Monday , October 18 2021

On freedom of speech and ‘Islamist separatism’

The choice of the French journal Charlie Hebdo to reprint the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September incited one other wave of violence in France, a repetition of what occurred when these photographs had been initially revealed in 2015. This time, the federal government responded to the assaults by projecting the cartoons on public buildings, whereas President Emmanuel Macron declared Islam is “in disaster” and promised to stamp out “Islamist separatism” in France.

Earlier in September, I had argued in an op-ed that it must be attainable to sentence Muslims who kill individuals over the caricatures of the prophet, whereas additionally recognising they’re meant to show epistemic mastery over Muslims, an already weak minority in France and in Europe. I had additionally questioned that the insatiable have to carry on recycling such photographs is certainly an train in free speech.

Some critics learn my essay as condoning homicide by Muslims and condemning or failing to know the idea of free speech. So, within the following traces, I’ll deal with two interrelated points: How Muslims come to a defence of free speech and Macron’s deceitful reference to “Islamic separatism”.

Free speech is based on the precept that individuals have the best to profess their concepts and beliefs with out concern of retribution. Nonetheless, whereas the idea of free speech is clearly secular, trendy, and Western, this precept itself will not be. The Quran additionally affirms individuals’s proper to imagine in and to profess completely different truths with out forcing them on others. It additionally cautions restraint within the face of abuse, unbelief, and verbal assaults, and forbids scorning one other faith’s deity. The Quran comes to those positions as a result of it promotes spiritual and racial range.

The revelation describes range as an indication of divine grace. Some verses say that amongst God’s “wonders is … the variety of your tongues and hues: for on this, behold, there are messages certainly for all who’re possessed of [innate] information” (30:22). Different verses make clear that “to every amongst [us, God has] prescribed a Legislation and an open method. If God had so willed [God] would have made you a single individuals” (5:48). As a substitute, although God created us from the identical self (nafs), God additionally made us into completely different “nations and tribes, in order that [we] would possibly come to know each other”. The very best amongst us, the Quran says, will not be a particular group however “the one who’s most deeply aware of [God]” (49:13).

After all, variations can solely allow mutual understanding if persons are prepared to be civil and forbearing in coping with others. To this finish, the Quran repeatedly warns Muslims to not argue with critics apart from “in essentially the most kindly method”, and to answer assaults “solely to the extent of the assault levelled towards [us]” and “to bear yourselves with endurance is certainly much better” (16:125-128).

It additionally forbids Muslims to mock different individuals’s gods lest they retaliate by mocking ours. However, in the event that they do, the Quran doesn’t authorise us to hurt them, nor does it proscribe punishments for disbelief, apostasy or blasphemy. In reality, the Arabic phrase for blasphemy, tajdif, is lacking from the Quran. It is very important observe right here that blasphemy legal guidelines in some Muslim nations had been imported from Europe throughout or after colonialism.

If Muslims enter into discussions with “followers of earlier revelation” – Jews and Christians – the Quran advises us to guarantee them that we imagine in what “has been bestowed from on excessive upon us, in addition to that which has been bestowed upon you: for our God and your God is one and the identical” (29:46).

And if non-believers strain or assault us, we may observe the Quran’s recommendation to the prophet: “Say: ‘O ye that reject religion, I worship not that which ye worship. And, I can’t worship that which ye have been wont to worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Approach, and to me mine’” (109: 1-6).

Regrettably, although, such teachings should not in proof amongst Muslims and there are various complicated causes for why individuals learn scriptures the best way they do. One is that the apply of Islam itself has turn into politicised. That is particularly so in Europe the place Muslim minorities really feel besieged and the place, as a consequence, practising Islam has been lowered to a defensive political and/or army stance towards Europeans. Muslims, in fact, have been in Europe since they conquered Spain within the eighth century however their conquest by no means bred this “kind of Islam”.

Paradoxically, the largest casualty of this discount of the faith to politics of resistance has been Islam itself, particularly, the Quran’s ethics of forbearance, acceptance and mutuality. The historic context for this type of politicisation is European colonialism, which additionally accounts for the presence of Muslims from Europe’s former colonies within the “house” nation lately.

If, as an example, Algerians are in France at present, it’s as a result of France was as soon as in Algeria. Not simply that, however France was/can also be liable for the deaths of multiple million Algerians throughout its rule. And that is simply its file in a single former Muslim-majority colony.

Nonetheless, because the French appears to have buried this sordid and prison historical past, one can not level out that France is constant to victimise individuals whom it has already victimised up to now, with out being accused of condoning violence by Muslims.

Hatred for Islam within the nation doesn’t appear to be only a right-wing phenomenon. It’s underwritten by its distinctive and intractably fundamentalist type of secularism, laïcité. Different secular nations present for the liberty of non secular expression by remaining impartial to faith. However, not France, whose model of secularism is quintessentially ethnonationalistic and hostile to Islam; it even mandates how Muslim girls ought to costume in public, similar to some Muslim states do.

This institutionalised bias towards Muslims has ghettoised them, which is why, for Muslims, and Black individuals, France could be very a lot an apartheid colonial state. Thus, when a French Muslim commits against the law, the state treats the person not as a citizen however as an “Islamist”, an epithet that signifies collective guilt and justifies collective punishment. To be a French Muslim at present is, due to this fact, to bear the “mark of the plural”, to cite Jewish Tunisian mental Albert Memmi, who noticed the tendency of the French colonisers to view the Tunisians as a faceless and “nameless collectivity”.

Whether it is separatism Macron worries about, he may begin by dismantling the laïcité/state-created apartheid. As a substitute, he behaves just like the outdated French colonisers, about whom Memmi wrote: “The eulogizing of oneself and one’s fellows, the repeated, even earnest, affirmation of the excellence of 1’s methods and establishments, one’s cultural and technical superiority don’t erase the basic condemnation which each colonialist carries in his coronary heart.”

If there’s one lesson Macron may study from France’s colonialist previous, it’s that “if colonization destroys the colonized, it additionally rots the colonizer.”

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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