Yesterday there was an attack in Paris killing 12 journalists of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Though the events are still developing & the perpetrators are still at large, it is widely believed that this act was committed due to the magazine’s repeated portrayal of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. This incident brought out two issues I’m bothered about, but never wrote about – freedom of expression & violence in the name of god.
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie
Freedom of speech – Events like these are not new, from fatwa against Salman Rushdie, murder of Danish Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, North Korea forcing Sony into not releasing ‘The Interview’ to brutal beating of Taslima Nasrin in Hyderabad, seeking ban on PK, and stopping books on Sonia Gandhi/Shivaji/Hinduism from being released, freedom of speech is always under attack and is not limited to any one religious group or community. The funny part is, no matter what you say there is a good possibility that someone will be offended by your views.
Some of you might say there was a reason why people got offended by these folks here. But, is violence an answer? You might not like what they are saying or writing, does that mean eliminating them is the solution? Even you can use media to contradict their opinions non-violently. Can we call ourselves civilized and democratic if we do not have the patience to listen out contradicting opinions, believe that others have opinions (no matter how fervently you believe they are wrong)? Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Just because ten people share the same opinion does not make it valid, and just because someone made fun of our opinion or does not like it, makes it invalid. Merit lies in truth, not in numbers.
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire
Religious violence – I think people killed each other throughout history more in the name of god than for any other reason. From the crusades to September attacks, from mass conversions to moral policing, god & religion have always been a prime cause of violence. It is the unfortunate belief of some people who fervently believe he/she/it needs their protection and that the world is a crappy place to live-in because not everyone walking the earth believe in their religion. Beliefs like these have lead to so much bloodshed. I believe in god (though not well aquainted with him), but I don’t believe in a higher god and a lower god or your god and my god. God is god and I’m pretty sure he is not bothered with who believes in him and who does not or which religion we follow, I think he is above these petty vanities. The only result of violence in the name of god is satisfaction of the perpetrators egos. I think it is time to believe in ‘live and let live’.
“I would never die (or kill) for my beliefs because I may be wrong” – Bertrand Russell