Charlie Hebdo: Reigniting a contentious flame

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Ataul Fatir Tahir, Al Hakam

Charlie Hebdo, unfortunately, has republished satirical cartoons of the greatest prophet and human being to have walked the earth; Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

The magazine – which saw dying readership prior to the attacks at its offices in 2015 – published cartoons on Tuesday, 1 September, prior to the trial of 14 alleged accomplices in the horrific and unjustified attacks that took place in Paris, France. The justification by the magazine to republish the cartoons has been extremely unconvincing and illogical, to say the least.

The sentiments of millions of Muslims will be tried once again as Muslims take Prophet Muhammadsa to be dearer than their own parents, children and loved ones.

After the attacks in 2015, great debates and discussions took place. Questions concerning freedom of speech and its limits and how Muslims should react to such hurtful provocations were at the forefront of such debates.

The most effective and rational response – considering the Quran and practice of the Holy Prophetsa – to such discussions was given by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, who addressed the issue on several occasions after the attacks. Huzooraa acknowledged that the cartoons would have caused great pain and hurt to the sentiments of any true Muslim.

Nevertheless, the core message to Muslims was to increase invoking durood and leave it to Allah.

“… The victory of Islam will not be through murder and destruction; rather, we will succeed in our objectives by invoking durood on the Holy Prophetsa”, Huzooraa explained in his Friday Sermon of 16 January 2015.

Some may ask how invoking blessings on the Prophetsa is the best response to this abhorrent exercise of “freedom of speech” and playing with sentiments. The answer is that all honour, respect and success is granted by Allah the Almighty, Who has the power to continue raising the status and honour of our beloved Prophetsa. No effort on our behalf will ever be fruitful for the cause of Islam without the blessing and support of Allah the Almighty.

Therefore, pleading before the Most Powerful to raise the status and bless the Holy Prophetsa is the most effective response Muslims can carry out.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa of course denounced the attacks in the strongest terms and asked, “What was achieved by these acts of extremism? The wrongful act that the magazine committed two to three years ago, which had been forgotten, has once again resurfaced because of the erroneous actions of those calling themselves Muslims.”

The magazine was given a new life through these acts of extremism by those who called themselves Muslims and carried out the attacks, Huzooraa noted.

“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”, said Huzooraa.

“These materialistic people are blind to faith and do not even refrain from mocking God Almighty, let alone the prophets. If we respond to the actions of the ignorant with ignorance too, it will only lead them to continue further in their actions. Therefore, God the Almighty states that instead of responding to them, you should pass by and distance yourself from such people who commit vain acts.”

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa told Muslims:

“In this age, the enemy of Islam does not want to harm Islam, the teachings of Islam and the Holy Prophetsa with the use of the sword but instead, through such petty ploys. By stating that God the Almighty and His angels send blessings on the Holy Prophetsa, a fundamental principle has been explained by God Almighty: that these actions cannot do any harm to the status of the Holy Prophetsa. Instead of indulging in such vain actions and responding in the same ignorant manner, we should invoke durood and salutations upon the Holy Prophetsa – this is the duty of a true Muslim.”

The issue of freedom of speech and its limits was discussed at length too by Huzooraa in his Friday Sermons and in press interviews. The response by Pope Francis regarding freedom of speech was also quoted by Huzooraa as a reasonable and good explanation to freedom of speech and its limits.

The Pope had said that freedom of expression isn’t without any restraint. He expressed that every religion has an honour, which should not be attacked. Pope Francis cited the example of a close friend and said that if this individual ever cursed his mother or said something abusive about her, that person should expect to be punched in the face; it is wrong to provoke someone’s sentiments and that is what the editors had done.

Concerning the attacks, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa said:

“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.”

To listen to Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V’saa responses to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the concerning discussions, we recommend revisiting Huzoor’saa Friday Sermons of 9 and 16 January 2015, available at alislam.org and on mta.tv.

It seems that we live in a world that continues to lower the bar of morals and in turn, increase social unrest and disorder. In the name of “liberty”, “liberalism” and “freedom of speech”, nations, organisations and individuals make holy the freedom to hurt and provoke sentiments, leading to nothing productive; rather, social rife, unrest and pain are born out of such endeavours under the banner of “freedom”.

After all, without law and order, we, as humans, are just untamed animals. All perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks must be held accountable and brought to justice, but it is unfortunate and sad to see no progression by those who seek to hurt and provoke sentiments.

As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa advised, we Muslims should turn to Allah and invoke salutations upon our master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, more than before.

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