Fanaticism in the Name of Freedom

The recent killings in Paris against the cartoonists who mocked Islam is condemnable in every way. But what I cannot understand is that in the name of ‘freedom of the press’, how is it a fundamental (human) right to hurt the religious sentiment of others? If anyone has disagreement with the fanatic expression of any faith, there are so many ‘gentle’ ways to oppose it rather than hurting their sentiments.

For most religiously minded people, their faith is not merely understanding or confession of some doctrines on their belief. It is more a personal relationship with the deities and/or founder(s) of that particular faith. Any attack on their deity or founder is not considered an ‘objective’ critic of their status, claim or position within that particular faith but mocking the relationship of the followers with those deities or with the founder(s). Some more liberal followers may be able to ignore such mocking (which is noble), but others may not. I want to say again that this does not mean I am justifying killing those who mock their faith.

Let me explain another way. Generally in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, if anyone use abusive words against his relatives, it will be tolerated. But if anyone uses abusive words and questions the morality of one’s mother, it will have serious repercussions.

A long time ago, I read somewhere that in one particular tribal community, someone would kill another person who scolded them with the phrase, “You who told a lie to your mother.” In that community, telling a lie to one’s mother is considered very serious issue.  It is not just telling a simple lie, but abusing the relationship between a mother and son.  The same is the case with a follower’s commitment to her faith. It is not merely understanding or confessing some creed, but having a deep personal relationship.

At the same time, I have one question to the fanatic in the Islamic world who show their opposition by taking the life of those who criticize their faith. What if thousands and thousands of people who stood for the freedom of the press and human rights began to use social media, print media and other such means to post, forward and publish such criticism of their faith? Do they have the capacity to kill all such people? They too have other means and even noble means to oppose such criticism on their faith.

Finally, as usual, this killing also exposed the narrow minded view of many western countries when such an attack is carried out on their soil. As our Prime Minister Modi said, when terrorist attacks other countries, it is problem between two countries. Whereas if it happens in western countries (particularly in America and Europe) then it is a global problem and there will be a call to fight it out as a war against humanity. Only when it happens in their country do they suddenly began to think about the people living in other countries as ‘humans’.  But when the same kind of terrorist attacks takes place in non-European countries, will they respond in a similar way?

For example when Bohho Harma attacked Baga in Nigeria last week and killed several hundreds of (faceless, voiceless innocent) people, neither the media nor the so-called world leaders paid any SERIOUS attention to it. That is why Archbishop Kaigama of Nigeria rightly condemned this kind of indifference by western countries on the terrorist attack in Nigeria (B.B.C. World news, 12-1-2015, 4.30 IST).

At the same time, more than 40 heads of various countries marched ‘shoulder to shoulder’ to express their solidarity with the France when around 15 (totally 17 including the terrorists) French (read westerners) were killed by the same terrorism. For me it is not the number but the attitude which needs to be condemned. This kind of religious fanaticism and racial prejudice needs to be condemned by soberly thinking people everywhere in the world. The Paris attack not only expose the fanaticism of religion but also of the Freedom of the Press and many western countries.


Dayanand Bharati. 12-1-2015