Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Freedom of Speech: Je Suis Charlie

In our country, in the West, open discussion is a part of life. Your point of view may be ignorant, or repugnant to me, but I will defend to the death your right to express your opinion. One of the great weapons of freedom of speech is humor. It’s hard to maintain a dignified moral high-ground when one of the cartoonists piques with a cartoon showing the emperor has no clothes. Or at least the emperor has flaws, as do we all.


Pensacola is blessed with such an editorial cartoonist, Andy Marlette. Andy Marlette is controversial, and in a state with lax gun laws and pistol-packin-mamas, he risks his life daily, skewering the pomposity of us all. Occasionally, he is outrageous. Occasionally, he is offensive. That’s OK. If an editorial cartoonist isn’t skewering someone, or all of us at once, he isn’t doing his job. His job is to elicit discussion.







I have lived for so long in Moslem world that I take a risk now, offending my Moslem friends, by printing the cartoon of Mohammed weeping. It’s the cartoon that touched me to the bone. I have listened and learned in the Moslem world, and I have never met with hatred. The Mohammed I have read about in the Qu’ran and in hadith, and heard about in legend and stories from my Moslem friends portrayed a prophet who, like Jesus, was all about loving and serving the one true God. He would weep at what has been done in his name, as Jesus weeps for us, when we kill others in his service.


January 8, 2015 - Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Humor, Interconnected, Kuwait, Language, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , ,


  1. I think it goes without saying that these kinds of attacks are not only pointless but entirely unjustified, morally. I do also see a big difference between Marlette’s cartoons and those of Charlie Hebdo and other European publications.

    Marlette in the examples you show portrays Muhammad and Jesus very sympathetically – its their self-righteous, mis-guided followers he is skewering. The European publications whose cartoons I have seen are attacking Muhammad as a false prophet and leader of a false, immoral, cultic, etc. faux religion. I’m not sure what the exact parallel with Jesus would be – something about Mary sleeping around and pretending her pregnancy was divine, and building a fake religion off of that, maybe? (The story as told in US media has been since 2006 about the FACT of Muhammad being depicted as setting Muslims off; that’s partially true, but as you know Shii Muslims have a long history of depicting Muhammad and his family in art, and Sunnis did so as well until the medieval period. Its HOW he is depicted and in what context that was the real firestarter.)

    The cartoons’ intent doesn’t excuse the terrorist response, but I think its a reminder that western European countries have been much more hostile to Islam and to Muslims in the 20th-21st centuries than the US, whether from a centuries-long history of competition with and fear of Muslim-majority states like the Ottoman Empire or from their more recent history of colonizing almost all the Muslim-majority places in the world.

    Its horrifying, horrifying, horrifying to see anyone decide that s/he should have the power to judge and kill others. The above is an explanation, not a justification – and as I type this, I think: the men who attacked the CH offices might not have even seen the cartoons they were so angered by. That to me is one of the scariest aspects of extremism: its based on fear and passion, not on evidence or rationality.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | January 11, 2015 | Reply

  2. Thank you, Umm Tuwaman, for your very thoughtful and lengthy response. I am saying it is the job of editorial cartoonists to skewer – not just in the West, but also in all countries with press and cartoonists. Some of the cartoons I have seen in Middle Eastern papers are HARSH.

    To your point – that it is contextual, and also a matter of degree – an extremist cartoonist can be extremely offensive. I heard a Muslim cleric on NPR discussing the limits of freedom of speech very cogently, and discussing how thoroughly offensive the depiction of the prophet is. Yes,there have been times when it was not so, these things are not absolutes but in flux with the times. I believe we see the same with the mandating of abaya and niqab, which are not part of Qu’ranic Islam, but a trend which waxes and wanes.

    I also could not help but feeling that this attack is not new; the French have had problems with people of their foreign colonies since the colonial problem. These, like many, have French citizenship, but . . . they can never really be French. They can be almost-French, but they can never be French. When there are people who will never really have a chance to participate fully in the riches of society, you have people who are vulnerable to recruitment to commit the kinds of outrageous acts that insure you will go out in a blaze – if not of glory, than at least a blaze. All this reminds me very much of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 11, 2015 | Reply

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