation of other world leaders who oppressed freedom themselves may make them more sensitive to the issue
– There is a thin line between freedom of speech and incitement or applause to terror by finding justification for it. The first one is a right but the second should be stopped.
Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post, this is about Islamic extremism. It is easy for us in the region, in Lebanon in particular, to make the differentiation between Islam and extremist Islam, but now is the time for the world to understand that as well. In this regard, the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo will also be a big test for France itself. I do agree that there’s a fine line between freedom of speech and incitement. However, I’m not sure that leaders will become more sensitive, it will take more than this to make them understand freedom of speech. My hopes aren’t too high for Israel or Saudi Arabia for example. And what a farce to have the Saudi Ambassador in Beirut join the Je suis Charlie sit-in in Beirut last Sunday, not only because of his country’s non-existent record of freedom of expression, but doing so when only two days prior, the sentence of blogger Raif Badawi started to be implemented, 50 out of 1000 lashes….