Paris Beheading: From France to India — the Incidental Similarities and Contrasting Response
A History teacher was beheaded in Paris for showing his students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, originally published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine. He did this after apparently allowing a section of students to leave the room as the caricatures might have caused offense, ironically- in a class on the Freedom of Expression.
Anyone decently educated on world affairs, especially those concerning religious terrorism would be well beyond the stage of examining the who’s and why’s of this attack. They might even know what the attacker yelled right before committing the barbaric act.
While the incident is still fresh in world media thanks to the brave statements and actions by French President Emmanuel Macron rightly labeling it as an ‘Islamist terror attack’, it failed to make headlines in India just like it was anticipated.
So it is over a week after the incident that I’m posting this article, in the hope that we will not forget or forgive the injustice to the life and freedom of Samuel Paty.
Cause and Effect
The teacher had shown his students caricatures which are considered blasphemous in Islam, during a lesson on the Freedom of Expression. He paid with his life for defending the diversity in freedom and religion, and for incorporating in his teaching the freedom to think, say, write, and draw.
It is important to note that the rights to offend and caricature also derive from the French principle of secularism, and are officially at the core of its national identity, which is why such lessons are a part of the national curriculum.
It is also important to note that the caricatures weren’t made or published by him, but merely shown in a class while educating on free speech. They have also been republished by the Charlie Hebdo publication before its landmark trial, meaning they could very well be seen by the general public and weren’t necessarily ‘forbidden’.
Blasphemy which is a sin in Islam is in essence incompatible with a liberal democratic society. It goes against a very fundamental right of free speech and the foundation of a tolerant civilization.
The Paris incident comes just weeks after a knife attack in front of the former Charlie Hebdo building. Post this, we also saw attacks on a Church in Nice, France wherein three were killed. This too was committed by a radical Islamist, in response to Macron’s firm anti-terrorism and pro-free speech stand on the issue.
As more and more such tragedies surface, the world gets closer to the point where people would identify terrorism with Islam. Despite the numerous instances of such acts of terror by Islamists claiming a religious motivation, we see people preach ‘Islam means peace’, and that non-Muslims ‘do not understand Islam’. They also assert that the terrorists, do not represent or follow the teachings of Islam.
However, the most frequently quoted verse of the Quran used by these Jihadist propagandists to suit their objectives, suggests otherwise. “But when these months, prohibited (for fighting), are over, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every likely place.”, it says.
To further add to this, member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars -Sheikh Ali Al-Yousuf, in his interview post the Paris incident said that, “from the perspective of Islamic law, one cannot say that the teen who beheaded French teacher Samuel Paty is guilty of a serious crime.” Instead of condemning the gruesome act, he went on to say that the teen’s only transgression was “carrying out the death penalty himself when it should have been carried out by a Sharia Court”.
When people and killed and buildings are bombed right before the chants of “Allahu Akbar”, it is evident that the need for retribution by armed jihad for the perceived injustices of unbelievers against Muslims is in some way a result of indoctrination with Islamic supremacist views.
If Muslims feel that it isn’t so, they should openly and boldly condemn such terrorist attacks and stand by victims, which very few do. Rejection of the very fact that your religion is related to these incidents can only come across as a cheap defense.
Saying that there are ‘peaceful Muslims’ or that a ‘majority of the community is peaceful’ stands irrelevant compared to the thousands of radicals that aren’t. If you chose to defend your religion before you even sympathize with the victim in such situations, or by any means try to justify killing someone because his views didn’t match yours — you too are a passive supporter of terrorism.
The Indian Context
India in particular is no stranger to this recurring display of intolerance and incompatibility with a democratic society in Islam.
This year itself, the Bangalore Riots showcased the intolerant nature of this religion and its practitioners, as a mob burnt down the city over a Facebook post allegedly defaming the Prophet. Last year, around the same time, Kamlesh Tiwari -a Hindu Activist was brutally murdered by Jihadists for blaspheming against Islam. In another instance of Islamic bigotry, Madhur Singh, popularly known as ‘ThePlacardGuy’ on Instagram, received death threats earlier this year over his post against the implementation of Sharia in the country.
It’s worth noting that all the instances mentioned above, and many others go unnoticed, and are often justified because of the said ‘limits on freedom of speech’. But similar incidents that hurt Hindu sentiments, from MF Husain’s derogatory sketch of our goddess and Heer Khan’s objectionable videos on Hindu deities to mainstream films such as ‘PK’ mocking Lord Shiva are viewed as a ‘freedom to perceive things differently’. This is a country where the mere re-sharing of a post on social media demands riots and destruction of public property by Muslims, while peaceful outrage and voicing of dissent by Hindus is viewed as intolerance.
‘Hurting of religious sentiments’ is very much a valid claim, but it can and should be proceeded with by legal or civil discourse, as Hindus have been doing for years. The freedom of speech is non-negotiable, and everyone has the complete right to voice his/her opinions, including those concerning religion, without the constant fear of being killed. Anything that incites terror and fear in the society as a consequence of someone’s expression is the wiping out of our country’s very fundamental values and should be dealt with strictly.
The French Retaliation and What India Can Learn
Despite the striking similarities in the kind of Jihadist movement prevailing in both France and India, we see stark differences in the way people and politicians react to the same.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s bold statements in favor of the ‘right to offence’ come as a wave of fresh air in a time when nations are focused on appearing ‘politically correct’. What’s even more pleasantly surprising is how tens of thousands of people stood up against the Islamist attack and rallied across France saying ‘I am Samuel’ and ‘I am not afraid’ in solidarity with the teacher.
India nevertheless, is still afraid.
In lines with the history of minority appeasement in our country, Muslims of the society feel free rioting, and shouting anti-India and pro-terrorist slogans, while Hindu’s refrain from expressing their opinion on the same from the fear of being labeled as ‘Islamophobic’.
This extends to politics and the media too, who are expected to provide extensive condemnation and coverage to crimes that suit this agenda, while ignoring those committed by a particular sect where the very cause of it stands communal. As a result of this, even non-communal crimes are related to the caste and creed of the perpetrator as long as he is Hindu, and the many cases of love-jihad, rapes, murders, and forced conversions go unreported.
A major problem in countering this in India is the west-obsessed brainwashed mindset of the youth, who fail to logically relate the current affairs to the history and demographics of India. The very people who extensively support issues such as the BLM (which originated in America), choose to stay silent and unaware over what goes on in their own country, to their own community.
What we fail to understand is that the BLM movement gained international mileage only and solely because American citizens including many influential celebrities openly came out in its support. This is completely in contrast to India, where we are so busy supporting western movements that we overlook those that can only be taken forward by Indians.
This is probably why the Hathras Rape Case in Uttar Pradesh saw mass outrage by celebrities, politicians, media, and the general public, but the Nikita Tomar Murder in Faridabad where the accused was a Muslim, was dismissed without the same. While the former gave rise to the ‘upper-caste’ debate, religion was completely excluded from the picture in the latter despite video proofs and statements by the family clearly indicating it to be a case of Love-Jihad.
It is time that India, and more so the people of India stop with their selective activism over issues and see the real picture. Think of those who lost their lives and failed to see justice because of our culture of appeasement and politicization of crimes. As citizens, we form the root of our democracy and have the power to influence the actions our government takes.
If the country is divided over the very provision of justice, we will continue to see many more Rahul’s and Nikita’s murdered, and Delhi and Bangalore burnt down.
When loyalty to religion comes before loyalty to the nation and even humanity, it is hard to still live in denial and believe it’s all a coincidence. And before I’m labeled Islamophobic — when religion is used as a license to kill, I think it’s only human to fear it.
-Amisha Singh (ig: amixhaa)