Guest Columnt: French legislation counterproductive to preventing terrorism

Andrew Rogers

In the wake of the attack that shook Charlie Hebdo and all of France last week, France’s legislative reaction has been disappointing and counterproductive. In an effort to preserve the freedom of speech of the people of France, they have dealt it a huge blow: They’ve increased Internet surveillance on hate speech and speech that is intended to incite hatred or violence, ostensibly deciding to limit the speech of their citizens, even (or especially) if they are angry Muslims. France’s leadership has, in a hilarious showcase of hypocrisy, elected to defend free speech and expression by suppressing the most important type of speech, the type that resulted in the deaths of Charlie Hebdo’s 12 writers, editors, and cartoonists in the first place. This shift in policy denigrates their memory and peels back the freedom that allows them to continue printing depictions of Mohammad. Just as the cartoonists at Hebdo were well within their rights to criticize and mock Islam, proponents of the religion have the equivalent right to respond in defense of their faith or, in an act of offense taking, encourage others to carry out violence to avenge their prophet. The latter happens far too frequently and even one obedient subject of the demand for violence is far too many. Even speech that has the potential to incite violence, though, must be allowed to be said– and listened to– and responded to accordingly with critical discourse and a civil debate, never with violence and death. Human lives are more valuable than any idea or ideological allegiance.

Many non-believers, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are horribly “offended” by the form radical Islam often takes and the vast availability of pretext for attacks in the Quran and Hadith; I’m thinking mostly of (and this is just an example of the barbarity that can be found in this revered holy book) Quaran (2: 191-193) where it can be read, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing.” Call me overly contemporary, but that seems harsh. There are many similar calls to violence (France would consider the author a criminal) in the holy books of Islam. The same hatred for nonbelievers is reserved for those who mock Islam or offend its prophet by portraying him in any visual way. You know, Charlie Hebdo types.

France is justifying an increase in cyber security with a very old tale: it’s to fight terrorism. And maybe it is, but the specific policies by which they criminalize the expression of ideas make them an equal barrier to true freedom of speech as the fascists who attacked a magazine over a cartoon or the Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa on Salman Rushdie for the writing of a book. Moderate Muslims, please continue to use your voices to condemn the violence carried out in the name of your religion and the primitive verses they originate from, as you are a very precious resource in the fight against extremist death cults. France, free your citizens guilty of nothing more than having ideas you don’t like or deem dangerous. The French jailing of people for expressing ideas thought to be dangerous by the French government seems to me to be precisely the same as jihadist nutbags murdering cartoonists and has the same end result: the filtering of unwelcome ideas through force and detention.

 Contact Andrew Rogers at [email protected]