19 September 2012WhileCharlie Hebdo, a French newspaper well-known for its satirical bravado, devotes today’s front page to the fallout from the controversial film ‘The innocence of Muslims’; key ministers of François Hollande’s government appeal to calm. Is this a call to silence on sarcastic French tradition?
Dear French Ministers, please take your responsibilities! At a time when the world rises up against a cheap pamphlet, it is important not to overlook secularism and tolerance – values which concern both the sprinkler and the watered – to use a French image.
Yes, the sociopolitical context is troubled. Protests have arisen around the US embassy in Paris after the broadcast of an Internet movie depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a caricature. Yes, the police work harder than usual. The crackdown on Sunday of an unauthorized demonstration near the Elysee made waves. Yes, the media are quick to exaggerate, and people react without thinking first.
But this situation does not justify French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ condemnation of caricatures of the Prophet by Charlie Hebdo and his declaration that he stands against “any kinds of provocation”. Or the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault to disapprove any excess. But caricatures are not an excess, they are a sign of a healthy democracy.
In these circumstances, laughter must remain a way to forestall, what Nietzsche qualified as “spirit of gravity”, that one tries to impose on French tradition. Charlie Hebdo, as usual sets the cat among the pigeons, fine!
As the Director of the newspaper said on the RTL: “If we start questioning whether we have the right to draw Muhammad or not, if it is dangerous or not to do so; then the next issue will be, ‘is it possible to represent Muslims in a newspaper?’; then it will be, ‘is it possible to represent human beings in a newspaper?’, etc..; and at the end you won’t draw anything anymore, and the few extremists, who stir up trouble in the world and in France, will win.”
So let’s stay on the side of the Enlightenment and humor, and not let the Republic sink into a cowardly policy of appeasement!