The new Editor-in-Chief of Charlie Hebdo Gerard Biard said that the magazine’s publication of controversial images is a defence of the freedom of religion.
“Every time that we draw a cartoon of Muhammad, every time that we draw a cartoon of a prophet, every time that we draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of religion,” Biard told Chuck Todd on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
“We declare that God must not be a political or public figure, but instead must be a private one. We defend the freedom of religion, yes it’s also freedom of speech, but is the freedom of religion.”
During the interview, Biard noted that the Charlie Hebdo team doesn’t satirize religions because of what they preach. Rather, the group roasts religion (and religious figures) when it becomes politicized.
“Religion should not be a political argument … We have a problem when faith and religion become political, then we become worried and we attack. Then we respond because we are convinced that religion has no place in the political arena. Because once religion injects itself into the political debate, the political debate becomes totalitarian,” he told Todd on Sunday.
On January 7, two gunmen attacked the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including several members of the magazine’s staff. The attack ignited debates over the right of freedom of speech.
Some — including Pope Francis — have argued that just because a person has the right to say something, it does not mean that they should say it over and over again, especially when it is insulting to others. Others have argued the opposite suggesting that any censoring of offensive speech, by definition, goes against the idea of freedom of speech.
And still others have taken up a more radical view, insisting that any and all insulting images should be censored.
Charlie Hebdo regularly published cartoons and articles satirizing jihadists, and also drew caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. This has angered Islamic militant groups, partially because depictions of the prophet are strictly prohibited in Islam.
The French Council of Muslim Faith and the Grand Mosques of Paris and Lyon previously tried to sue Charlie Hebdo to prevent the publication of these images because they were offensive.
“We do not kill anyone. We should stop conflating the murderers with the victims. We must stop declaring that those who write and draw are ‘provocateurs,’ and are throwing gas on the fire. We must not place thinkers and artists in the same category as murderers. We are not warriors,” Baird told Todd on Sunday.
“We only defend but one thing: Freedom, our freedom, secularism, freedom of conscience and democracy,” he added.
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