Debate on Anti-Islamic Cartoons in Charlie Hebdo

As Giulia has noted on this blog, in the context of world-wide demonstrations surrounding the Youtube video “The Innocence of Muslims,” a new controversy has erupted surrounding cartoons published in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Here is an interesting debate between the cartoonist and French intellectual and activist Marwan Muhammad, spokesman for the CCIF – Collectif Contre l’ Islamophobie en France.

One thought on “Debate on Anti-Islamic Cartoons in Charlie Hebdo”

  1. In this video, Ms. Amanpour raises an important issue: she asks “Luz” if he believes his right to free speech as an artist outweighs his responsibility during this time of “culture war”. But what exactly is his responsibility? According to Ms. Amanpour, “obviously, violence is inexcusable,” but Luz must be prepared to take responsibility for the violence that may occur in response to his offensive drawings. Violence is inexcusable, so that isn’t his responsibility.

    Luz has a legal, basic right to express his opinion, however offensive it may be. It may not have been sensible or responsible of him to publish these cartoons in the context of today’s current events, but he is not responsible for the violence protests or reactions that others may have, just as the creators of “The Innocence of Muslims” are not responsible for the violent reactions of a select few people in the Muslim world whose actions took the lives of several people. His right to speech is just that: a right to speak. He, nor anyone else, has the right to act in a way that does physical harm to others.

    But if Luz and others like him are going to exercise their broad right to free speech and not exercise their social responsibility to be sensitive to the beliefs, practices, and cultures of others, should there be limits on what we say and publish? In a New York Times Article from earlier today (, President Obama addressed this issue to the U.N. General Assembly, saying “there is no speech that justifies mindless violence” but “efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities.” He’s right: if we are to deal with the cultural and religious differences that seem to passionately inflame so many of us in today’s world, free speech can actually be a weapon against hateful and offensive speech. In this sense, the right to free speech becomes married with the responsibility to use it – if something offends us, it is our responsibility and our right to refute it and be (as President Obama says in the article) “the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect”.

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