IHRC condemns in the strongest possible terms statements made by Jeanette Bougrab, former French right wing UMP minister, holding the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) responsible for this week’s attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Bougrab said that left-wing groups such as PIR bore some responsibility for the deaths because they regularly accused Charlie Hebdo of Islamophobia.
This perverse kind of logic is typical of the discriminatory extremist libertarianism that elevates freedom of speech into an unqualified individual right for certain people even though it may have a devastating impact on others.
Those who have criticised Charlie Hebdo’s obscene and gratuitous mockery of Muslims and their faith were exercising their freedom of speech in the same way that people across France are standing in town and city squares today defending this value. Their criticisms of Charlie Hebdo’s excesses constitute a necessary check on the abuse of free speech by drawing attention to the divisive impact that such highly offensive cartoons and articles have on social cohesion.
For PIR to highlight that Charlie Hebdo has incited hatred against Muslims is a commendable exercise of social responsibility and a reminder that hate speech can have devastating consequences, especially when it is targeted at marginalised groups.
Charlie Hebdo’s targeting of Muslims and Islam has undoubtedly contributed to a rising climate of fear and anti-Muslim hostility in France, a climate which has inspired violent attacks on Islamic institutions, symbols and even the murder of Muslim individuals. The Islamophobic climate has formed a shield from behind which politicians have attacked and in certain instances outlawed Islamic religious practices. Such racism also underpins the justifications for French involvement in wars that have resulted in the deaths of many Muslims in places the last decade.
We are saddened that Ms Bougrab appears to be exploiting Wednesday’s tragedy to promote a far-right agenda that seeks to curtail fundamental freedoms and increase state repression against minority groups like PIR who defend these rights and protest structural racism, exclusion and violence.
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