29 November, 2020

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Insulting French Caricatures, A Sri Lanka Perspective

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

The beheading of Samuel Paty on 16 October 2020, was a shocker. He was a French middle-school teacher, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. The teacher had shown the controversial Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Muhammed in class despite objections, during a lesson on freedom of speech on 5th October.  In France this battle between freedom of expression and respect to religions and religious sentiments was at its peak following the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

It is well known that the killing was an act of an individual. No one in his right mind is going to applause this crime. As has been repeatedly stated and it is reiterated that Islam as a religion does not approve of such actions. Naturally, therefore, the Muslims who follow Islam would never condone such a gruesome act.

Wiping The Backside

This same freedom of expression does not apply if it directly relates to the sentiments of the French.Why was there so much outrage, protest and overwhelming criticism over a photo of a man wiping his derriere (a person’s buttocks) with the French flag in April 2010.  ‘I want the person who committed this outrage to be punished, and possibly those who published it too.’  Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said ‘criminal proceedings should be launched against this unacceptable act’. Eric Ciotti, an MP from the ruling UMP party, said: ‘The image is utterly offensive and should be removed. ‘Insulting’ the French flag is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of £7,000. 

Wait a minute. What happened to the ‘so called’ freedom of expression?  Well, as for freedom of expression, this is how Arundhati Roy opines on the issue of the national flag; “Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” Despite this selected condemnation by the French authorities only when it suits them, the Liberalists would call this the freedom of political expression.

Over the dead body

What is of interest here is the French President Emmanuel Macron trying to score brownie points over the dead body of Samuel Paty. As a President of a developed nation many did not expect him to stoop down to such a low level.  He lost no time in capitalising on this issue in order to galvanise support not only from his distanced supporters but also to take a free ride in the wave of the right wingers. The reason for this is in the statistics. In June 2020 an opinion poll conducted by the Research Department of Statista polled 60% of the French people as clearly disapproving of Macron’s actions as President. The attack on the teacher and the uproar triggered by the biased French media could not have come at a better time to boost his plummeting ratings. 

In this political background, Macron vividly exposed his intentions by speaking with a forked tongue. He was using one part of it to champion ‘freedom’. In an emotional talk, Macron added that Paty was slain for representing the secular, democratic values of the European country. With the other part of his forked tongue, he was smothering the very freedom he was championing.  

Macron had embarked on a disproportionate series of undemocratic crackdowns which are absolutely unacceptable. May be to impress his opponent, the right-wing Marine La Pen, who he defeated in the 2017 election. She has led the charge against Macron for not cracking down hard enough against Islamism. Further, to ascribe by implication, the act of an individual as representing an entire people smacks of desperation than wise reasoning. More than one billion Muslims are being targeted by Macron and not resting at that he has the audacity to state that Islam is in a crisis. His puerile behaviour brings nothing but shame to the idea of Laïcité, a French concept of secularism which discourages religious involvement in government affairs. By using Islam and Muslims as the platform for his election purposes, he is just doing the opposite of the notion of Laïcité.

Poverty In France

Macron delivering a speech on separatism called “radical Islam” the biggest threat to French society. He also claimed, “Islam was in crisis around the world”. Not only Macron’s hypocrisy but the duplicity of the French principles of Liberté, égalité, fraternité French for “liberty, equality, fraternity”, was explicitly demonstrated by his admission that French governments had to take the blame for ghettoising Muslim communities across the country and creating conditions for radicalisation. 

What Macron deliberately omitted to talk about was disgusting. The most shocking news was revealed by a survey carried out by the Secours Populaire (French Popular Relief) in 2018 — a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty and discrimination. It revealed the shocking figures of One in five French people cannot afford three meals a day.  

Is it not an act of grave provocation to have the blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammed, published by the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, to be displayed on town hall buildings in Montpellier and Toulouse for several hours? First the conditions for radicalisation is created. Having succeeded in nurturing radicals, the government outlines proposals for a new anti-separatism law aimed at improving integration and combatting religious divisions in the country.  

Ali Saad a French sociologist in a piece to Al Jazeera Website on 28.10.2020 wrote, “If anything, it appears that it is the State rather than the Muslim citizens that is “separating” itself from a segment of society and is insisting on treating them as outsiders. It clearly does not want to acknowledge that multiculturalism is an integral part of French society and should be embraced as such.”

Buddha And Muhammed

When an issue does not directly relate to someone, the issue is looked at independently but if the same issue relates to Muslims it is viewed prejudicially.  Approximately 8,000 kilometres away from Paris, here in Sri Lanka, one questions, what the hell is all this brouhaha about caricatures of Prophet Muhammed. 

Macron was probably right when he said, ‘radical Islam’.  What is wrong with freedom of expression?  We are living in the civilised world.  Why bother about cartoons and caricature of Prophet Muhammed?  When Macron said France would “not give up cartoons, drawings, even if others back down” he was probably representing the voice of the free world, developed world and the enlightened world.  

Let us see it from a Sri Lankan point of view. When it applies to this paradise island, the much bandied and hailed freedom of expression would be given a different interpretation.  In the same vein, President Macron’s highly acclaimed freedom of expression of the free, developed and the enlightened world would take a special shade of meaning.    

The BBC News had this headline in August 2012, “French tourists guilty in Sri Lanka over Buddha photos”. “A Sri Lankan court has given suspended jail terms to three French tourists for wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting. They were convicted under a section of the Penal Code which outlaws deeds intended to wound or insult “the religious feelings of any class of persons”.

In April 2014 insult to Buddhism again reigned the headline of BBC news. This time, “Sri Lanka to deport Buddha tattoo British woman”. Naomi Coleman was arrested as she arrived at the airport in the capital Colombo after authorities spotted the tattoo on her right arm. She said she told police in a statement that she practised Buddhism and had attended meditation retreats and workshops in Thailand, India, Cambodia and Nepal.

Ms Coleman said she had to spend Monday night in prison in Negombo, near the airport, after appearing in court. The 37-year-old from Coventry was arrested for “hurting others’ religious feelings”.  A magistrate ordered her deportation.

An Indian girl’s story hit the headlines of The Hindu newspaper in July 2017. The lines read, “Indian girl held in Sri Lanka for Buddha image on dress”. “Wearing such a print is an offence according to the penal code. It is not just about the Buddha, wearing prints of deities of any religion is considered offensive,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told The Hindu. However, senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuna said: “Only defaming a religion is a criminal offence in Sri Lanka, wearing a normal print of the Buddha does not amount to that. This is ridiculous.” The Police said the family was let off with a warning.

Lessons To Learn

These people were not wearing or depicting caricatures of Buddha but a decent and respectful reproduction of his image. On the contrary, imagine a disgraceful cartoon or ugly caricature of a personality like Prophet Muhammed, who is revered by billions of Muslims. On top of that to have the blasphemous cartoons to be displayed on town hall buildings in Montpellier and Toulouse for several hours on the instruction of the authorities is contemptibly obnoxious.

This probably brings some perspective as to why the Muslims are deeply hurt and reacting by way of condemning such deplorable depictions of Prophet Muhammed by the French, who are themselves confused of the notion of freedom of expression. Islamophobic approach to the French Muslim community will not help address radicalisation. There are lessons to learn for us too – for the Muslims as a community, for everyone as citizens and for the policy makers.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    1

    Any act must be judged by the intention behind it and not the act per se.
    .
    The man who wiped his buttocks with the French flag obviously had the intention of desecrating it. The teacher who used the cartoon was trying to explain freedom of expression, a completely different intention.
    .
    This article is the sort of dangerous rubbish that would bring thousands of illiterate yakkos onto the streets, if they were able to read at all. Please do not translate it into Tamil or Sinhala.

    • 4
      1

      I wonder what would happen to a Muslim who tries to justify showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed for educational purposes. Now, that would be a real test of Mr. Usoof’s convictions.

      • 5
        0

        OC
        Be fair.
        Islam prohibits showing the image of the Prophet in any form. I saw a movie with the Prophet as central character, produced tastefully, which did not show his face at all.
        We need to respect the sensibilities of people.
        The Vatican had objections to any actor playing Jesus Christ. It took much effort to persuade otherwise.
        *
        I do not share the views of the author. But I think that Charlie Hebdo caricatures are intentionally offensive.
        Humor is serious business.
        A suicide bomber may respond to CH style humor with his own sense of humor, with a bang.
        *
        I see insults traded against races and religions on these pages. I think that most represent an absolutely sick state of mind.
        Do we need such tings when our desire is for peace.
        *
        The Hindus (especially the Tamils) had a healthy relationship with their gods whom they could happily ridicule even in acts of praise.
        That tradition goes back a few centuries, but we are moving towards intolerance.
        *
        All of us take offence at things directed at our faiths but happily laugh at others.
        Good humor should make the subject of the joke laugh louder than any other.

        • 0
          0

          S.J,
          “Charlie Hebdo caricatures are intentionally offensive.”
          Yes, but it should be OK for educational purposes. The same way graphic depictions are OK in a medical school but not on TV.

          • 1
            0

            OC
            Thanks, but what educational purpose would an intentionally offensive caricature serve?
            Studying the weird mindsets of the creator of the caricature and the person who over-reacted?
            Education should be sensitive to human feeling.
            *
            Doing something that is offensive and provocative is worse than a harsh response to it.
            There is need for restraint in publishing matters that are offensive.
            *
            On the other hand, MF Husain, a big name in modern painting in India, made an elegant caricature of goddess Sarawasti, bare breasted and with all the things that usually go with her mythological imagery, cleverly stylized.
            Hindus, well used to temple sculptures of gods and goddesses semi naked or even naked went on the war path.
            Husain at 95 had to flee for his life from India in 2006, as he has been the target of right-wing groups for this painting.
            None of his explanations would count; and the Indian government (a BJP-led alliance I think) failed to protect him.
            *
            Will the same people who took offence against Husain denounce Charlie Hebdo’s insensitive rude caricatures targetting Islam?
            *
            It is the hypocrisy that surrounds the defence of intentionally offensive freedom of expression that bothers me.

          • 0
            0

            Dear OC,

            Please add your thoughts to the following article too… where had you been ? I thought Rajapak,kshes criminals took you away .. thanks good. youre there…..

            https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/observations-on-the-visits-of-the-chinese-the-americans/comment-page-1/#comment-2366018

  • 12
    3

    Usuf, I will not comment on the right and wrong. But if you say the caricatures are insulting how do you term the recent sell out of our democracy by those Muslim politicians. Is those caricatures more insulting than their treacherous act.

  • 12
    0

    The Muslim Madness should be nipped in the bud – the Idiology that motivates idiots to kill others for trivial reasons should be reformed to suite the modern times, if not let them leave thir host counties and live in a Country Such as Saudi Arabia where this madness is acceped.

  • 14
    1

    Puny humans have created religions in their ignorance.

    IF there is a god, the French guy as well as the economic refugee Arab, are both his creations.

    God seems to have favoured the French guy , with a better life, freedom and objectivity. The French are also very advanced in literature, science, democracy etc.

    In Arab countries, there is no freedom, a few kings enjoy everything and regularly their armies torture and murder their citizens( look at Egypt, Saudi, Iran, Libya etc) . These are very corrupt countries and the judiciary is very biased.

    This murderous Arab is like a retarded bull, trying to defend the creator of all the universe, the stars, milky way stretching far beyond what the human mind can imagine ! As if such a mighty god wants an uneducated, corrupt and limited man to defend him !

    In the final analysis, this is all backward ideas. We are in the 21 Century.

    • 0
      0

      👍👍👍
      deepthi, you said it all.
      Why the can’t the believers be satisfied with the thought that God/Allah will anyway punish the unbeliever for blasphemy.

      Soma

  • 7
    0

    It is not clear to me the message conveyed by Mr Ysuf, which to me, seems as a radical Muslim or a personal perspective. Beheading, for whatever reason, is barbaric & primitive, & cannot be compared or justified with the act of someone insulting the French nation by a cartoon of the national flag being used as toilet paper (which was not widely publicised & the first time I am hearing about it in UK). Any citizen would be appalled or outraged by the desecration of the national flag & it has little to do with freedom of expression. France has a huge Muslim population consisting of Moroccan, Tunisian & other African migrants who have entered the country legally or illegally but given refuge by the govt. & even makeshift migrant camps of illegals are being supported by local communities, yet their hospitality is being abused. In fact, there are no go areas in Paris which are completely controlled by immigrants, therefore, the anti immigrant sentiment & the rise of far right activists can be considered as a natural reaction. However, Macron & the average French citizen have been tolerant, much to their credit, accepting the fact that many migrants are law abiding citizens seeking a better future for themselves & not all are radical Islamists.
    Cont,

  • 6
    0

    Cont.
    In UK, there was a nightclub called the Funky Buddha & a restaurant called the Laughing Buddha with the cartoon image of a laughing fat man rubbing his belly, which many Buddhists would find unacceptable. The church & clergy have been the source for many jokes & TV comedies but this is all within the boundaries of freedom & democracy. Obviously, not all countries enjoy liberal democracy. The average SL Buddhist attitude towards portraying of Buddha images is sensitive, just as the Muslim perspective. Many Christians have Christ tattooed on their body as a sign of their devotion but Buddhists find it offensive, just as Buddha images on clothing, yet crumpling up & discarding, tearing up or burning of Vesak cards, posters & such like of Buddha images after celebrations are not viewed in the same light as desecration, just as one might ask how to dispose of such things ‘with dignity’. The depth of religious & national sentiments are personal but we all need to be rational & reasonable with our criticism.

    • 3
      1

      R-UK
      The Laughin Buddha you are talking about has nothing to do with Gautama Buddha.
      It is an Oriental Buddha. The Laughing Buddha is part of a tradition.
      *
      How tolerant is a Christian state towards downright insult of Jesus Christ? The system will get you, but by sophisticated methods.

  • 5
    1

    Doesn’t this act of the stupid guy who beheaded Samuel Paty is almost similar to the Muslim MPs crossing party lines and voting in support of 20A? The assasin killed a person and these Sri Lankan Muslim MPs’ killed Democracy and paved way for Dictatorship.

    • 2
      2

      B1
      Was the offence only crossing party lines?
      What about the good Buddhist lady and the devoted Hindu?
      The offence was 20A itself.
      The main offenders are the SLPP MPs who voted for it. Crossing party lines by any one of them would have been a commendable act of bravery.

    • 0
      0

      B1
      What about the nearly 140 Sinhalese MPs and half a dozen Tamil MPs who were co-killers?
      Are they angels?

  • 5
    1

    Freedom of expression’ is a non-Islamic concept.
    Ask an Arab what is it.
    Thankfully the writer is exposed to an alternative ethical system and is able to read and write English.
    .
    Here we have a man who believes that apostates must be killed lecturing us about freedom of expression.
    What a world!

    Soma

  • 3
    0

    In Lankawe, all Muslims in the 1948 parliament voted for disenfranchise Tamils. Then they secured a special rule of Muslims marriage in Lankawe to oppress their women. This double standard is not available for any other religions in Lankawe, including Buddhism, which claimed in constitution as privileged religion. This have caused Usuf the lack of understand that French people have the right to have their own law.
    Usuf explanation of his religion is not violent is not enough when there are some oppressive activities related religion is happening world over. Never Muslims governments or leadership organizations condensed the truth of 72 women regard for suicides. But few individuals are denying though their motive cannot be established. Many Muslim nations in the OIC are not complying with the UN Secular principles and the freedom of Expression. Irrelevant of that, Usuf can have his opinion on those matters under freedom expression, but nobody obliged to fulfil his opinion in that.
    UN has no convention about Mohamed’s caricature or French Flag. UN’s conventions are only secular religions and freedom of expression. We cannot go deep into anything the level of CT’s comments restrictions. But one line on Secular Religion and Freedom of Expression: Though they both sound as two different ideas, but their father and mother are one and the same.

  • 0
    0

    They were developed only to curb the radical – extreme religions, which tortured and murdered who differed from them, in the past. So no religion may question those two principles or insists them have to be in their way. The bottom line is they are there only to curb the extremism of the religions.
    I respect Arundhati Roy. I know who she is. But a printed book called Koran has no better use than a national flag in the same token of Arundhati’s argument. After all nobody knows if really anything in the Veda, Koran, Bible and Buddhagama was said by their founders or their relevant gods. So Usuf should not use anybody’s talks out of the context to substantiate his points. The French law requests the national flag to be respected. French law doesn’t require Mohamed’s caricature should be legally avoided. Muslim refugees going to France are obligated to respect that part. They have a moral duty to obey French laws and encourage French government to respect the UN’s Geneva Convention. Otherwise French people will treat all refugees, starting from Muslims refugees, like the Buddhist monks treated Bangladesh’s UN sponsored Muslim refugees in Lankawe, during the Northwestern riots.

  • 1
    0

    Arundhati can ask Saudi to relax its laws to allow the National flag to wipe the bottom and draw caricature about Mohamed. But under the French law only Mohamed caricature has no restriction to be drawn, but the national flag cannot be used to wipe. In Saudi cow can be cut to eat; But not the pig. But I advise Usuf not to try that in Lankawe, where pig can be cut and eaten, not the cow. For an animal activist, both are life, none can be cut. But Arundhati may consider both are food anybody can eat both.

  • 0
    3

    Comments on justifying the freedom not mentioned anywhere the injustice of insulting others religious and moral values.
    When you attack black people called racism, attack Jewish – antisemitism, attack women – gender discrimination, attack homosexuality – intolerance, attack religions – hate speech, when they attack the dignity of prophet Muhammad only freedom of speech!!

    In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths.

    Cultural Marxism in the name of freedom destroyed the moral and religious values of European society. A simple example….

    In 1946 French Clothing designer Louis Réard introduced his two-piece swimsuit
    His skimpy design was risqué, exposing the wearer’s navel and much of her buttocks.

    *****No runway model would wear it, so he hired a  NUDE dancer, Micheline Bernardini, to model it at a review of swimsuit fashions.******

    Contestants in the first Miss World beauty pageant wore them in 1951, but the bikini was then banned from the competition. Even for a competition.
    Today it took them to nudity.
    Don’t bring the religious values to nudity.

    • 3
      0

      Asgar
      “Cultural Marxism in the name of freedom”
      So you suggest that parading women in skimpy swim suits is a Marxist idea?
      This is brilliantly funny!

    • 1
      0

      ….”When you attack black people called racism, attack Jewish – antisemitism, attack women – gender discrimination, attack homosexuality – intolerance, attack religions – hate speech, when they attack the dignity of prophet Muhammad only freedom of speech!!”

      Most of the above group, you are being born into by the grace of God or nature without being given a choice. so attacks on them based on the racial and or biological identities of them is an attack on the God or nature themselves because they can not change it by wishing..
      (Jews consider themselves a race and they don’t have the concept of spreading their religion. with force or economical incentives or with other methods. just like Hindus you must be born into it. if there is a trend otherwise, it is a new and uncommon one.
      other ideologies that compete to spread, naturally should honestly expect dissection)
      most incidents of insults to or banning of other belief systems happens in the Middle East and in predominantly Muslim countries. critics should cover them as well to keep their integrity in good shape.
      It is an overkill to have treated those poor victims the way they were for wearing or tattooing Buddha images. obviously intention to insult was not there.

  • 3
    0

    The problem with Islam is the persons interpreting the teachings (mulla’s) are scared to bring it to 21st century. All religions need to evolve and change with time. At the time of Kishana/Siva, Buddha, Christ and Mohammad no car, guns, cell phones, civil laws as now was available. But all other religions have slowly evolved with time and changed to come to Co- exist in 2020.

    However, ISLAM is saying anchored by 500AD-600AD interpretations (Allowed 4 wife’s due to husbands being killed) now this is not required as husbands are staying alive. SO when religious leaders don’t slowly bring the flock to new current age (Like what several Pope’s doing to Catholics) you find 21st century followers becoming zealots and trying to apply 600AD interpretations on 2020.

    Some educated people in Islam can try to bring such changes needed to front but in that religion there is no tolerance for new thinking and old ways are guarded by Fatwas – hence no voice can be raised and if raised the pack will tear the speaker down. Islam needs to be interpreted and new generations need to be taught a new version. If not it will be used by Islamists for global domination. And someone will drop a nuke in ME.

  • 2
    1

    SAM
    “The problem with Islam is the persons interpreting the teachings (mulla’s) are scared to bring it to 21st century. “
    Do you mean Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or Mullah Nasrudin?

  • 5
    0

    Hey Usuf – why do these Islamic migrants always want to go to infidel countries such as France, Italy, Germany when they can go to countries of their faith such as Saudi, Qatar, Dubai, Kuwait?

    If the underlying reason is not to spread their religion ? The Islam as religion and the interpreters state that the faithful should go and spread the religion. This is the reason all these problems are coming in Europe. Also this is the main reason why any Muslim family try’s to have more than 2 kids. This Religion try to spread their view via population spread and population spread.

  • 0
    0

    https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hindu-homes-attacked-in-bangladesh-over-rumours-about-alleged-facebook-post-slandering-islam/article330029

    Mr; Usuf what do you say to this? In a liberal democracy people are very tolerant and there is free speech . Only in intolerant societies like most Muslim nations and now even Sri Lanka , there is no freedom of speech. These Arab and Sub Sharan Muslims in France are recent immigrants and if they do not like the French culture they can pack up and go back. Why are they still remaining there? They want to enjoy the good life in the west but want the west to become an intolerant Islamic hellhole just like from where they originally fled from This is the problem with Muslims everywhere , come begging for refuge and once established ,, form ghettos and take over and then want to create , the very same Islamic hell holes , from which they originally fled from. Just like in eastern Sri Lanka. A very barbaric intolerant form of Islam is now spreading from the Arabian desert to all Muslim nations , due to Arab wealth

  • 0
    0

    Merkel says fight against ‘Islamist terrorism’ is common struggle – Europe has now come to realize the Barbarians at the door..!

    • 0
      0

      SAM,
      .
      true Dr Merkel then added so, anyways, Germans laws would not allow those extremists to behave the way they continue in France today. But she knows very well, not all islamists belong to the fundementalist groups. Unlike the case in Srilanka, in germany they can differentiate them well. That is why I see current day german society is multiple times sensitive at such issues than our srilanken society. Look at the way how our sinhala extremist hunted those innocient muslims just after easter sunday disaster ….. That guy Madhumadhawa and several others are still roaming in the city, with the direct support of MAHARAJAS,… no matter they were the masters of those mob attack on innocient muslims. If MAKANDURE madhush to be gunned down by state police, in the same time, Madhu Madhawa to be protected ?
      :
      Going by few incidents, immediately after 1 mio of Syrians and other folks let entering the country 4 years ago, there were incident, arab stupid men had touched the back sides of the young german women gathered to Colonge cathedral,.. however, after such incidents, they worked on that gradually and today, we dont hear the kind of incidents any more.: Most entered to the country have now been caught by rehab programs and.. some of them have achieved great successes. I know some graduates from Syria – they are doing really good in Germany and other countries in europe.

  • 0
    0

    France going to control financing to Islam and Foreign preachers from Turkey. Same thing that SL should have done 10- years ago and now all countries are doing. SL is yet to close the loop-holes.

    https://m.facebook.com/WIONews/videos/695918811334634/?refsrc=https%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2Fstory.php&_rdr

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