The boycotting of French products all across the Muslim countries, and the Muslim world in general, is now surrounded by various events of homicide and hate speech. This event may very well be an influential centerpiece to the current state of the global village.
It started with Samuel Paty, a schoolteacher in France, showed some drawings to his class in one of his lectures. The drawings were some of the published cartoons from the Frech satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cartoons consisted of defaming depictions of the prophet Muhammad (SM). The very act of giving the prophet a face was considered blasphemous to Muslims, and the cartoons went much further than that in humiliating the prophet. Paty showed these drawings to his class as examples of free speech and freedom of expression, protected by the French law. The teacher followed the necessary precautions and warned his class in advance, but the backlash was very fierce this time. Not soon after, he was murdered by a Chechen Muslim refugee Abdullakh Anzorov and was shot dead by the police soon afterward. The act of killing Samuel Paty has been condemned by people from all religions, including the Muslim world (Arab News, 2020).
Shortly after, however, Emmanuel Macron, the current President of the French Republic, denounced radical Islam. He declared in a memorial for Samuel Paty that the French government will not be renouncing the caricatures and will continue to favor “human dignity and universal values” (Macron, 2020). This latter action of supporting these caricatures sparked outrage, as Muslims all over the world started boycotting French products (Eustachewich, 2020). Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, called for a public boycotting of French products (Al Jazeera, 2020), and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of “attacking Islam” (BBC, 2020). Examples of boycotts of French items were seen in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, despite France’s requests to Arab nations to prevent the boycotts (BBC, 2020). About 40,000 people took part in a march against French goods in Bangladesh, stopping near the French Embassy (BBC, 2020). European leaders such as Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte, have expressed their support for France and Macron’s statements.
Not shortly after, on 29 October, at a church in France’s seaside town of Nice, a Tunisian Muslim killed three civilians with knife stabs. The French Muslims, have expressed their anger and sadness over this attack, explaining that the crime did not represent their faith nor values (Al Jazeera, 2020). In another scene, a man has been beaten to death and his body later burned for “allegedly” desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran in a mosque in Bangladesh (Al Jazeera, 2020).
On another note, Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right group Stram Kurs in Sweden, burned a copy of the Holy Quran during September. He later posted it on social media Facebook, stating in social that Islam was a “primitive religion that has no place in Denmark, Sweden or any other civilized society” (Al Jazeera, 2020). He was subsequently banned from entering Sweden for two years.
These incidents are all interconnected and have all taken place in a small period of time. The global consequences of these events are already unfolding rapidly, as seen by the demonstrations, protests, and actions taken from all sides. The murders mentioned above are directly prohibited by national laws of democratic states, an example being the Penal Code, 1860 of Bangladesh (The Penal Code, 1860, 1860). The right to life is cited in article 3 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself. They violate the right to life of citizens, which is one of the basic human rights in democratic countries. The French law protects the Charlie Hebdo caricatures on account of freedom of speech, and the same is true for many other democratic countries as well. Hate speech, expressions that humiliate, induce hatred towards community or group, or portray them as villains, are also not directly prohibited by law in democratic states. However, hate speech can only be seen as a crime that directly incites imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group, as seen in the first amendment of the United States (US) (ALA, 2020).
If the situations progress in this path, then we might see a more divided society among the Western and Muslim countries. This would compromise the lives of Muslim people living in Western countries significantly, and reduce trade benefits for many Western countries. The result of these incidents is already beginning to show, as Turkey’s currency values have halved (Cupolo, 2020), and radical stances against Muslim populations and anti-Islamic sentiments have started becoming much stronger in non-Muslim countries (Cretois, 2020).
Murder is clearly a punishable offense. But hate speech that clearly promotes discrimination and divides society also poses a threat to individual freedom. The homicides hate speech, and the radical stances taken by both sides are in turn, harming people’s right to freely practice their own religions. The time might be ripe to take an approach that takes into consideration the beliefs, freedoms, faiths, and values of all sides.
Al Jazeera. (2020, October 29). Erdogan calls on Turks to boycott French products. (H. Ghani, Editor) Retrieved October 2020, from Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/program/newsfeed/2020/10/29/erdogan-calls-on-turks-to-boycott-french-products/
Al Jazeera. (2020, October 29). French Muslims express ‘anger, sadness’ after Nice attack. Retrieved October 2020, from Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/29/french-muslims-express-sadness-disgust-after-nice
Al Jazeera. (2020, October 30). Man lynched in Bangladesh for alleged Quran desecration: Police. Retrieved October 2020, from Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/30/man-lynched-in-bangladesh-for-alleged-quran-desecration-police
Al Jazeera. (2020, September 10). Sweden: Far-right activists burn copy of Quran, plan more stunts. Retrieved October 2020, from Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/10/sweden-far-right-activists-burn-copy-of-quran-plan-more-stunts
ALA. (2020, October 19). Hate Speech and Hate Crime. Retrieved October 2020, from American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/hate
Arab News. (2020, October 18). Muslim world in condemning terrorist murder of French teacher. Retrieved October 2020, from Arab News: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1750506/world
BBC. (2020, October 26). France urges Arab nations to prevent boycotts over Macron’s cartoons defence. Retrieved October 2020, from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54683738
BBC. (2020, October 27). Huge Bangladesh rally calls for boycott of French products. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54704859
Cretois, J. (2020, October 26). Samuel Paty murder: France’s Muslim community first to bear brunt of iron-handed measures. Retrieved October 2020, from Middle East Eye: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/france-samuel-paty-murder-muslim-community-measures
Cupolo, D. (2020, October 27). Turkish lira slump continues as foreign tensions simmer. Retrieved October 2020, from Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/10/turkey-lira-low-regional-tensions-high.html#:~:text=Turkey’s%20currency%20has%20depreciated%20more,interest%20rates%2C%E2%80%9D%20Piccoli%20said.
Eustachewich, L. (2020, October 27). Emmanuel Macron’s defense of ‘offensive’ cartoons sparks outrage among Muslims. Retrieved October 2020, from New York Post: https://nypost.com/2020/10/27/macrons-defense-of-offensive-cartoons-sparks-global-outrage/
Macron, E. (2020, October 25). Emmanuel Macron’s Profile. Retrieved October 2020, from Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmmanuelMacron/status/1320419059016617985?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet
The Penal Code, 1860. (1860, October 6). Retrieved October 2020, from Laws of Bangladesh: http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/act-11/section-3138.html#:~:text=Whoever%20does%20any%20act%20with,hurt%20is%20caused%20to%20any