Hate Speech Vs Free Speech – Charlie Hebdo #JeSuisCharlie

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Hate Speech Vs Free Speech – Charlie Hebdo #JeSuisCharlie

So recently I got into a bit of a spat with a fellow tweeter over a certain tweet from ‘@NewsWeek: Charlie Hebdo given Islamophobia ‘award’ by Muslim group

Here’s what followed:

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This went on for a while, until Jack eventually stopped replying and I was getting increasingly agitated at the exchange.

Talking with Jack, brought up an interesting question one which I made an effort to point to in my tweets. When does Free Speech become Hate Speech?

I’m no legal expert, or in fact any sort of expert on the issue. But I think the Charlie Hebdo case in Paris brings up some interesting legal and ethical pointers to have a real conversation on Free Speech.

France has a pretty easy to follow record on Free Speech Law; in the 1930s they passed laws to protect Jews from anti-Semitism. In the 1970s they passed laws to protect Muslims. In the 1980s they passed laws making it a crime to deny the Holocaust. France has habitually been the country to protect Free Speech but will not condone hate speech, yet Charlie Hebdo incites (to some degree) hate against Islam.

Now Jack’s argument is one that many share. Charlie Hebdo has the right to say what they want & to some degree I am all for them doing so. However my point to Jack was that, they can say what they want as long as they do not intentionally incite hatred. Which they have done and rightly so after the attacks.

Interestingly, one week after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks, two-fifths of French polled felt that since the images offended Muslims, they should not be published.

Pope Francis told reporters that “responding violently to one’s religion being mocked or insulted was natural” and if someone was to do such a thing to him he could “expect to get punched in the nose.”

Both of the above support the view-point that it’s wrong to incite hatred. I’m all for Charlie Hebdo publishing what ever they want. But not with the expressed intention of causing offence. It is illegal in France to cause offence, yet in the respect to Charlie Hebdo the insult is allowed to continue?

There seems to be a set of double standards on this question and it’s almost impossible to decide who is correct. Both sides need to sit down and talk through these questions. Do Charlie Hebdo have a right to publish what they want? Yes. Do Charlie Hebdo have a right to insult Muslims? No. Do Muslims have the right to be angered? Yes. Do they have the right to attack, kill or call a Jihad on Journalists? No, absolutely not.

Free Speech is something sacred to politics and in particular Western Politics. But so is the right to not insult, incite hate or discriminate against others. It’s a question of Respect Vs Pluralism and we need to find a balance or else the situation will only get worse between Islam & the West.

I’ll finish this with a rather infamous quote from Voltaire “Tolerance has never provoked a civil war; intolerance has covered the Earth in carnage”. Tolerance should be expressed on both sides to fix the problem.



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