NEWS & ANALYSIS

Charlie Hebdo: A response to Firoz Osman

Michael Coetzee and Jeremy Gordin say the MRN propagandist really takes the biscuit with his response to the cartoonist massacre in Paris

Response to Firoz Osman

Many ridiculous (and offensive) things have been written since the recent terror attacks in France, but special mention must go to South Africa's Firoz Osman of the bigoted and nasty Media Review Network (MRN).

In a disjointed mess of an article on Politicsweb, the MRN propagandist writes that "the bloodbath in Paris has nothing to do with freedom of speech, nor with Islam".

This would have come as news to the French journalists gunned down for exercising their freedom of speech, as well as to the gunmen, who explicitly stated that they were acting in the name of their religion - though to connect those men and their manipulators (overt and covert) with the venerable monotheistic Abrahamic religion and with the billions of ordinary, peace-loving people who practise Islam is, one has to say, damned offensive. But the killers claimed an allegiance and connection; and one notices that no one, least of all Osman, has suggested that the claimed connection between Islam and the benighted murderous creatures in Paris might be spurious as well as shameful and embarrassing.

Mr Osman seems to suffer from a form of shortsightedness and insular thinking that afflicts religious believers of many stripes.

Just because you personally think that Muhammad is a revered prophet, or Jesus the saviour of mankind, or that the mighty Jehovah worries about bacon and shellfish, or Jacob Zuma is the king of Nkandla, does not mean that others have to share your opinion.

And those who don't share it have every right to analyse, criticise and even mock these figures.

Some leading members of Islam themselves have had, and have, no problem about mocking and slandering other religious figures and beliefs. All religions that claim to be the one true faith must constantly, whether explicitly or implicitly, be in the process of denigrating other claimants to religious truth. It's how the model works, alas. Suck it up.

However, being free to criticise, mock and condemn all other beliefs, prophets and deities, while protecting your own from the same treatment by killing, is nothing short of fascism.

It is precisely this sort of fascism Osman promotes when he blames "taunting, insulting and humiliating caricatures of the revered prophet Muhammed" for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Osman also tries to make it appear as if Charle Hebdo only mocked "immigrants, Blacks [sic] and Muslims", which anyone half familiar with the publication would know is not true.

The magazine was and is an equal-opportunity offender, mocking those of all races, religions and political persuasions. Many individuals targeted by the magazine, and the followers of the faiths mocked, surely had reason to feel aggrieved. It wouldn't be good satire if it didn't sting.

Was some of what Charlie Hebdo did - and will do - offensive? Of course it was and will be. One of us (Gordin) doesn't much care for the magazine's stuff; one of us (Coetzee) does. But that's not the point.

The point is that we don't go and dig our kalashnikovs out of the garden and then go and shoot people whom we find offensive. (Though it has crossed Gordin's mind occasionally, especially in connection with certain Politicsweb trolls.)

The point is that only members of one targeted group, militant, fundamentalist Muslims, reacted with violence and murder.

What event could possibly be more about Islam and freedom of speech than self-proclaimed Islamic militants murdering journalists who made cartoons they didn't like?

After Osman's bizarre attempt at denying the obvious, he goes on to refute his own position, writing: "When Muslims are mocked and insulted and their prophet whom they love more than themselves dishonoured in an appalling way under the guise of ‘freedom of speech' is a factor that explains the explosion of violent fury in Paris."

So which is it, now? Do some alleged Muslims kill, in the name of Islam, when someone says something they don't like, or don't they? Osman seems confused, but it's more likely that he's simply being disingenuous, a useful skill for a propagandist for murderous thugs. Note too - though we don't expect Osman to be warm and cuddly, heaven forfend - that he has not one, not one, word of personal sympathy or condolence for the families of those murdered.

Anyway, if you want to live in a modern, secular, liberal democracy, you have to live with being offended.

One would assume that Osman and Muslims in France want to live in such a country - otherwise, why do they choose to live in South Africa and France and not in a country such as Saudi Arabia, where they can experience, as Osman puts it, "Islamic values of tolerance, respect and honour" instead?

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in any true democracy. Freedom from being offended isn't.

Two final points. Osman writes: "There has been a near-universal condemnation by the Muslim leadership of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, urging Muslims to follow the example of prophet Muhammed who never retaliated against those who personally insulted him, nor did he seek vengeance on them."

Ach, codswallop, Osman. Leave the twisting of history to the Stalinists of yore and to the ANC. To take just one example, you of all people ought to know better than others the true history of the massacre, including beheadings, of all the males of the entire Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza. Even Wikipedia mentions it in a mealy-mouthed, politically correct fashion.

Finally, some people, including even some French, have read Darwin, Freud, Einstein, Hawking, etc, etc, plus numerous historians - as well as the Bible, new and old testaments, and the Qu'ran. If they - we - don't believe the world is flat; or that a man or woman in the sky or somewhere runs the show; or that it's necessary to stone gay people; or if we believe that you don't have to pay lots of money to some loudmouth in a badly-erected building if you want to commune with the Prophet Jesus; or that you have to dress like a 17th century Polish nobleman (with curls running down the side of your head) to appreciate Jehovah and his rabbis' teachings; or if we believe that women don't have to be hidden away and treated as third-class citizens; or if we do believe that in all likelihood the world as we know it was set in motion by what is called the Big Bang - in short, if we don't have much patience with fundamentalism in any shape or form, well, you know what: we don't go out and shoot the fundamentalists and nor, these days, do the fundamentalist Christians or Jews. And we folk don't care to be bullied, anywhere in the world, by those fascists claiming to be fundamentalist Muslims - nor do we care for appalling and offensive rationalizations, masquerading as true faith, that seek to make it all okay. 

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