There has been a lot said and written recently about about freedom–of speech, the press, expression, etc. Unfortunately, many people structure their arguments according to their personal beliefs, rather than what true freedom is all about. France is now having to cope with the recent attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Much of the rest of Europe is on high alert, as well!
Last Sunday, more than one million people attended a rally in Paris, in Solidarity with the French People and its “Freedoms”. This past week, the lampooning Charlie Hebdo magazine sold five million copies, in 16 different languages–up considerably from its normal 50,000 circulation. Just the day before, however, French Police arrested generally irreverent French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala for writing “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” on his Facebook page. That’s a mash-up of Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four people in the Kosher supermarket, in Paris.
So whatever happened to: “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”? Well, I guess that those Freedoms must depend on the circumstances. Mr. M’bala, a Muslim with roots in North Africa, is being investigated for “defending terrorism”. So, that seems to be the crux of the matter. Just consider how immigrants are often received into a country. Lets consider the Jews and the Muslims since they are the two groups which have recently had hate messages directed toward them in Europe.
The Jewish population of France, some 500,000, is less than one percent of France’s 66 million people. They migrated to France over hundreds of years, and over time, there was a stable Jewish migrant population to welcome the newcomers and help them adjust. The Muslim migration into France has been much more recent, and more of a flood. There are currently five million Muslims in France, or 7.6% of the total population and, in most cases, there was not a sufficiently large or stable enough Muslim population to help them settle in.
While the much smaller Jewish population in France is better educated and more middle-class, many of the Muslims are mostly marginalized from mainstream French Society. The unemployment rate among French Muslims is reportedly 40%. Also, the size of the Muslim population may have caused some resentment on the part of lower-income, working class Frenchmen.
So, the question is: how does one grant freedom of expression to a magazine that lampoons the Prophet Muhammad (among many other of its targets in the past); but, not similarly grant that freedom to a Muslim, with roots in North Africa? Once a portion of a right is withdrawn, however, doesn’t that weaken its very foundation?
There is somewhat of a similar situation in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, his satire about Soviet Communism. Napoleon the Pig, who was the leader of the farm, declared that: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others…” Similarly, France cannot treat Muslims differently than others and still expect them to act like other Frenchmen.
Currently, France is under the yoke of the European Central Bank’s mandatory Austerity, which merely causes economic hardships–especially for the lower income groups. Right now, I believe that France needs to formulate a plan–in conjunction with its Muslim community. Provide education, jobs programs, re-build infrastructure in run-down neighborhoods, etc. As long as there is a large, mostly poor element, and without jobs, within the Muslim society, they will have no reason to respect French Society as a whole. Why not put them to work, let them earn some money to improve their standard of living and also improve their communities? That’s a Win-Win situation!
NOTE: There is a feel good story within the recent tragedy in Paris. It is about Lassana Bathily, a young Muslim from Mali, who is an employee of the Kosher supermarket. Mr. Bathily is credited with saving the lives of several customers before he snuck out a back door and told the Police about the store’s layout. He will be given French Citizenship on January 20 for his deeds. The linked story, from the Huffington Post, is as follows: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/15/lassana-bathily-french-citizenship_n_6480226.html