Free speech mania may intensify clashes

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-19 0:43:02

Many issues connected to the France-advocated freedom of speech are hard to understand. The latest issue of French magazine Fluide Glacial put on its cover a cartoon portraying a French gentleman pulling a rickshaw with a Chinese man sitting in it, indicating Chinese tourists' occupation of Paris. With the headline "Peril Jaune" (Yellow Peril), the magazine possibly attempted to gain worldwide attention by following the example Charlie Hebdo set.

What an indecent act. Fluide Glacial may rise to fame overnight if the Chinese government slams the magazine or protests are sparked in China. However, Chinese people just dismiss it lightly. But not everyone in the world can be so good-tempered.

The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo was taken seriously by Muslims worldwide as an affront to their faith and there were furious protests in Islamic countries, with at least 10 dead in riots in Niger. But French President Francois Hollande said these protesters do not understand France's attachment to freedom of speech.

Rioters who cause damage should be harshly punished, but the rule doesn't seem to be strong enough to suppress the rage of Muslims worldwide. France's freedom of speech and Islam's freedom of faith are now in sharp confrontation.

Muslims consider Charlie Hebdo's controversial cartoon as utterly blasphemous toward their prophet, and the discontent has grown drastically since all of Europe is now reading the magazine to show support, with millions of copies issued.

In France and the rest of Europe, people used to take a secular attitude over free speech, but now they seem to see it through the lens of religion, and are even willing to take fresh risks.

If European people and Muslims want to defend their different freedoms to the hilt, then we may witness a century of "holy war."

Europe had better back off somewhat.

While lauding free expression, even Pope Francis has said it has "limits" and shouldn't "insult the faith of others." Mainstream US media all refused to publish Charlie Hebdo's new cartoons. This all suggests it is time to take a step back.

No one intends to deny free speech. What's advised now is that French society needs to restrain itself from portraying the prophet and prevent a pursuit of free expression from turning into a religion.

Charlie Hebdo, the naughty child of the French cultural family, has gained extensive support and tolerance after the bloody attack and is hence made a representative of France and Europe as a whole. This doesn't make sense.

It's more difficult for Muslims to change their faith than for Europe to adjust its understanding of free speech. If French people consider such an adjustment as a disgrace, their pursuit of free speech may indeed be like a religion.

The rest of the world will adopt a new perspective to view a spate of conflicts triggered by Charlie Hebdo.

Posted in: Editorial

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