Freedom of Press and Religion: Is there a line?

On Jan. 7, two armed men stormed the offices of “Charlie Hebdo”, a French magazine that creates cartoons and reports about right wing religious and political issues.

The gunman were a part of an Islamic Radical Group who took offence to the magazines printing images of their prophet Muhammad, and at 11:30 a.m., the gunmen entered the offices of “Charlie Hebdo” and forced their way into the second floor offices before opening fire and calling for specific cartoonist and journalists, who were then executed, as the men yelled out “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”.

While this is a major tragedy it raises the issue of Freedom of Press and Religion. Many in the west are coming to the aid of the French Journalists, coining the phrase “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie.” It started as a rally for the victims but has grown into a movement of defending free speech and protection from armed threats.

However, many in the east feel that “Je suis Charlie” is a direct insult to their religion and that the gunman were defending their religion reinforcing that Muhammad’s image should not be printed.  In an Algerian newspaper, Habib Rashdin criticizes the French government for helping Charlie Hebdo, saying that funding the newspapers new edition “violates all red lines, and is an open crusade against Muslims.” That being said, not everyone in the Muslim world agrees with Rashdin. Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol made this statement regarding the anger coming from the east.

“Rage is a sign of nothing but immaturity,” Akyol said. “The power of any faith comes not from its coercion of critics and dissenters. It comes from the moral integrity and the intellectual strength of its believers.”