As the latest outrage to peace, liberalism and free speech draws to a close in Paris, with at least 17 innocent people lying dead, one thing must be shouted through the fog of confusion that is inevitably already infecting media and social media commentary; an issue of major concern in the aftermath of this horror is not a consideration for the possible hurt feelings of anyone with regards to the contents of satire, cartoons and so on. No one has the right not to be offended in a liberal society.
Due to the avalanche of usage, I must once again briefly deal with the word ‘Islamophobia’. Islam is a set of ideas written in the Quran (the Islamic holy book, dictated allegedly by Allah) and the Hadiths (the sayings and the actions of the Prophet Mohammad). Therefore, the word ‘Islamophobia’ actually implies that the liberal world is irrational if it dares to criticise a book, which is bad enough, but in reality it is always deployed in such a way as to imply bigotry against all Muslims. There are two crimes here; the conflation of criticising ideas with bigotry, and the downplaying of actual anti-Muslim bigotry, which is abhorrent. The intention of course, is to stifle debate. The word’s very purpose is to frighten everyone into silence. We must all reject it if we wish to honour the bravery of those who were killed defending freedom of speech in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Human beings have rights that deserve respect, books or ideas do not.
The correct and necessary response to the nightmare in Paris, is to make a stand against this assault on liberalism by publishing the above cartoon. We must spread the risk. Below, Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains why:
“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”
– Stéphane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, who was murdered in Paris on Wednesday.