Fallout from Paris shootings: Asian views

The Star newspaper on sale at a shop in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 8, 2015, after the Jan 7 attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Star newspaper on sale at a shop in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 8, 2015, after the Jan 7 attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. -- PHOTO: AFP

ON JAN 7, two terrorists stormed the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12. They were reportedly incensed over the magazine's repeated caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Police later shot dead the gunmen.

Below are excerpts from newspaper editorials and columnists in the region on the Paris shootings.

Let Sedition Act stand




THESE terrorists have done nothing to help non-Muslims have a better understanding and appreciation of Islam, which promotes peace and tolerance.

They have, in fact, caused serious damage and have given those who push the Islamophobia agenda an excuse to take their plans a step further.

It is important to note that Muslim leaders including Prime Minister Najib Razak have come out quickly to condemn this horrendous act.

But even as we condemn the killings, there is an important lesson for the world, especially the Western world, to learn from this tragedy.

There may be no sacred cows for the Western media because of their fervent belief in the freedom of expression. But the reality is that not everyone accepts or appreciates such a principle.

And because we are so globally connected, it is no longer possible to operate just within a particular society that embraces such an approach. The media's work, from whichever part of the world, has basically become freely available to everyone...

Certainly, the right of expression does not include the right to insult what is regarded as sacred and important to any religion and, by extension, the millions of its faithful.

The Prophet, Jesus, Buddha and the Hindu gods cannot be likened to politicians who are merely human beings who can be subjected to scrutiny, which satirical magazines can target regularly.

When it comes to matters of faith, so-called rationality is not something that can be applied or used as argument for freedom of expression...

In every religion, there will always be extremists who interpret their holy books to suit their personal or political agendas. There will be people who want to act and sound like religious figures and, likewise, there will be religious figures who want to be political figures. When the line between religion and politics becomes blurred, it becomes dangerous.

Religion can be so easily manipulated because the ordinary adherents of the faith are, by nature, fearful of challenging any religious authority, especially those who dress up to look religiously pious.

I remain a believer that the Sedition Act should be kept intact simply because there should be zero tolerance for anyone whose actions or words can lead to security concerns.

But there should be a golden rule - please exercise the powers fairly. We cannot scream for certain individuals to be hauled up for sedition charges and in the same breath call for its abolition. We need to be consistent.

Let no Malaysian have the perception that some individuals or organisations have special protection that allows them to get away with offensive remarks or actions. Nor should the Sedition Act be used to shut up a political opponent or, worse, an academic who cites a case study in an article or gives a view to a newspaper.


Bad taste is not a crime 




REGARDLESS of a magazine's editorial line, there is no justification for killing the writers and the artists. The killers called themselves Muslims but had no qualms about the fact that the vast majority of Muslims around the world did not agree with their methodology and politics or their warped version of Islam...

In Thailand, where the very concept of freedom of expression has often taken a beating because of interference by state officials and societal indifference, it's not hard for people to relate to the incident.

In fact, any society that is serious about liberty must do its best to defend such a freedom, no matter how rude or provocative these words may be. Bad taste does not constitute a crime...

The best way to counter extremism is to not let these acts get the better of us. We must hold true to our values and virtues. Straying from these principles is akin to admitting defeat.

As expected, Muslims in France and Europe are afraid of a possible backlash. But for freedom of expression to endure, it is important that this outrage and anger do not become an excuse to condemn the Muslim community because of the actions of a handful of people.


The West should review its own bans on free speech




THERE can be no qualifications in the condemnation of this kind of assault on freedom of expression. The cartoonists put their lives on the line for over a decade to put substance to the freedom to criticise and offend, the lifeblood of a free society.

Some of the cartoons by Charlie Hebdo smacked of provocative humour that, in the context of tensions with a minority that is discriminated against, may be very hurtful...

Whether Charlie Hebdo harboured ill intent, its "Islamophobia" is questionable. The publication also lampoons politicians and other religions with equal intensity...

It is also time for people in the West to re-examine some of the practices that inhibit free speech at home - it's only fair.

Issues of restrictions on freedom of speech include the ban on Holocaust denial in countries like Germany, the place of perpetration, as well as France. Of course, there are serious problems with the existence of ugly caricatures of Jews.

The centuries-old world domination libel, called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has been conclusively proven false and yet continues to be used by ignorant leaders in the 20th century.

Countering these will require the efforts of groups such as the Anti-Defamation League. But a ban needs to be reconsidered, because it may reinforce the festering undercurrent rather than cleanse it.


Tolerance has to evolve




TOLERANCE for forms of belief and behaviour different from our own is an evolutionary achievement of society.

It grows alongside increasing social diversity and complexity, finding expression in liberal laws and communication practices. Indeed, cultural progress may be measured by the extent to which societies are able to surpass the repressive intolerance of previous epochs. Not surprisingly, as in most other areas of life, such progress has been uneven.

Modern social institutions, particularly the law, prompt individuals to keep their multiple identities apart, instead of allowing any of these to determine all their interactions in everyday life. Yet, in many societies today, including those that are modern in all other respects, people continue to subject others to discrimination based on race or ethnicity, caste or class, religion, and gender, etc.

This unevenness is likewise evident in the varying degrees to which people use the primordial strands supplied by race and religion to weave their personal identities.

The freedom of expression and of the press is a highly protected right in modern democratic legal systems because of its essential vulnerability to attack by various forms of fascism.

In an earlier time, when state-sponsored dominant religions were the norm, that privileged space was given to the right to freely choose and profess one's own religion and to be entitled to respect for one's religious feelings.

The world has moved on, and while much of Europe has outgrown its religious past, the rest of humanity holds on to its religions. The two sides are trapped in their respective metaphysics, from which they cannot hope to be bailed out by a higher reason. There is no way to begin to bridge that gap except by building a culture of tolerance and respect for the other.