The Paris Massacre From An Indian Perspective

06/02/2015 8:24 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
NOAH SEELAM via Getty Images
Indian Muslim activists from the Majlis Bachao Tahreek (MBT) burn an image depicting former publishing director of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed by gunmen during an attack on the magazine's office, during a protest in Hyderabad on January 16, 2015. Muslims have staged angry protests over magazine Charlie Hebdo's decision to depict the Prophet Mohammed on its latest front cover. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press, are rights enshrined in law, given to every citizen in a secular democratic country, including France, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Living under the protection of this lawful blessing in Canada, I wonder why Al Qaida and ISIS supporters living in these countries, and also blessed to be living under so many democratic laws, go around killing fellow citizens. The January 7th massacre of 17 innocent victims was committed against the citizens of France by the citizens of France. Is this how Lincoln meant to define democracy? Most certainly not.

The artistic/pictorial portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad is nothing compared to Maqbool Fida Husain's culturally offensive portrayals of Hindu gods. I am referring, for example, to naked paintings of Lord Ganesha, the goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi, and of the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. Husain really pushed the boundaries and even his luck, way beyond Hindu tolerance, when he painted the goddess of war, Durga having sex with Ganesh'a trunk.

Would you not consider these paintings to be blasphemous? I do. But I note with pride that not a single Hindu ran after him with a loaded gun to shoot him, or with a shiny sword to behead him. Even the Supreme Court of India found him not guilty under the Freedom of Speech and Press protection.

Indian history is filled with the names of those Muslim rulers who, over a period of 700 years, allegedly destroyed roughly 60,000 Hindu temples, plundered their gold idols, and built more than 3,000 mosques on those very same temple sites.

That kind of brutality was illegal, immoral, unethical and blasphemous then, and would be construed as exactly the same today. My Muslim friends must know that if the mere portrayal of the Prophet Mohammad is wrong, then making offensive naked painting of the Hindu gods and goddesses is way beyond wrong. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander, but apparently not for civilised people. Freedom is never free. Freedom has a price, a heavy price.

Despite the comparative examples above, I believe the portrayal of the Prophet was wrong; just as Husain's vulgarity in his painting is wrong.

I believe that journalists have the same legal and ethical responsibilities as the legislators, who formulate our democratic laws. For me the end result of any law has to be what is good and right for the people who are going to practice it and benefit from it.

Journalists too have to work for peace and not work against peace. It is irresponsible and frankly lazy for them to go around provoking their fellow citizens, covered under the quilt of freedom of speech and expression.

It's irresponsible due to the damage, destruction and even death that their actions leave behind, and lazy because it is far easier to destroy and hurt people than to create and support them. When they do so, I consider it an abuse of the spirit of freedom rights.

I have the support of His Holiness, Pope Francis on this one. He cautioned the media, "You can't provoke, you can't insult the faith of others, you can't make fun of faith," but also clarified his stand by adding, "Everyone has not only the freedom and the right but the obligation to say what he thinks for the common good ... we have the right to have this freedom openly without offending."

In Canada, every holder of a driver's licence has a right to drive a licensed vehicle. He or she has a right to go through green light. But does he have this right when pedestrians are still rushing to get to the other side of the intersection when their walking sign has gone off?

It happens to me every time I'm at a green light trying to make a left turn in downtown Vancouver. I know if I exercise my right to make that turn I will end up seriously injuring or maybe even killing a pedestrian. My common sense and conscience trumps my "right" to make that turn.

Terrorists, and all those who support them in the name of one specific religion, can still redeem themselves from their current and past sins by fostering, nursing and showing the same respect for other religions that they demand for their religion. The expression of mutual respect heals all invisible wounds. Heal them and be healed.

The Holy Quran says:


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