Hypocrisy par excellence

October 31, 2020 - 11:38

TEHRAN – As French President Emanuel Macron intensifies his politically motivated efforts to stigmatize Muslims, especially the French Muslim population, analysts turn the spotlight on the West’s duplicity in its dealings with the idea of freedom of expression.

This duplicity was on full display Friday when Instagram chose to side with Macron’s Islamophobic campaign by blocking and then unblocking the page of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran who simply posed a question to the French youth on the French president’s double standards over freedom of speech, with which he sought to justify and even support the blasphemous cartoon of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The blasphemy drama resurfaced in recent weeks after the satirical newspaper republished sacrilegious cartoon insulting the Prophet Mohamad (PBUH) simultaneously with Macron’s renewed attack on French Muslims, whom he accused of “separatism.” Macron went further to describe Islam as “a religion that is experiencing a crisis across the world.”

The French president’s anti-Muslim push took a dangerous turn in early October when Macron gave a speech to counter what he described as the ways radical Islamism infiltrates French society. He also expressed his willingness to “build an Islam in France that can be an Islam of Enlightenment.” To this end, Macron introduced a plan that included training imams in France rather than continuing to import them from Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey in a bid to reduce foreign influence on French Islamic institutions.

Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo, in a highly provocative move, republished a cartoon that helped inspire two French-born men to mount a deadly January 2015 attack on the magazine newsroom. The move once again prompted a teenager hailing from Russia's Muslim-majority Chechnya region in the North Caucasus to kill a French history teacher in a Paris suburb. The teacher, Samuel Paty, who fell victim to the anger and hatred instigated by Charlie Hebdo, had displayed the blasphemous cartoon in his classroom.

Sensing an opportunity to boost his political standing, Macron chose to pour gasoline on the fire of hatred and Islamophobic sentiments, instead of extinguishing it. Speaking at a televised memorial service for Paty, Macron told viewers that France “will not give up our cartoons.”

These remarks sparked a wave of anger among Muslims all over the world, including in France whose Muslims are facing the double whammy of the low standard of living and state-sponsored hatred against them.

“He was killed precisely because he incarnated the Republic,” Macron said of Paty, adding, “He was killed because the Islamists want our future. They know that with quiet heroes like him, they will never have it.”

Macron’s support for the displaying of the blasphemous cartoon, which really hurts Muslims to the core, is being justified as a move to protect freedom of speech. Earlier in September, Macron himself sought to justify the insults to Islamic sanctities by supporting the “right to blasphemy.”

Freedom in France, Macron said, includes: “The freedom to believe or not to believe. But this is inseparable from the freedom of expression up to the right to blasphemy.”

But critics point to France’s double standards in its dealings with Islam. Regarding Islam, they say, France even supports what Macron called the right to blasphemy. But when it comes to sensitive issues such as the Holocaust, France, and the West in general, severely restrict freedom of expression.

The Instagram decision to temporarily block the page of Iran’s Leader was a case in point, according to Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher Anthony Cartalucci.

“Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei's message perfectly illustrates Western hypocrisy where the West and the West alone gets to decide what is ‘free speech’ and what is illegal to say. Of course, if religious tolerance is a serious issue for France, then laws protecting religion and preventing sectarian strife should be evenly applied to protect all groups, ” Cartalucci told Mehr news agency.

The researcher added, “Every society has 'red lines' that cannot be crossed in terms of ‘free speech’ - the Holocaust is a perfect example of a topic in the West that is off-limits from ‘free speech.’ However, the West enjoys crossing the red lines of other nations and groups of people when it suits them - and this hypocrisy was highlighted perfectly by the Iranian Leader's letter to the French youth.”

Following Macron’s staunch support for the insults to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, has sent a short message to the French youth, in which he posed important questions about the status of freedom of expression in France.

Directly addressing the young people of France, the Leader said, “Ask your President why he supports insulting God’s Messenger in the name of freedom of expression. Does freedom of expression mean insulting, especially a sacred personage? Isn’t this stupid act an insult to the reason of the people who elected him?”

The Leader added, “The next question to ask is: why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust? Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned while insulting the Prophet (PBUH) is permissible?”

Instagram moved to block the Leader’s French-language page shortly after the message was posted on it. However, Instagram unblocked the page after facing a backlash from users across the globe. The incident was yet another example of how the West pursues a double standard over freedom of expression. Some believe that it selectively uses freedom of expression to advance its interests.

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