Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Free Speech, Europe and Islam - Reactions.

Following the death threats against the French philosophy teacher who is now under police protection after receiving death threats over an op-ed article he wrote in French newspaper Le Figaro in which he accused Islam of "exalting violence." (story here), here are some interesting reactions:
  • Gilles de Robien, education minister declared his "solidarity" with Mr Redeker, but argued that "a public employee should be prudent and moderate in all circumstances." (FT)
  • Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Mosque of Paris and president of the French Council of the Muslim Religion, told TIME that Redeker had made "grave errors" in treating questions of religion in a "purely subjective manner." But, he said, "we have to respond with arguments, not threats of violence. I deplore the situation he is in." (FT)
Beyond that, Boubakeur deplores what amounts to the further coarsening of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe. "This helps the radicals on both sides," he says. "The Islamist radicals say, 'See, they're still insulting Islam,' while the anti-Muslim extremists see Islam's propensity for violence confirmed." Boubakeur wants to see more active prosecution of what he calls "acts that provoke religious hatred." The French authorities, meanwhile, are more interested in finding the people who have threatened to kill Redeker.
  • It should also be noted that a ban on the distribution of that issue of Le Figaro was imposed by Egypt and Tunisia (IHT)
Although the Egyptian government rarely bans mainstream European newspapers or magazines, a decree issued by the country's information minister, Anas el-Feki, said that the newspapers' offending editions would not be able to enter the country.
In its decree, the Egyptian Information Ministry said that the two European newspapers "published articles which disparaged Islam and claimed that the Islamic religion was spread by the sword and that the Prophet was the prophet of evil."
The Egyptian agency said: "The minister of information said that he would not allow any publication that insults the Islamic religion or calls for hatred or contempt of any religion to be distributed inside Egypt."
  • In a comment published on Sunday, José Manuel Barroso the president of the European Commission said that while Europe must take the threat of Islamic extremists "very seriously," it must not confuse tolerance with "a form of political correctness" that puts others' values above its own. He also said also urged Europeans to encourage moderate Islamic leaders to take a stronger stance against the extremists. (IHT)
  • In France, Le Monde says the recent criticism of the Prophet Muhammad by philosophy teacher Robert Redeker has unleashed "a medieval-style wave of intolerance".
    The paper concedes that Mr Redeker's article in Le Figaro - which among other things labelled t Prophet a "merciless war leader" - was provocative, but voices alarm over how quickly e-mail can potentially spread outrage "the feelings of millions around the world."
    But this change of scale in communication does not justify self-censorship, it argues, adding that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin - who defended the teacher - was right to say that respect for others is the only limit which can be set to free speech. (BBC)


At 08:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gilles de Robien’s is quite right telling "a public employee should be prudent and moderate in all circumstances." I point out that as the French state is a secular one, one of the civil servant duties is : “le devoir de réserve” = the duty to preserve secrecy. It means that civil servants are free to believe or not whoever the God is, to have their own politicians points of view... but in any case they have to let them known, to be asked about them (even by their superiors) or ask someone else about.
I think it’s good because it’s easier to work in that conditions as all people (civil-servant or not) are considered as equals. The French motto is :” Liberté, égalité, fraternité” : “Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood”


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