French belief in freedom of speech lasted three days. Dieudonné M’bala M’bala a comedian was arrested in France on an accusation of being “an apologist for terrorism”, after saying on Facebook
“Know that this evening, as far as I’m concerned, I’m feeling Charlie Coulibaly”.
In other words instead of saying, as officially approved,
Je suis Charlie
he was combining Charlie Hebdo with the surname of the man who killed Jews in thekoshersupermarket.
He could go to prison for up to seven years if found guilty.
The BBC says
Dieudonne’s comment drew an angry response on Monday, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls saying that freedom of speech should not be confused with anti-Semitism, racism and Holocaust denial.
What sophistry. Freedom of speech means the freedom to say what you like. It includes the freedom to offend. In fact, the freedom to offend people is another way of saying freedom of speech. Freedom to say inoffensive things isn't freedom at all. Obviously freedom of speech most certainly includes the freedom to express racist ideas and to make faulty historical judgments and to say it's repulsive to see men holding hands in public.
Under French law, however, you only have the freedoms the law gives you (in Britain you are free to do whatever you are not forbidden to do). And in France freedom of speech does not extend to incitement to hatred or racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia, etc.
I passionately believe the Armenian genocide happened and should be publicised, but everyone is entitled to say no it didn't. Except in France they are not. In France expressing this view is a crime. Muslims ask why their religion is less important than the Christians whom they massacred. The Muslims have a point. Why can't people choose this moment to make a plea to legalise all manner of speech and go back to the freedom of speech people enjoyed in say 1990? That would be a fitting memorial to the people murdered. Though it would not please the French Arabs.
Actually, I am not sure whether the murdered journalists were always in favour of freedom of speech themselves. Like most people outside France I don't know too much about Charlie Hebdo but I know they were on the left and the magazine petitioned the President of France to have the National Front banned as its ideals were incompatible with the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
This story has revealed what is really sacred in Europe, in case we somehow had not known before. It's not God, not Christianity, nor of course Islam, and certainly not free speech either, but racial equality, along with sexual equality and homosexuality. In the USA, God and free speech precede equality. Maurice Cowling was exactly right when he said
Secularisation so far from involving liberation from religion, has involved merely liberation from Christianity and the establishment in its place of a modern religion whose advocates so much assume its truth that they do not understand that it is a religion to which they are committed.