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Defending freedom?

Let me exercise the freedom ofLiberte, Egalite, Fraternite expression everyone on the streets says they are defending: Je n’suis pas Charlie! After the mass demonstrations in Paris and other cities across Europe and beyond, I’m left unsettled and confused. What statement exactly were our leaders and the crowds trying to make?
Of course the terrorist attack was barbaric and inexcusable, and deserves global condemnation. And of course freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our liberal democracy and should be defended. Right?
But where does one draw the line between freedom of expression and hate crimes? Does the kind of satire Charlie Hebdo known for, where nothing was sacred and cartoons of popes wearing condoms were typical fare, represent the values that build trust and solidarity? Why the one-sided affirmation by our political leaders for this selective freedom, without calling for respect and understanding? While free speech and satire has its place in our western society (even Old Testament prophets used satire), was Charlie Hebdo’s offensive style to Muslims and Christians really something with which we all want to identify?
Even the FIFA mafia preach respect on the football field. But of course that’s just a game. That’s not real life.
Hypocrisy
I was glad to see more nuanced and thoughtful deliberations surface in news channels and social media over the weekend asking what we meant by saying ‘Je suis Charlie’? ‘It is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je suis Charlie Hebdo,’ wrote a columnist in The New York Times. on Thursday: ‘Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.’ Many who were quick to lionize those who offended the views of Islamist terrorists in France were a lot less tolerant toward those who offended their own views at home, he proposed, pleading for less hypocrisy.
My son posted a photo on Facebook of Boko Haram fundamentalists in Nigeria who slaughtered hundreds if not thousands in Nigeria last week with the implied question: Will anyone bother to march in protest against this tomorrow?
Another columnist in Britain’s Telegraph questioned the thinking that the terrorists ‘win’ if we don't reproduce those cartoons, and ‘lose’ if we do. ‘As if, at this very moment, terrorist leaders across the West are privately wailing in anguished disbelief because satirical cartoons have been reproduced this morning in several European newspapers.("Disaster! Our plan has backfired in a way we couldn't possibly have foreseen! Ink really does beat Kalashnikovs! Satire defeats us once again!")’
Rather, he suggested, the terrorists ‘win’ if we leap up, gulp down their bait–and hate Muslims, blame Muslims, persecute Muslims, burn their book, attack their mosques, demand their expulsion. Such actions, he warned, scare Western Muslims, isolate them, alienate them and drive some of them to support–and even become–terrorists.
Slippery
Ah, but we must defend freedom, and particularly the freedom of speech. Yesterday’s crowd in Paris chanted, ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’ (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood). But freedom is a slippery customer. That slogan was ironically the cry of the French Revolution, which led directly to rivers of blood in the same streets of Paris where crowds walked yesterday: far greater barbarity!
Freedom of conscience, which is the freedom on which all other freedoms are based, is being trampled on all across liberal Europe. Doctors and nurses who refuse to butcher living embryos lose their jobs. Civil servants who cannot in good conscience conduct a ‘marriage’ ceremony between persons of the same sex lose their jobs. Ordinary people wearing simple symbols of their faith find themselves suddenly unemployed. Dare to disagree with the politically correct doctrine on same sex relationships and see how much freedom of speech there is.
Freedom of religion and worship, fundamental to western civilisation, is also under dire threat. Classical liberal tolerance –’I disagree totally with your viewpoint but will defend to the death your right to hold it’–has yielded to widespread intolerence of what are quickly branded ‘homophobic’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘bigoted’, ‘small-minded’ or ‘out-dated’ perspectives.
On what do we base Equality once we reject the idea that humans reflect God’s image? Aren’t we all just products of natural selection? Shouldn’t only the fittest survive? And can we really talk of Brotherhood if we don’t start with Fatherhood?
One thing that is clear: these issues are going to be around for a long time. How can we respond to these troubled times in the spirit of Jesus? Next week I’ll share about some events to help equip us in this coming year.
Till then,                                          
Jeff Fountain

Posted in Featured, Weekly Word.


9 Responses

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  1. Michal says

    Very good article, indeed.

  2. Thierry Kessel says

    The only way is JESUS CHRIST.
    Let’s pray for the salvation of all those people who knew the victims.
    Let’s pray also for the salvation of the families of those people who killed them.
    Let’s pray for tolerance.
    Only God’s love can act.

  3. Kamal Fahmi says

    Why should Islam be above analytic thinking and criticism?
    During the Cold War the West scrutinised communists and kept an eye on them and this was not considered racism or communism-phobia. Communism ideology was challenged, scrutinised and criticised. This was not racism or hate speech.
    It was to protect the democratic values of freedom of thought and conscience, justice and equality. It was to protect Human Rights and the civil rights of the individuals.
    Why are we not doing the same with islamist whose values and ideology are against these values of freedom, justice and equality.
    Why should Islam be above analytic thinking and criticism?
    Why are we forbidden to challenge it’s compatibility with democratic values?
    Why should the muslims face death penalty if they leave Islam?
    Why are they accused of being apostates and do not have the right to exist as ex-muslims?
    Why are they ostracised when they reject the Islamic teaching or leave Islam?
    Why is non Muslim accused of defaming Islam and blasphemy if he says “Mohamed is not a prophet of God” ? This is ridiculous. Because if he believes that Mohamed is a prophet of God he would have been a Muslim but he is not.

  4. Jason Walker says

    I’m not sure where to start here, what with having to clear the room of my own screams before I can begin typing.

    Apparently concepts such as expression and symbolism are lost on you, because you wish to establish a caliphate-friendly panel which defines where satire ends and hate crimes begin.

    What you are truly not getting, as in frightening quantities of lack of understanding, is the article to which I am responding would be brutalized in certain corners of the world for promoting Christianity.

    Do you understand 12 people were shot to death? Does this not resonate with you?

    Your Christian perspective is among the most warped I’ve ever seen, and I am patiently awaiting to see if this post sees the light of day in your censored existentialism.

  5. Stéphane Kapitaniuk says

    I just discovered your website via Facebook. As a frenchman, I wanted to point out that there are many interpretations of the phrase #jesuischarlie. Critics of the phrase (yourself and the NYT article you mention) seem to not realize this.

    As a friend pointed out. Charlie Hebdo was read by about 60 000 people. But this weekend, over 3 million people marched the street claiming they were Charlie. The best interpretation is therefore that what we’re claiming is that the next ones on the hit list of terrorism could be me. It was an attack on freedom of speech. And that is what most people had in mind.

  6. FFG says

    “To make freedom an end in itself is to corrupt it.”
    Helmut Thielicke

    Thank you for this insightful and clear word,

    FFG

  7. Sean says

    “And can we really talk of Brotherhood if we don’t start with Fatherhood?” I love your thoughts, Jeff.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Je n’suis Charlie – Defending freedom - NZ Christian Network linked to this post on 13 January 2015

    […] Read here …  Defending freedom? – The Schuman Centre. […]

  2. Je suis Charlie? | RELATIONAL THINKING linked to this post on 13 January 2015

    […] Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies Jeff Fountain asks in his latest blog, “where does one draw the line between freedom of expression and hate crimes? Does the kind of […]



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