The 2015 Charlie Hebdo tragedy continues to haunt France, as the country reaps the whirlwind from its insistence on Christians having a sacred right to demonize Islam’s holiest figure.
In the name of Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, the French state reacted swiftly to a deadly armed attack on the office of the magazine that repeatedly published insulting images of Prophet Mohammed and encouraged all citizens to adopt the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ (‘I am Charlie’).
The state insisted that every French citizen has an inalienable right to ‘Do Like Charlie’ (and insult Islam’s God) because The Law says they can.
However, such a blanket right is not only wrong, but impossible to maintain, preserve or apply, if only because every society has citizens to whom such rights will apply or be applied differently.
In France (and across Europe), ultra-nationalists of all shades and colours insist on having ‘more rights’ than fellow citizens of immigrant, Black or Brown background who ‘acquired’ such rights over time.
The state has also extended that ‘right’ to the so-called ‘Free Press’, with the likes of Charlie Hebdo using it as a legal right to insult Islam as often as they feel like.
There are always those who will do anything to defend the dignity of their God; and they will offer similar extreme arguments in defense of their assumed right and solemn duty to defend the sanctity of their religion.
They are no different to the European Christians who defended their assumed right to invade Arab and African lands, mount killing Crusades against Muslims near and far and engage in Native Genocide in conquered Caribbean islands and American continental lands, all ‘in the name of the Father…’
But when states back wrongs with ‘rights’ upholding the power of those implementing versus the powerlessness of those considered wrong for their beliefs, the hidden realities always return to haunt those backing wrongs with wrong rights.
When the encouraged Islamophobia took root across France, the state moved to ban Muslim women from wearing scarfs, in the name of national security.
All of a sudden, traditional face masks worn for centuries by ancestors and descendants of Africans who fought for France in wars of colonial and imperial conquest, were now considered dangerous and ruled illegal.
Fast-forward to 2020…
COVID-19 has forced the state to force every French citizen to wear a mask, irrespective of religion, as a matter of national health security.
And Charlie Hebdo is back too…
A French teacher, influenced by the state to teach children that they too have right to ‘Be Like Charlie’ did just that – attracting the same deadly reaction Charlie did in 2015.
This time, though, it wasn’t a heavily-armed group exacting revenge through a killing spree.
Instead, it was a lone, quiet 18-year-old adopted citizen who felt sufficiently enraged as to decapitate the teacher.
Someone had to be blamed and the state opted, yet again, to respond with a reiteration of the blanket insistence on citizens having a legal and constitutional right to insult Islam, with absolutely no fear of reprisals.
I once tried, in vain, to think of some kind of provocative mental image of Jesus Christ, my usually fertile imagination bordering on approaching an unfinished illustration that, if published anywhere, would surely move even the most peaceful Christian.
Nations of the dominant North have for long been imposing new ‘politically correct’ and culturally invasive ‘norms’ on dependent nations of the South, including forced removal of laws shaped by centuries of cultural practice, as conditions for needed aid.
But to Muslims worldwide, a perceived right to insult their God will inevitably come with what most consider natural holy expectations in defensive response that simply cannot be suppressed by legislation.
Remember Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’: the response to the 2004 film in traditional Christian societies worldwide was loud and negative, but there was no quarrel with the Australian mega star portraying Christ the ways the movie did.
Hollywood is also considered free, likewise in the name of expression of creative imagination, to portray ‘Alexander The Great’ as nakedly Gay.
And today, by France’s measure, it’s also very okay for blue-blooded, born-and-bred European Christians, to blaspheme any religion not theirs – but not likewise for fellow citizens who look or sound different.
None of that, however, has helped mask the fact that France is reaping today the violence it sewed with encouragement of attacks by citizens on fellow citizens, in the name of rights to insult and offend religions and beliefs.
The accumulated results of accelerating protests by anarchist elements in the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement was responded to with equal levels of state anarchy by some police units deployed to stop them, the inevitable clashes leaving permanent injuries on both sides.
Those daily violent clashes, seen nightly on French and worldwide TV, resulted in excessive public criticism of the levels of violence used in some police attacks filmed and broadcast.
The state again tried legally to bulldoze its way out, this time introducing legislation making it illegal for journalists to film police engaging in abusive actions against protesters.
But, yet again, France misjudged — and the silver bullet backfired, images of police officers badly beating a popular Black French film-maker inspiring sufficient anger to force the state, on Monday (November 30) to withdraw the offending section of the proposed new law.
All of that to prove, once again, that there’s no way such one-sided interpretations of rights, with absolutely no regard for responsibilities, can be sustained forever.
Which is also why too, the longer it takes for good sense to prevail, the more senseless actions and reactions will continue to dominate – if only for the very reason that actions, especially violent ones, breed similar reactions.
And that too — believe it or not, like it or not — is simply natural.