Freedom of Expression, Charlie Hebdo Style!

Saeed Azimi

Staff writer

“Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided.”

This is what former French president Jacques Chirac said in 2006, in response to the despicable cartoons by the notorious French publication Charlie Hebdo, depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the most insulting manner. Yet, somehow, this sane advice was ignored by the not-so-funny publication.

Apparently ignorance is bliss.

Charlie Hebdo and its publishers adhere to what they believe in: Freedom to despicably and disgustingly mock anything they wish, unless it somehow upsets the editors.

Yet, there is something interesting about a publication that openly states its willingness to mock anything, but fires its columnist for a not-so-offensive joke about former French president Nikolas Sarkozy’s son and Judaism.

On July 2, 2008, a column by the cartoonist Siné (Maurice Sinet) appeared in Charlie Hebdo, citing a rumor that Jean Sarkozy, son of Nicolas Sarkozy, had announced his intention to convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, Jewish heiress Jessica Sebaoun-Darty. Siné added, “He’ll go far, this lad!” A harmless joke that could not have offended anyone but Charlie Hebdo’s prejudiced editors.

This led to complaints of anti-Semitism, not by anyone other than the editors of the publication.  The magazine’s editor, Philippe Val, ordered Siné to write a letter of apology or face termination. The cartoonist said he would rather “cut his own b*%$s off,” and was promptly fired.

Both sides subsequently filed lawsuits, and in December 2010, Siné won a €40,000 court judgment against his Charlie Hebdo for “wrongful termination,” which is rightly so.

Meanwhile, French presidents such as Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Emmanuel Macron, who have constantly backed Charlie Hebdo under the pretext of “freedom of expression”, are deliberately negligent to the fact that their administrations have continuously suppressed supporters for the Palestinian cause.

In 2016, a French court convicted 12 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists who burst into a supermarket in 2009, wearing “Boycott Israel” shirts and handing out fliers that read, “Buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza,” for the ridiculously hypocritical reason that they incited, “discrimination, hatred or violence towards a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.”

Isn’t this what Charlie Hebdo has been doing since 1970?