M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
We cannot express enough remorse and sympathy no matter how much we condemn the killing of the French teacher that took place in France on Friday, 16 October 2020.
The heinous act sparked outrage in the entire country and thousands of people took to the streets to pay tribute to the French teacher, who showed his class cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Political parties strongly condemned the brutal murder and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron called it an “Islamist terrorist attack”. However, Islam does not support such brutal practices under any circumstances. The teachings of the Islam urge the followers of every faith not to abuse sacred and holy personalities of any other religion for civic harmony, but if one does so, there is no clause within the Holy Quran or the practice of Prophet Muhammadsa that allows coldblooded murder.
Allah the Almighty instructs mankind in the Holy Quran not to curse even false deities of other religions, as they may retaliate and revile Allah in return. Moreover, God explicitly states, “Whosoever killed a person … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” (Surah al-Maidah, Ch.5: V.33)
The incident of the person who rudely demanded his debt from the Holy Prophetsa is on record and clearly explains that he never ordered to kill or harm anyone who misbehaved or dishonoured him in any way. The companions of the Holy Prophetsa flew into rage and intended to harm that man, but the Holy Prophetsa said, “Please let him be. He has the right to say what he has said because I owe him what he demands.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab fil-Istiqraz)
The words, “Remember that Islam never has and never will be spread through violence and bloodshed” of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, are apt and categorically reject the atrocious act that was carried out in the name of Islam. Further, he has made it clear to Muslims that “The victory of Islam will not be through murder and destruction; rather, we will succeed in our objectives by invoking durood [salutations of peace and blessings] on the Holy Prophetsa”. (Friday Sermon of 16 January 2015)
Huzooraa said, “If only the Muslim organisations that commit mayhem in the name of Islam could understand that Islam’s teachings of love and affection can bring the world into the fold of Islam so much quicker … the teaching Islam gives on patience and forbearance cannot be matched by any other religion”.
This said, we also cannot ignore the strong indication that a great number of individuals in France are anxious about the Laïcité – state secularism law – and want it to be revised.
Lucy Williamson, BBC Paris correspondent, writes, “The dramatic show of national unity – after the decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris – hid growing dissent in some parts of the country over the nation’s view of secularism and freedom of speech.”
A survey carried out by a French weekly newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, back in 2015, when Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of Prophet Muhammadsa, showed that 42% of the French people opposed that offensive act and expressed that the country should consider the reaction, and the publishing of such caricatures should be avoided. (https://time.com/3672921/charlie-hebdo-prophet-muhammad-muslimcartoon-poll/)
Responding with violence in the situation under discussion is in no way justifiable, but reviewing such laws which are used by some people to provoke the sentiments or emotions of the followers of any religion should not be considered unsympathetic or against the freedom of expression. Even the citizens of France hold mixed views with respect to Laïcité and the frustrated reactions of a large group of people cannot be ignored.
Many incidents indicate that people are anxious. For instance, a great number of Muslim pupils, hurt by the unnecessary provocative cartoons of their beloved Prophetsa, did not take part in the one-minute silence which was observed across France after the Charlie Hebdo attack. (theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/17/france-disillusioned-young-muslims-director-the-class)
Pope Francis said, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.” (theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/15/pope-francis-limits-to-freedom-of-expression)
As always, the media has an important role in establishing peace in society. In an already polarised world, why do people want to push societies further apart, all in the name of “freedom of speech”? Don’t we all restrict our personal freedoms for the betterment of society? After all, no sane and civil person will let themselves loose and begin to abuse people on the street just because they have the right to.
Countless studies and polls have shown the effect of the media in public education and opinion. Whatever our social media feeds and news channels tell us, we believe it (and most are not critical and don’t look at the other side of the coin). Therefore, if the mass media is only showing the heinous crimes that some so-called “Muslims” commit while not reporting on the majority who are peace loving citizens, then this is a huge injustice.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening and continues to polarise our society. Highlighting this point, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, states:
“In this age, the media has great influence in the world and can play a huge role in igniting [a situation] or diff using it and causing disorder or preventing it. It is the first time that the UK and other media outlets of the world have asked the Community (i.e. the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) for its reaction and viewpoint. In terms of the [Charlie Hebdo attack] murders, we have stated that it was an un-Islamic act and expressed our commiseration and also maintained that freedom of speech should have limitations otherwise those people who inflame others’ sentiments, will be responsible for causing disorder in the world.” (Friday Sermon, 16 January 2015)
There is a fine line that must be drawn. Islam is not against freedom of speech or conscience; it actually promotes it. But this freedom, as with all other freedoms, comes with responsibilities and restrictions that enable social cohesion and harmony.
It seems our society has digressed away from the importance of peace and civil harmony, and like untamed animals, people want a free-for-all in abusing, mocking and hurting others all in the name of “freedom” – what good has come from this?
At the same time, those Muslims – or anyone for that matter – who go out killing and hurting others because they have been “offended”, are not following Islamic teachings; rather, they are acting according to their own will. If Islamic teachings are truly followed, both by Muslims and the wider society, then a harmonious society where social respect prevails can be established. Until then, it would be overly optimistic to see any true change for the better.