Freedom of expression comes with great responsibility and limitations of not hurting sentiments of an individual, community, or group. American judicial philosopher and civil rights advocate Zechariah Chafee Jr. described freedom of expression as, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”
This is probably the most simple way one could explain it. The debate over freedom of expression keeps roaming around us, and most of the time, we let it go as the matter that brought up the debate in the first place, ends. The world is discussing the cartoon on Prophet Muhammad and the implications of the same that has claimed many lives by now. The first big attack of its kind took place on 7th January 2015, at the office of the French Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cartoons were published and re-published; this “angered” the people of the Islamic community.
But can a human being with a “normal conscience” kill or behead anyone just because he/she is angry or their sentiments are hurt over something? Or is it justified to even link it with “sentiments” at all? Should “if” or “but” come in between the condemnation of a brutal or let’s say, even a terror attack with no human casualties? Fundamentalism is reaching such a level where discussion and protests over Emmanuel Macron’s statement and the cartoon are more prominent than the unconditional condemnation of attacks on humanity.
The extent of getting “offended” over something is widening itself to explain the reasons behind “why such attacks take place” and then asking the rest of the groups to introspect before condemning the attacks. It goes to the level of digging out similar incidents that might have taken place in history or the recent past.
For example, on social media, in exchange for condemnation of mob lynching, one can easily dig out some links that consist information regarding terror attacks by a particular group, and of course, in exchange for recent terror attacks, one is greeted with links related to mob lynching by the other group or shoot outs by the rest. While giving these links, all the fundamentalists say just one thing, “Where were you when it happened? Did you condemn this?”
This type of fundamentalism and “conditional condemnations” are giving space to religion-related phobia to grow up among the masses. Obviously, not just one religion but several. The one that is in the minority is threatened, and the one in majority threatens. Recent French attacks are giving a proper environment to the Islamophobes to throw around their most venomous opinion all over the internet.
At this point, some people are in a great dilemma. The dilemma of what to say and to whom and how? Even after having clear, defined lines of rights and wrongs, fundamentalism has created massive confusion. While, a section isn’t able to put their thoughts against terror attacks without citing somebody else’s mistakes, another one wants to show that their hands are clean—despite the deeds they’ve probably supported after getting “offended”. They forget all about taking offence over some information around someone allegedly eating something that is banned in the offended person’s ‘faith’.
Whataboutery is something that is ditching humanity in the most inhumane manner. An individual’s crime becomes a reason to target an entire community, and “you also did the same” mindset takes over sensibility. One can get offended over content that expresses someone’s opinion. But in civilized societies, a normal individual reacts against such content in a civilized manner, not by beheading someone like a butcher. It’s time when disowning such acts must take prominence over attacks on freedom of expression. Again, if one’s sentiments are hurt, each nation has a judicial system to get the matter sorted.