Nigerian Muslims on Tuesday condemned French President Emmanuel Macron and satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over the decision to reproduce cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
Last week, Charlie Hebdo republished the same cartoons about Prophet Muhammad and Islam that prompted a deadly terrorist attack on the magazine in 2015. The magazine posted the cartoons online last Tuesday and they appeared in print the next day.
Many saw the cartoons as a commitment to free speech and others as a reckless and offensive provocation.
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The publication coincided with the start of the long-awaited terrorism trial of people accused as accomplices in the attack.
In a statement, Ibrahim Musa, spokesperson of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, said the decision to reproduce the ‘offensive cartoons of the Prophet’ was a ‘criminal act’.
President Emmanuel Macron had said that France is a free country and people should have the right to express themselves the way they want whether others agree with them or not.
But Nigerian Shi’ites said that argument was “unacceptable”.
“We condemned the publication of the offensive cartoons and call it a criminal act. The publication reinforces hate speech and will whip up the feelings of believers. The efforts of French authorities, especially President Macron, to explain this within the context of the freedom of expression, are unacceptable,” Ibrahim Musa wrote in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
Read full statement by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria below
The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo’s decision to reproduce the offensive cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh) has once again evoked strong reaction from Muslims worldwide. The blasphemous caricatures hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world.
We condemned the publication of the offensive cartoons and call it a criminal act. The publication reinforces hate speech and will whip up the feelings of believers. The efforts of French authorities, especially President Macron, to explain this within the context of the freedom of expression, are unacceptable.
The cartoon republishing is a deliberate intimidation and an uncivilized action. It wants to create rifts between religious communities under the name of what is seen as freedom according to the law of France. The publication seems to be part of a hate campaign attacking the sanctity of religions, particularly Islam, and the move was equivalent to declaring a showdown with Muslims. We register our unequivocal objection to the French law that does not prohibit such attacks on religions.
Freedom of expression does not give you the licence to harm the sentiments of others. It is not possible to justify this insult and disrespect toward Muslims by freedom of press, art or expression.
While the French in general and Charlie Hebdo in particular proclaim their absolute right to freedom of expression, this is simply not true. Take the case of Sine, the long-time cartoonist and satirical writer for Charlie Hebdo who was fired for writing that then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s son will “go far in life.” He wrote that Jean, a law student, was considering converting to Judaism (an unproven allegation) before marrying Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the heiress of a wealthy Jewish family that owned an electronics chain. Then-editor Philippe Val fired Sine despite his decades-long association with the magazine.
Also hours after the French leader defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, he launched an angry tirade against a journalist who published an unflattering story. The meltdown over the report stood in stark contrast to comments made by the French president just hours earlier. Hence freedom of expression is no license to disparaging Islam.
Then, the question arises, why do Western publications and politicians so readily indulge in Islamophobic rhetoric and insult the revered personalities of Islam? It is all a question of power. The West feels it has the power and it considers Muslims to be weak and, therefore, can insult and humiliate them. The solution to this persistent problem is for Muslims to get united to confront their enemies.