Open Letter to the People of France
Open Letter to the People of France
November 15, 2020
An Open Letter to the People of France
We recall that the French people were staunch allies of America in her struggle for freedom and independence from the British colonizers during the American Revolution. The people of France stood as allies and supporters of Americans who were fighting for freedom of worship, against colonization, and for their freedom. As American-Muslims, we are concerned with the rising tensions in France and wish to support all those French citizens seeking their freedom to worship. We condemn the murder of the history teacher, Samuel Paty, as a heinous barbaric act of an individual, and we condemn all forms of violence against any individual or any group anywhere in the world. We respect freedom of speech, and at the same time, demand the French Constitutional right to respect all religions. Freedom of speech protected by the 1789 Declaration of Human and Civic Rights requires us to uphold human dignity.
While we stand united against these criminals whenever they take a human life in the name of any religion or belief system, we are writing to you about the systemic recurring drawing and republishing of the degrading caricatures about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), The Prophet of Mercy, by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. While the French authorities call this a matter of Freedom of Speech, we are confident that Freedom of Speech is not a protection to insult and denigrate religious leaders of large, peaceful communities such as a “right” to insult Christ Jesus of Christianity, Buddha, or Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).
We are confident that the vast majority of French people will never support the media and politicians' in this inappropriate campaign of hatred by Charlie Hebdo publishers. We also believe that only the people of France can help stop this campaign. We believe these provoking acts are counterproductive to the relations between the French people, French citizens who are Muslims, and the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. Such acts of provocation are bad enough when instigated by regular citizens or individual publishers who do not represent the entire nation, but are extremely harmful when government officials take the lead role in undermining the freedom of Muslim citizens living in France and insulting the entire Muslim world.
We are asking you, as conscious French people, to raise your voices against this uncivilized and hurtful behavior of drawings and publishing of the caricatures not only about the Prophet of Mercy, but all the prophets of the world's faiths. We are asking you to recognize that this is an act of deliberate provocation by few individuals in your society to create a clash between the Western and Islamic civilizations because it serves no other purpose. At a time when it is more important than ever to cooperate all together in controlling the CoVid-19 pandemic, such unsavory, disrespectful actions are unacceptable. This matter has to be resolved by the French people because the political parties in France are benefiting from the ongoing conflict. Your government is not taking an objective approach of resolving such conflict but is being politically biased. The French media is flaring up the situation rather than spreading tolerance and representing views of all voices. French authorities are misusing the Freedom of Speech as a false justification for such publications.
As much as we respect the freedom of speech, we understand there are limitations and collective responsibilities to this freedom to protect the greater good. For example, one cannot abuse this freedom by yelling “fire” in a theatre to cause panic or harm to the public; one cannot illicit violence to threaten individuals; one cannot use this freedom for obscenity against children; one cannot use this freedom to sabotage your employer or fellow employees; and one cannot incite violence for political reform. Just as the antisemitism or Holocost denial laws in the US and Europe have been enacted to prevent hurting the feelings of the Jewish people, similarly any publication that hurts the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims should not be permitted or encouraged.
Beyond the legal dimensions of the freedom of speech, is the inherent nature of respect for the speech on all sides as it is a multi-directional process. If the elements of force and disrespect are involved in an act, such as the publishing of the caricatures, then it cannot be called freedom of speech. It would be considered a forceful, willful act, perhaps for the purpose of provocation, to cause mayhem, or at a grandeur level to create a clash of the civilizations. This clash can be avoided through a sincere dialogue between the people of France and the Muslims around the World. A true understanding and respect of one another’s belief systems (whether they are secular or faith based) and upholding of values that are universal in nature to create a more peaceful coexistence amongst all people and to leave a better world for our children.
We are confident that the French people will take the right steps to end this episode of insults and begin an era of mutual understanding by:
- Recognizing that Charlie Hebdo publisher is engaged in a willful campaign promoting the clash of civilizations and condemning it.
- Condemn politicians including President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on blasphemous caricatures and vowing not to “give up cartoons” and the display of the cartoons on government buildings, hurting the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.
- Rejecting the provoking ideology of insults, hate, and demonization of all the Prophets of God by any French publisher.
- Disallowing the domestic politics of the far-right parties, who are against immigrants and are leading a broader Islamophobic movement, not influence the core principles of France’s national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité.
- We recommend the French people to learn about the Life of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) by watching this short film at this link: upf.tv/films/muhammad-legacy-of-a-prophet/watch/
We hope that you will hear the above voices and you will do the right thing to stop the spread of hate and intolerance in France and in the entire Europe. Peace!