DMPQ- Critically evaluate the ‘Freedom to offend’ issue in light of recent terrorist attack in France.

The case of Charlie Hebdo Outright violence broke out in early 2015 when the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad in improper ways, considered blasphemous in Islam. Two brothers of Algerian descent broke into the premises of the newspaper and murdered 11 people in cold blood including the chief editor and the cartoonist.

The terrorist attack, as it drew widespread condemnation, also sparked a debate about the freedom to offend. Charlie Hebdo had a history of offending faiths including but not limited to Islam. Following the attacks, the newspaper drew support from the global community for its heroic championing of freedom of expression. But the debate about whether or not some things are beyond satire continued to rage.

The French version of secularism – laïcité – plays a profound role in the alienation of Muslim communities in France. A history of competition between the republic and an  authoritarian church for power and supremacy redounded to the energy with which secularism was instituted in the state. Laïcité, adopted through a 1905 law, guarantees the citizens freedom of conscience and dissociates the state from any faith, belief or religion. In other words, the French state does not recognize any religion and it is faith blind. While this might seem innocuous, another provision of the law forbids demonstrating religious symbols in public. This posed considerable threat to the harmony of French public life.

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