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Charlie Hebdo: The Criminalization of Art and Free Speech

Updated November 11, 2021
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Charlie Hebdo: The Criminalization of Art and Free Speech essay

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When discussing freedom of speech, artistic expression is probably of the most explored mediums there is for the human psyche. The satirical magazine publishers, Charlie Hebdo, were no strangers to this idea. Known for their problematic jokes, they have pushed the boundaries of politically slanted craftsmanship, and bridged the taboo areas of free speech that accompanies this artwork. The magazine distributer has shocked a couple of radical Muslim groups, and has confronted unimaginable dangers, enduring an assault in 2011.

Tragically, in 2015 another assault was done against the distributing organization, where twelve workers, among them sketch artists including the head chief, were killed in an attempt to quiet their right to express their artistic ideas. The attacks were carried out by individuals from the Islamist terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, from its branch in Yemen, starting a worldwide objection for abusing Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of expression. In this essay, I will investigate the diverse reasons as to why this was an immense movement, the legitimizations of Charlie Hebdo’s activities, and the oversight of radical Islamist groups on art and the media.

To understand why the French responded with effervescent support for Charlie Hebdo, the history of freedom of speech in France speaks for itself. In France, blasphemy laws stopped to exist with dynamic liberation of the Republic from the Catholic Church ca. 1789 and 1830. In France, the standard of laïcité – the detachment of chapel and state – was cherished in the 1905 law on the Partition of the Church and the State, and in 1945 turned out to be a piece of the constitution. Under its terms, the legislature and every single open organization and administrations must be religion-daze and their agents must shun any showcase of religion, yet private natives and associations are allowed to practice and express their preferred religion where and as they wish (in spite of the fact that separation dependent on religion is restricted).

As of late there has been a pattern towards a stricter understanding of laïcité which would likewise deny clients of open administrations from communicating their religion “the 2004 law which bans school students from wearing ‘barefaced’ religious images” (Toor pg. 28) or even restricting residents from communicating their religion out in the open even outside the organization and open administrations “a 2015 law venture precluding the wearing of religious images by the workers of private crèches” (Toor pg. 29). This prohibitive understanding isn’t upheld by the underlying law on laïcité and is tested by the agents of all the significant religions, which is censorship to our freedom of religion.

Creators, humourists, illustrators, and people alike have the privilege to parody individuals, open on-screen characters, and religions; a right that slander laws adjust. These rights and lawful instruments were intended to shield the right to speak freely from nearby powers, among which was the then-powerful Catholic Church in France. In spite of the fact that the Quran itself does not unequivocally prohibit pictures of Mohammad, unmistakable Islamic perspectives have since contradicted human pictures, particularly those of prophets. Such perspectives have made progress among activist Islamic groups. In like manner, a few Muslims take the view that the parody of Islam, of religious agents, or all of Islamic prophets is disrespect in Islam, and it’s deserving of death. This is a prime example of censorship, when the freedom of speech to question any ideal is taken away, we lose a chance to acquire more knowledge and provide a difference in perspective.

However, for Manuchehr Sanadijan’s in Icons vs. Satirical Inversions: Islamic Rule and the ‘Death of the Author’ – the Murder of the Charlie Hebdo Cartoonists in Paris, he states that:

The combination of the still images and words in these pictures condensed the time in narratives whose plot was to turn the Messenger of Allah who could only be imitated by Muslims into the author whose words and deeds were communicated to readers – Muslim or otherwise – exercising their right to reason and judge freely (pg. 296).

By the laws of our society, it is within the Islamic religion’s rights to proclaim what they approve and don’t accept as portrayals for their beliefs, especially by others who do not pertain to the Muslim religion, but within that same spectrum Charlie Hebdo can also portray a historical figure how they see right within their liberty to expression. It’s for this very simple reason that the satirical magazine accumulated astronomical amounts of support from around the world. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) graced Twitter, Facebook, and soon enough all of social media after news of the attack on the publishing company were released.

“The slogan is intended to evoke solidarity with the victims, as other similar phrases have done. Such “I am” and “We are” slogans express empathy, outrage, and horror by subsuming ourselves into victims’ identities” (Krief pg. 468). Rather than being fruitful at quieting anybody, these endeavours for censorship have backfired and have conveyed more mindfulness and support for the right to speak freely. The magazine resists the fear-based oppressors, and helped to deconstruct scorn – and in addition – persist. Together with their supporters, they fought for their artistic right to freedom of expression.

Of course, not all was an overflow of support for the movement, many have taken to online networking, and reputable journals to express abhor, censure, and blame Charlie Hebdo for bigotry and Islamophobia. Counter-hashtags additionally showed up as articulations of conflict with the genuine support for Charlie Hebdo. The hashtag #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (“I am not Charlie”) was utilized by the individuals who blame the magazine for prejudice. However many have criticized the choice of word, as Islamophobia is defined as ‘the dread, contempt of, or bias against, the Islamic religion or Muslims for the most part, particularly when seen as a geopolitical power or the wellspring of psychological oppression/terrorism.’

Many do not feel that the Charlie Hebdo satirical cartoon has portrayed Muhammad and other Muslim icons as such. When Islamophobia treats any feedback of Islamic devotion as a type of prejudice against Muslims in general, it omits supremacist assaults on mosques or Muslim burial grounds with reactions of sharia law, the treatment of ladies or religious savagery, then at that point it is a “semantic catch- just for any feedback of religion and a snare for scholarly discussion” (Jones pg. 55). To label Charlie Hebdo as racist and problematic is a way to diminish their work, and discredit their right to openly critique politics, religion, and the alt-right. In a way, it is a form of censorship, and a direct interference with their freedom of expression.

While art can be liberating and illuminating, it can also be racist, sexist, and classist. Just like religion. So that is not to say that Muslims can’t be offended by Charlie Hebdo’s comics, they are within their right of free speech to dislike the artistic work. However one cannot attempt to censor art and the media as a form of expression, simply for having differing opinions. The criminalization of art and free speech is a phenomenon that radical groups like Al-Qaeda seek to instill in our societies. To silence us, censor us, and divide us. Like in Sadam Issa’s “Picturing the Charlie Hebdo Incident in Arabic Political Cartoons” she states: “what truth effects are accomplished by talking in the name of ‘art’ and the fear thereof?” The satirical magazine exercised their right to artistic expression. The radical Islamist group fed their own anger, and fear, through their extremist interpretations of the artwork.

When it comes to these radical groups, there should be a different approach for the media and the critics. Instead of focusing on what caused them to attack, the conversation should be more directed to asking the question of why they feel the need to aggressively impart upon others their radical ideals. Since the production of the Danish cartoons on September 30th, 2005, that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad, there have been various investigations on these drawings that have handled plenty of subjects such as character development, stereotyping pictures of Muslims and Islam, prejudice, freedom of speech, and press. We should be taking this information and opening a discussion about our liberty of expression and why it is so differing from the ideals that radical groups have. People shouldn’t have to be censored when it comes to their thoughts, feelings, and opinions to spare the few that could be offended. No two people will ever think alike or agree wholeheartedly on controversial subjects such as political and religious art, and those types of artistic expression shouldn’t be criminalized or made to be feared by a group of extremists.

Bertolt Brecht famously stated, ‘Art is not a mirror held up to the real world, yet a sledge with which to shape it.’ The inquiry for us truly isn’t about what part of reality we need to stow away — however what sort of society we need to pound out. What’s more, if our optimal is truly a democratic and egalitarian society, we should comprehend that the best approach to accomplish this is to utilize our pens and paintbrushes to assault the individuals who hold auxiliary power and not the individuals who are forced to bear it. Artwork has always seen to cause a reaction within the human mind that propels us to question our very own values, and social constructs.

It forces us to look at the extent of our freedom and how we choose to express ourselves within those rights, and if they’re actually compatible with our inherent nature. That is the sole definition of art, down to its naked bone, and what it seeks to provoke within our mere human consciousness. Freedom and art will always go hand in hand, and it is within that union where our choices are truly free. Charlie Hebdo is a part of that movement, where we are enticed to question the world that we know, and expand the knowledge that we have. Only within our freedom of expression will we find the solutions to our complex societies, and we as a species we have to always protect that right.

Charlie Hebdo: The Criminalization of Art and Free Speech essay

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Charlie Hebdo: The Criminalization of Art and Free Speech. (2021, Nov 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/charlie-hebdo-the-criminalization-of-art-and-free-speech/

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