Violence is bad but so is disrespecting a religion

Saad Tai, President of the Muslim Student Association

Guest Contributor

On Jan. 7, twelve people were murdered in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that has previously drawn offensive cartoons about all faiths. The attacks were in response to insulting cartoons of Muhammad, a man greatly honored and respected among Muslims.

As a Muslim, I condemn the actions of the gunmen who incorrectly acted in the name of Islam, and I do condone free speech. However, I do not align with Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that humiliated my Prophet and religion with no purpose of furthering a conversation.

Free speech is subjective. S.F. Clemons argues in an article in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, “The free speech defended by Charlie Hebdo is not the free speech of everyone, it is the free speech as defined and codified by liberal sensibilities rooted in the European enlightenment and espoused by an elite, largely white intellectual class.” I view Charlie Hebdo not as equally mocking and offending all religions and people, but selectively targeting minorities, particularly Muslims, who are already bullied by the French government.

But despite the fact that I disagree with everything Charlie Hebdo stands for, the actions of the gunmen were unwarranted, unjust, and vicious, further ruining the reputation of Muslims and Islam. Killing unjustly is against the teachings of Islam and Muhammad.

After the killing, #JeSuisCharlie went viral. This was in the right of free speech, but I could not stand behind a magazine that promotes hate and Islamophobia. In response to this movement, #whoismuhammad spread like wildfire. Muslims all over the world united through social media to defend and educate the misinformed public about the character and life of the Prophet as well as to combat the growing Islamophobia and violent targeting of Muslims in wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. This is free speech done right.

I would like to stress again that Islam condemns unjust violence. Those who do unjust violence do not in any way support the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and Islam. The cartoons do not justify for the killing, and to do so in the name of Islam is much more offensive to Muslims. But it is important to keep in mind that Charlie Hebdo provoked and poked at Muslims without reason through these cartoons, causing the gunman to react the way that they did. Pope Francis said it best: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” he said. “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity. … In freedom of expression there are limits.”


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