Thursday, January 8, 2015

Poking a Mad Dog

No one deserves to die for expressing his or her views or opinions.

Full stop.

What happened in Paris, yesterday, was horrific, senseless, and cowardly. Seeing the video of that police officer, wounded, hands up in surrender, being mercilessly murdered, demands outrage. The extremists who carried out this bloody act are subhuman.

We should remember that point: those who carried out such a barbaric act against people have failed to meet what it means to be human.

My sympathies go to the victims, their families, and friends. I stand in solidarity with the people in France against violence.

Long... long pause.

Photo credit: Elena Brunet, courtesy of Twitter.

Since news of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I have seen all sorts of cartoons, signs, tweets, and articles that cry about the assault on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and I wince. Those cries don't sit well with me.

In "civilized," democratic countries, where we enjoy many freedoms, where we thankfully experience vast human rights, there is the belief that we can say anything we want, that we have a right to voice our opinion. Our laws uphold that belief, provided that the opinion you voice does not spread hatred or incite violence.

But what about opinions that hurt others?

I'm not talking about voicing an opinion and having someone say, "Hey, that hurt my feelings." We can't please everyone, and we inevitably say something that upsets others. I loathe dogs. I find tattoos unattractive. I know that stating those facts bothers some: all I can say to that is, I'm sorry, but that's how I feel. Go ahead and cover yourself in smelly fur and ink, if it makes you happy.

If I address a dog lover, I'm not going to go on about how my life would be happier if I didn't have to look at another Instagram picture of a mutt. I'm not going to say something, knowing that in doing so, I'm taking a jab at the heart strings of canine fans.

It is a well-known fact that in the Muslim faith, depictions of their prophet is prohibited. In part, this restriction comes about over the fear that the representation may outstrip the importance of the actual figure, Muhammad. It's more a sign of respect for the actual man over how his image is portrayed.

And while the Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, there are many Muslims who believe that depicting the prophet is disrespectful, and doing so can be hurtful.

I get that. I respect that.

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French newspaper that is known for poking fun at politicians and religion, and in particular has been relentless towards Muslims and Islamic extremists, seemingly placing these two groups in one basket. And the newspaper seems to take delight in depicting images of Muhammad in various forms.

Many, if not all of the images, can be seen as hurtful to Muslims.

I can easily picture a Muslim seeing such depictions and feeling those jabs at their heart strings. I can imagine them feeling disgust, feeling a strong dislike for this French newspaper. But I can envisage most of them taking no action against the editors and cartoonists.

There are some extremists, who would like nothing more than to hurt those who share neither their faith nor their zeal for it. These extremists live on hate and plot to see the realization of that hatred perpetuated in acts of violence.

If these extremists are able to carry out their vile plots, does it not stand to reason that they will strike out against those who not only not share in their faith, but also ridicule it?

If you poke an angry dog enough times, it's going to bite back. A mad dog is dangerous: one that is provoked is moreso.

The people who now stand behind Charlie Hebdo and say they are standing up for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, to me, are somewhat misguided. Yes, stand against violence. Stand up against Islamic extremism. Stand united against "terrorism."

But don't stand up for the freedom to mock. Shy away from the freedom to be provocative for the sole purpose of upsetting others.

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, is not a right to say anything, to express for the sake of disrespecting others.

Ten media people and two police officers were murdered. Today's acts were disgusting and unforgivable.

If you poke a mad dog, it will bite.

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