‘Charlie Hebdo’ attacks
Sir, – While condemnation of the murders at the offices of Charlie Hebdo has been universal, it is worth noting that many commentators have qualified that condemnation by referring to “responsibilities” that attach to freedom of expression.
Such responsibilities clearly exist. We should not defame, we should not bully, we should not incite hatred, but this protection should not extend to belief systems, religious, political or otherwise.
In particular, belief systems that seek to proscribe the actions of non-believers should be held up to scrutiny, including ridicule, regardless of the insult they cause.
To purpose of the attack of the offices of Charlie Hebdo was simple: to intimidate media organisations into obeying the Islamic rule regarding the depiction of Muhammad.
To suggest that media organisations have a duty to refrain from causing offence to belief systems is appeasement of that intent. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – To me it seems incredible that the elite has rushed to support Charlie Hebdo’s “right” to publish material insulting a religious faith. Particularly in Ireland one would expect educated people to recognise the danger of inflaming sectarian divisions and violence, and the deaths of entirely innocent people, as in Paris.
The ideal of freedom of speech, like majority rule, is only safe when tolerance is universal. In the meantime limitations such as blasphemy laws are much the lesser of two evils and a rare symptom of wise government. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The problem seems to me to lie not in religious fanaticism, but in religious ideology per se. Political parties come and go and, aware of their own transience, tend to retain a sense of humour about themselves. Not so religions. Believing they hold the answers to the fundamental questions of existence, their adherents tend to develop a sense of their own importance which goes far beyond arrogance. Let us be honest, no one really knows whether there is a god or not, or what he, she or it looks like. And perhaps if we all concentrated more on this world and less on the next, we might become a little more courteous to each other.
Until the State evolves beyond pandering to the narrow beliefs of any religious group, we will not truly be free and democratic. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The notion that there is such a thing as freedom of speech is patent nonsense and anyone who has travelled beyond the boundaries of their own comfort zones surely knows this as fact. Even if one accepts the concept expounded by those who promote the liberal concept of “freedom of speech” as a right, they would also have to concede that with such “rights” go obligations and common sense.
While I personally am happy to aspire towards French republican ideals, I have yet to see them practised in France or indeed anywhere else for that matter.
We are constantly reminded that we live in a globalised world. If this is actually true then such a world transcends national borders. In this new globalised and increasingly dangerous world, I’m afraid that cultural differences will have to find new solutions to old problems.
Extremism and fanaticism must certainly be tackled, but we will not succeed by deluding ourselves and ignoring valid cultural or religious differences. – Yours, etc,
Dr VINCENT KENNY,