A few years ago, I wrote something about Chick-fil-A and what my opinion was regarding the controversy surrounding that particular fast food chain and their public stance on supporting anti-gay groups. In the course of writing that post (which can be found in the archives of my blog, if anyone is interested), I touched on a few things which I feel are relevant, given recent events.
Thinking back to that post and revisiting it after the events that occurred in France a week ago, I remember certain things I felt when writing that post. In it, I recounted an incident from my youth, regarding a different controversy, namely the publication of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. I was 12ish and very much influenced by the views of my parents. I thought, at that time, that the author of such “blasphemy” deserved whatever harsh punishment was meted out to him. When I was older, I read that book and found myself holding views that as a 12 year old girl, I never could have fathomed thinking.
Another element I touched on in that post was the idea of consequences. I noted that Rushdie should have known about the consequences of his work and had to deal with the repercussions as best he could. I also noted that everything has consequences, including supporting views that are different from those of others, such as Chick-fil-A supporting anti-gay groups and losing the business of people who do not share those views.
What I did not disclose in that post, was the apprehensions I was experiencing when I wrote down my thoughts. I was hesitant to speak on a subject that has divided so many people –the support of gay rights. This hesitation had nothing to do with the way I felt about the issue, but rather the consequences of holding those views and expressing them to people who might not agree with me, which would be the potential loss of readers. In addition to this, I was also afraid about admitting to reading a book that many people in my family and community consider sacrilegious. I did not feel that these fears were unfounded. But I thought about it and kept coming back to the fact that I am not one to be intimidated by the views of people who ultimately have no power over me. So with a “Bismillah”, I hit the publish button.
Were there consequences to that decision? Yes. I lost a few readers and I am sure that there were a few people who were appalled by my words and opinions.
As I have been thinking over the tragedy in Paris, and the events leading up to it, I feel a sense of sadness on a very human level. I was disgusted by the violence that unfolded and horrified by the motives and actions of the people who instigated the incident. Yet, it seems inevitable that this was to have happened because it seems that ignorance is flourishing in this world. People twisting things to fit their grotesque ideologies and others waiting to paint all the people they perceive as threatening with the same brush of condemnation.
Freedom of expression is a right that everyone has. But if one is going to have enough courage to express oneself and take that action, one must be ready to face the consequences. In my humble opinion, the magazine Charlie Hebdo should have been a little more cautious in regard to their content. While it is true that people who are believers in Islam choose to follow the example set forth by their interpretation of the view Islam has regarding idolatry and the reasoning behind why the Prophet is not to be depicted, it seems to be deliberately inflammatory to Muslims to do so. It is an unfortunate fact that much of the Muslim world is viewed as backwards or close-minded in the eyes of many in the West – I daresay even dangerous. Given this information, this tragedy might have been averted if some wiser choices were considered. This is not to say that the actions of those who committed such violence are justified. Far from it. Most Muslims do not condone the actions of either side in this situation.
I would like to conclude with the words of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who stated “Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter”. The truth of these words cannot be disputed. This blog, and especially this post, is my voice, raised about two things that matter to me. First, the freedom to express oneself is a right that I support fully. I do not believe that anyone should be able to force someone to remain silent if there is a need to say something. And second, I need to defend the faith that has been so important in forming my character and building my values. Both of these issues are important to me. And I stand ready to face the consequences of saying so.