Wednesday, January 7, 2015


It is common knowledge that Muslims believe that images of the Prophet are bad juju and have been very vocal about; and at time threatening when someone blatantly violates (or ignores) their strongly held religious beliefs.

The Koran contains a general reference to the worshipping of idols being a “manifest error”, without referring to pictures of Mohammed, but ancient oral traditions, called Hadith, quote Allah as saying it is “unjust” to “try to create the likeness of My creation”. 

Another Hadith says that “all the painters who make pictures would be in the fire of Hell”.

Islamic scholars are divided over whether it is ever permissible to depict the Prophet, though the biggest controversies in recent years have followed depictions which are mocking or disrespectful.

That being said why would an organization (or individual) premeditatedly incite violence by violating or discriminating against followers of Islam?

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right recognized in international
law and entrenched in most national constitutions. However, a balance
needs to be maintained to ensure the protection of other rights. Any
derogation, restriction or criminalisation of speech in the name of the
protection of other rights or security interests has the potential to impact
freedom of expression, and courts have striven to find the proper balance
between protected speech and prohibited expression.

Freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination are not
incompatible principles of law. Hate speech is not protected speech under
international law. In fact, governments have an obligation under
international law to prohibit any advocacy of national, religious, racial or
ethnic hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or

A great number of countries around the world, including Rwanda,
have domestic laws that ban advocacy of discriminatory hate, in
recognition of the danger it represents and the harm it causes.

It is now well established in international and national jurisprudence that hate
speech that expresses ethnic and other forms of discrimination violates the norm
of customary international law prohibiting discrimination. Within this norm of
customary international law, the prohibition of advocacy of discrimination
and incitement to violence is increasingly important as the world confronts
current conflicts and international acts of terrorism against civilian

A movement toward regulating hate propaganda is fast gaining
momentum throughout the world. Internet hate speech is of particular
interest because the Internet is available in all countries and provides access
to vast amounts of material. In a 2000 case in France, Yahoo, Inc. was held
liable for allowing French citizens access to sites that sold Nazi

 Current regulation of hate speech seeks to protect against,
first, the harm of potential violence, which refers to the propensity of hate
speech to incite and cause violence, not only physical harm but the harm
created by engendering fear, suspicion, and alienation; and second, to
protect against harms affecting human dignity. States are obliged to protect
their citizens against violence, and therefore they have a compelling
interest in regulating speech.

The concept of human dignity played an important role in Europe and
South Africa in forming constitutional standards that the government must
enforce to ensure the rights of its citizens. In the case of Khumalo v.
Holomisa, involving a defamation claim based on an alleged violation of
human dignity, the South African Constitutional Court balanced both
freedom of expression and human dignity and stated that free speech must
be “construed in the context of other values enshrined in our Constitution.
In particular, the values of human dignity, freedom and equality.

The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo is part of a venerable tradition in French journalism going back to the scandal sheets that denounced Marie-Antoinette in the run-up to the French Revolution.

The tradition combines left-wing radicalism with a provocative scurrility that often borders on the obscene. Its decision to mock the Prophet Muhammad in 2011 was entirely consistent with its historic raison d'etre.

The paper has never sold in enormous numbers - and for 10 years from 1981, it ceased publication for lack of resources.

But with its garish front-page cartoons and incendiary headlines, it is an unmissable staple of newspaper kiosks and railway station booksellers.