From Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte:
Freedom of expression through writing, speaking, dressing, music, art, religion and other forms and beliefs is one of the most cherished rights we have in a free society. Yet it’s one of the most abused and is often laced with hypocrisy and double standards. The truth is there is no such thing as free speech.
The words and the seeds we plant have an effect on ourselves and the universe around us. Speech isn’t free. It comes at a cost and we should spend it wisely.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper have spurred a new Je Suis Charlie movement. Millions of people around the world have started chanting and hashtagging Je Suis Charlie. I joined with the millions condemning those terrorist attacks and also supporting freedom of expression, but I can’t join in with Je Suis Charlie. There must be room in our society to condemn acts of terror, support free speech and still condemn (or at least not praise) one’s use of free speech.
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For those who are proudly joining in with Je Suis Charlie, I must ask, would you be praising someone who made a living using the n-word in a racially inflammatory manner? Would you be praising someone and claiming ownership in someone who practiced blatant anti-Semitism?
I think the answer for most people would be no.
Muslims are not seeking to limit free speech or impose our beliefs on others. We only seek the same treatment and rights that are granted to others in our society. The best limits on ourselves and speech are those we put on ourselves, not by the government or someone’s interpretation of what Sharia law is. Our Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) practiced mercy and patience with those who mocked him. I don’t know of any case of him ordering someone killed because of an insult.
As we look at France, other European countries and America, we see a ton of double standards when it comes to free speech and religion. In many places in Europe, simply questioning the Holocaust and forms of anti-Semitism will get you arrested.
In France, 54 people were arrested a day after their mass free speech rally, and a comic is facing seven years in prison for jokingly identifying with Je Suis Charlie and the terrorists. France just outlawed pro-Palestinian rallies. There have been several attacks on Masjids throughout France, yet most of the focus has been on synagogues. Not too long ago, France even outlawed the veil. So as we stand together in condemning acts of terror and supporting free speech, don’t think that France is a bastion of freedom of expression and religion.
As much as I detest those who seek to mock and incite religious people and our great prophets, I still support a society that gives them that right as long there are no double standards. The double standards are just as offensive as (if not more than) the use of the expression. Looking back, my first remembrance of anyone mentioning Muslims was in a Richard Pryor joke about “double Muslims.” It planted a seed that helped bring me here. For that I’m thankful and that’s no joke or mockery. Je Suis Muslim!