The state cannot tolerate insults to its institutions, the extremists cannot tolerate insults to their religion and the layperson cannot tolerate this resistance to her freedom. Where do we start to tolerate? Where do we draw a line? Where do we debate? Or do we debate at all? After Charlie Hebdo, evidently not.
They came, they stormed and they killed. There were no dialogues, there were no negotiations. They killed eight journalists, they killed the 1789 Declaration of Rights, and they killed a million more oppressions that were yet to be vented. Today, the world stands with France and Charlie Hebdo, the world stands for freedom of expression, albeit stunned and afraid. Nevertheless, the world must stand.
We live in a society which has seen the Renaissance and the Reformation; it has seen the breaking of empires and the drafting of rights and duties, it has seen the Rose Revolution and the Jasmine Revolution. And yet, in this period that we call post-modern, we cannot tolerate the most peaceful form of protest.
What would R.K. Laxman’s common man have to say to this, one wonders.
Salman Rushdie, for one, said, “I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and yes, our fearless disrespect”.
France, the state, has ever been at odds with religious groups considering its chosen form of secularism, France, the nation, has tried its best to uphold freedom in different domains- be it religion or expression. The French government has been criticized for controversies like the veil controversy, it is also a fact that many French citizens have left the country to join the ISIS; France has been a contentious zone when it comes to radical Islam, or even Islam sometimes.
In the aftermath of the attack, even shocked mourners acknowledged that Charlie Hebdo pushed satire to its limits, yet even Islamic organizations from within France have condemned the attack. What does that tell us? That it is okay, and even healthy to question our very comfort zones, that taking offence should lead to thoughtful consideration and not violence.
There was much surprise when the controversial Danish cartoon of the Prophet with a bomb for a turban caused unrest in West Asia and elsewhere. A ‘provocative’ cartoon like that was obviously going to hurt sentiments. But the cartoon was only an illustration of what radicals are doing in the name of the Prophet.
Have we not progressed enough to stop and think? If not, satire must not stop either.
Feature image by Banksy.