Really, France? The country that prides itself on its liberté responds to an unfunny, hateful and stupid Facebook comment by arresting the idiot who posts it? The week after holding a march honoring free speech as well as those killed over exercising free speech? France does have a long tradition of conditional liberty. I think we all know the famous quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, unless you post it on Facebook, in which case you deserve to be arrested.” (This quote is really, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It is misattributed to Voltaire but is actually a phrase used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall to describe Voltaire’s position.)
On Wednesday, French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who goes by his first name only, was arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” over a post he wrote on Facebook on Monday: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” mixing the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting with a reference to Amédy Coulibaly, the man who killed four people at a kosher supermarket last week.
Every time an extremist who is Muslim commits an act of terrorism, people ask where the moderate Muslim voices condemning violence are. (Interestingly, as a Jew, I don’t usually get asked to condemn extremism when it is perpetuated by Jewish fundamentalists like Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 praying Muslims do death, and injured 125, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Yigal Amir, who killed Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Rabin.) And the same thing is happening following this week’s deplorable, pathetic, and tragic killing of 12 people at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Not surprisingly, much of the “where is the Muslim outrage” outrage is coming from… Fox News, as Media Matters notes. Fox’s own Monica Crowley, for example, said that Muslims “should be condemning” the attack and that she hadn’t “heard any condemnation… from any groups.” Fox News’ America’s Newsroom guest Steve Emerson complained, “you don’t see denunciations of radical Islam, by name, by mainstream Islamic groups.” Bob Beckel, a host of Fox News’ The Five host said Muslims were “being quiet” about the shooting and accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of keeping “their mouth shut when things happen.”
We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.
We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law.
When we study Islam, we see clearly that the Quran condemns this kind of violence categorically. That Prophet Muhammad said that a Muslim is one from whom all others are safe…. This is not about religion. This is about political power, this is about uneducated, ignorant youth who are being manipulated by clerics and extremists. And this is why it’s all the more important for us, as the moderates, regardless of faith, to stay united and combat this.