Indians condemn Paris horror
Muslim activists denounce beheading of a school teacher in France in no uncertain terms
Muslim intellectuals and activists from Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) held a webinar on Sunday, condemning the beheading of a school teacher, Samuel Paty, in Paris. The speakers held a two-minute silence in respect for Paty.
France is witnessing protests over the death of Paty, a history teacher who was beheaded by 18-year-old Chechen Abdulla Anzorov based in France. Paty was killed for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to a class [he did give Muslim students the choice to leave his class] as they debated freedom of expression.
In his introductory remarks, IMSD convenor Javed Anand said they were here to condemn in "unequivocal terms, not just the killer but all those who had any role in the instigation of the crime, and its justifiers." The speakers were also for the abolishing of apostasy [abandoning of one's religion] and blasphemy laws everywhere across the world.
Islamic scholar Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali from the city said, "Respectfully, the Paris beheading is a wake-up call to the ulema and leaders of the Muslim world. The clergy and parents need to instruct children that such acts of violence are not only detested and abhorred by Islam but are in total contradiction to Islam's reverence for peace, explicit recognition of tolerance, compassion, social equality, high moral order and spiritual depth."
To silence critiques
Delhi-based columnist Arshad Alam pointed out that Paty's beheading was "planned and pre-meditated. The prime objective of such acts of terror is to silence any critique of Islam." "The Charlie Hebdo cartoons must be seen within the European tradition that has for long satirised religious traditions, particularly Christianity. Since Islam is also now a European religion, the same yardstick must be applied to this religion also," he said.
For advocate A J Jawad, the lens was on "blasphemy and sedition are weapons of power and control used by theocracies and autocracies to suppress dissent and to whip up mob frenzy."
Activist Feroze Mithiborwala said, "The cartoons, which undoubtedly hurt the feelings of ordinary Muslims, actually required a non-violent response: placards, candlelight marches that would have been far more effective.
"On the one hand we have a murder committed by a religious fanatic in the name of blasphemy, and on the other there is a secular French tradition of absolute freedom of expression, which includes the right to offend all religions."
Particular takeaways from the virtual meet was that the panellists clearly stated that that the killer was a Muslim youth; mentioned the cartoons and spoke about France's enshrined right to offend. The thorny issues were not couched in vague terminology or glossed over. Given the contentious nature, there was plenty of post-webinar dissension and questions, but one could not debate the extraordinary courage of those who spoke at this webinar.
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