The Cartoon: Principle vs. Moral Obligation
Whilst violence in the Muslim world in response to the American video “Innocence of Muslims” demonizing the prophet Muhammad occurs, another caricature of the prophet made to show the absurdity of the violence was published in the left-leaning French newspaper Charlie-Hebdo. According to l’Ambassade Française au Liban (French Embassy in Beirut) diplomatic posts and schools were closed in 20 Muslim world countries, their staff and students sent home for their own safety. Lebanese tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers were spotted setting up a perimeter around France’s ambassadorial residence in Beirut to protect the ambassador and his family from the violences that caused the slaughter of the United States’ ambassador Mr. J. Christopher Stevens in Tripoli, Libya.
Charlie-Hebdo’s chief editor had this to say about the provocative drawing his magazine published: “After the publication of this absurd and grotesque film about Muhammad in the US, other newspapers have responded to the protests with cover stories. We are doing the same thing, but with drawings. And a drawing has never killed anyone.” While the drawings are provocative and immature (The magazine is well known in France as a fervent opponent of religion, be it Catholicism and making fun of the pope or today’s Muhammad issue), it is the magazine’s absolute right to publish what it pleases, regardless of the popularity of the content or its perception world-wide. Though freedom of speech must be observed, will it be the cause of meaningless slaughter of innocent people who just come from the same country (After all, the caricature put French police, citizens and nationals abroad on high alert in fear of the gruesome and unjust retaliation seen in Tripoli). Where is the line between freedom of speech and morality drawn? A Suppression of freedom of Speech occurred in France when Muslim protesters attacked and firebombed Charlie Hebdo headquarters. The French government had banned protests over the subject of the caricatures knowing such violences would occur.
There are many undeniable rights that mankind should possess and one is freedom of speech. A human being should be allowed to say as they please. If one cannot do this, the political system they live under is a dictatorship (regardless of the official name of government). The principles of American freedom are based on the idea that the colonists could not have a say in the British Parliament who denied them press rights abroad in the UK. Nowadays in a democratic country, anybody can print a newspaper and say anything about religion or politicians or ethnic groups (in France and many European countries however, racism is a punishable offense).
Now, regarding the morality that balances with freedom of speech; sure there is a right to say as you please but is it safe for your person and others. The Charlie-Hebdo writers who made the offensive caricature knew that the ambassador from America had been slaughtered and certainly did not stop to think that something similar could happen to France’s nationals abroad or at home could be threatened.
While the right to defend what in America is known as the first amendment, the consequences and immorality is undeniable. Men and women should defend their right of speech but when the lives of people are in the balance, more thoughtful means should be deployed.
picture a courtesy of K.G.Hawes on flickr