Sunday, 15 February 2015

Fight against Freedom of Expression : A political tool?

Freedom is a vague word. Though we get a good feeling when we hear the word, freedom does not actually mean freedom. It is not absolute, it always comes with caveats. And rightly so, absolute freedom is a humbug. It does not exist, atleast in the modern society. This is because, if a society boasts of absolute freedom, the actions of one might inadvertently infringe upon the absolute freedom of other person. This means the second person in the discussion never had absolute freedom. This generates a paradoxical situation. Thus, every modern society, though, talks about freedom, it always has reasonable restrictions on them for the smooth functioning of the society. The same is true for freedom of speech or expression. Recent events linked to Charlie Hebdo, PK, AIB roast have opened up many dimensions of freedom of speech or expression (FoE).

For cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo their FoE enabled them to propagate their beliefs in the form of satirical cartoons. Offence was intended. The idea behind this intentional offence might have been to show a particular community about certain rigidness in its practices, or even the intention might have been something hideous, I am not here to judge that. But, it was right under the ambit of their FoE. Charlie Hebdo had been publishing cartoons that were offensive to Islam, and other religions including Christianity alike, for quite some time now, how many times did the representatives of Islamic fraternity in France tried to reason with editorial team of the magazine regarding their reservations? The fault is equally with the Charlie Hebdo team, did they ever thought of having one or two Muslim members in their team so that they could have given them a different perspective. I am nowhere condoning the heinous act of AQIY, the terrorist organization here in question had its agenda well thought out. These terrorist organizations come with peculiar political agenda, they knew that this shooting will not stop the Charlie Hebdo to stop publishing pictures but infact polarize the society there, which has some good number of Algerian origin Muslims. Behind the purda of so called "protectionists of Islam" they achieved this agenda quite perfectly. Anyways, what I intend to say here is that the existence of intellectual paucity both in the Charlie Hebdo team and the Islamic fraternity in France leading to the lack of understanding of the caveats that FoE comes with, helped the fundamentalist opportunists to polarize the society.

The opposition to film PK is on the grounds that it hurts the sentiments of a particular religion. Ok even if one agrees to that, what could be the next step if sentiments are hurt. There are legal ways to tackle that and laws in our country are quite good to handle such phenomena. Thus, nobody has the right to go and tear posters, make character assassinations of the creative people involved in the making of the movie. But yet posters were torn, screenings were halted, character assassinations done. The people who did this were quite aware of the legal ways to handle the issue but they chose to ignore that because one, there allegations could not have stood the scrutiny of law and two, the process would not have caught the eye balls of the people. Hence, this conscious inculcation of hate and vocal showcase of dissent were used as a political tool to garner some media space, publicity and were nowhere related to FoE or hurting sentiments.

FoE definitely comes with caveats and any infringement of one's right should not be tolerated in a democratic society. But the dissent to FoE can be shown in civilized manner without any noise and blood being spewed. Law will take its course. But as has been shown above, the incredible hurt victimhood card played here is nothing but another political tool.

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