world

Pope on Charlie Hebdo: There are limits to free expression

59 Comments
By NICOLE WINFIELD

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

59 Comments
Login to comment

Guess who just made the next Charlie Hebdo cover.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

"You cannot insult the faith of others."

Do they still teach that non believers will rot in hell? That's my memory. I still feel insulted. I still haven't bothered to gun up.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I disagree. All religions are made-up. I could make up an arbitrary, daft set of rules and claim that as my religion. Is it then OK to demand that nobody insults my beliefs, however silly they may appear to others? If we follow that road nobody will be able to say anything.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure you can insult the faith of others. We've seen "piss Christ" as art, and others, attacking Christianity. But nobody was killed over that. In fact the US government gave the artist a grant. So there's a big difference between "can not" and "should not" and poor taste in general. But poor taste isn't an excuse to kill somebody.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

'Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.'

Well to give him some credit, he did have a bit of a run-in with the previous pope who quoted someone who described Mohammed's teachings as 'evil and dangerous'. He's at least consistent in his wish to shut down criticism of religion, not just of his own. The Catholic Church has spent a very long time enjoying a privileged position where it has been above criticism, ridicule, scrutiny and not subject to the same treatment as non-religious organisations. That is what he wants. Ask the abused children in the 'care' of this church whose priests were able to get away with such foulness for so long in this organisation if that was a good idea.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I just wonder... what will now say those hard core people (the ones I know are from France and Canada) that said there cannot be put boundaries on the liberty of expression.

As far as I know, one's liberty ends where the other people liberty begins.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I tend to agree with the pope but not just for the reasons he states. I don't see how it serves the public interest in any way for a publication to run vulgar cartoons of religious figures or any personality, for matter.

I know that I wouldn't like to see a vulgar caricature of myself in print. Is there reader on Japan Today who would? Would any reader like to see a vulgar cartoon of their wife or mother or father?

It's not even a question of free speech, though everyone has tried to make that the central issue since the Paris attacks. For me, the central questions are: Why even publish something disgusting at all? In what way does it serve the public interest?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Why even publish something disgusting at all?

Because the historical and contemporary realities of the major religions are far more disgusting than anything published in Charlie Hebdo. I have looked at Charlie's cartoons, and I've read stories about pedophile priests, slave auctions of kidnapped girls in Nigeria and Syria, entire towns obliterated by Boko Haram, children abused and tortured in Salvation Army orphanages.... Charlie isn't even in their league for obscenity. But I hope he and other Charlies everywhere continue to expose and ridicule these evil people.

In light of recent events, I'm amazed that the pope could make a joke about a violent response to a perceived insult.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I wonder how the pope wants to deal with the "piss Christ" and "Maria in cow dung" artworks which previously upset Catholics. Does he he want to firebomb or murder the artists? Or just punch them? What happened to "turn the other cheek"?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

As far as I know, one's liberty ends where the other people liberty begins.

Free speech is an all or nothing concept. You have the right to be offended by what someone says or draws. You have the right to protest peacefully about being offended, or to ignore the offense and walk away. What you don't have is the right not to be offended.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

And where does such thinking lead? Physical violence and murder for what? For being politically incorrect! Sorry Pope, you are wrong. Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy. Without it you have a kalifate.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

"there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith" — Pope Francis

Satire's purpose isn't insult or ridicule. Definition: "trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly".

So, there is responsible speech, reckless taunt and appeal to the absurd. Religion always has problems when it is questioned for what it is and the obvious failures of its institutions.

If purely prejudicial speech defames as an expression of hate, it is clearly seen as irresponsible and contemptible.

However, what enrages religion most is the illustration of fallacy, that is the function of satire. For the atheist, religion is in itself contemptible. Civilized cultures always wrestle with these themes and are always better for the discussion. Discussion builds strength and flexibility of mind while testing assumptions. Of course, religion would rather that discussion not take place and some will kill if it does.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Alan

Then the only thing that "free of speech" will bring it will be disgrace and violence.

Everything must have boundaries, because if you go over those boundaries the you will get a reaction that in most cases are feral and violent.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The pope has it all wrong - religion should have limits. All religion should be reclassified as a mental condition and tax-free status abolished, see how they cope then when it relies solely on "faith" rather than cash.

Outdated crap like this has no place in today's world and I despair every time I think of how much time and human energy throughout history has been wasted over religion.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

'Everything must have boundaries'

True, but religion is an opinion or faith. As such, its ideas are open to question and ridicule. It does make huge claims for itself.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Daniel Neagari

you will get a reaction that in most cases are feral and violent.

People who react in feral and violent ways are quite simply criminals and should be dealt with as such.

Everything must have boundaries

Whom do you trust to set those boundaries? The pope? Al Qaeda? Politicians?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Alan and Jimizo

You are getting it wrong... let begun with your idea that I in some way, am a follower of some religion.. which I am not, in fact I advocate for the abolition of all religions since they are the best weapon of mass destruction humans had device.

But that doesn't mean that what a man like the Pope is saying is wrong.

Boundaries are set by people and by society, but if you go around preaching freedom without boundaries that will cause chaos.

And

People who react in feral and violent ways are quite simply criminals and should be dealt with as such.

not necessarily are criminals and your vision is too simplistic if you really believe that.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@Daniel To support your point of view, you must have very clear ideas regarding what is and isn't open to criticism or ridicule. Would you share them with me? Also, you seem to have no problem with threats of violence as a means to achieve a shifting of these boundaries. If the followers of a particular political party threatened violence when their policies were ridiculed, would they deserve to move outside of your boundaries?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

You can and many do. Satire is exactly that. Provocation, sometimes insult - the interpratation and the degree of insult (if the reader feels any) depends on who is reading it. But it is just images/words used instead of real weapons to make people think about whoever or whatever is the subject of satire. France and other European countries have a long tradition of satirical press/literature.

Recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that, while denouncing the Paris attacks, urged the media to treat religions with respect.

Otherwise they might help attenuate the political power not only of non-Cristian religious governments but of the Vatican itself, too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Someone had to say it.

If you are going to satirize, then do it with taste and class.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Glad the pope said it. That magazine is trash.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you are going to satirize, then do it with taste and class.

The shock factor is also a legitimate and very powerful device in satire. Good satire should be edgy and dangerous, not tasteful and classy.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Your obsession and hard stance regarding the "freedom of speech" is as stubborn and blind as any religion extremist.

Alan and Jimizo, your defense of your position is no more close minded that those who are offended by an image of their prophet.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

True, but religion is an opinion or faith. As such, its ideas are open to question and ridicule. It does make huge claims for itself.

Jimizo, I do not agree about the ridicule part. It's easy to say that about things you don't believe, are ignorant of, are foreign to you or you don't think you need to understand or respect. I bet most of the posters on this site would be in an uproar if they saw some sacred Japanese belief, object, etc defiled or ridiculed by someone in the Western media (or, even more so, in the Korean or Chinese media). I am a Christian but I believe in the tolerance of all beliefs. My wife is Japanese and did not know anything about Christianity we first got married. She used to think it was funny to distract me by running her hand across my face or make noises when I prayed before a meal. Upon entering a shrine, however, she was dead serious and was always busy instructing me on how to pray correctly. Do you understand my point?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

David Neagari:

" Alan and Jimizo, your defense of your position is no more close minded that those who are offended by an image of their prophet. "

I find this whole "image" concept a little strange. How can you be offended by a cartoon, anway? Nobody knows what Mohammed actually looked like, so who recognizes him in a scribbled drawing? Who recognized Mohammed in the latest cartoon anyway? There was no name written, I just saw a turbaned figure, heck, that could be anybody. It is all the comments who told me that that scribbled figure is Mohammed. If I take my coffee mug and say "this is Mohammed", am I creating an offensive image? If so, the coffee mug is not really the issue, it is what I call it, no? So in protesting cartoons, we obviously ARE talking about speech. Remember, Rushdie got his death fatwah not for any drawing, but for writing a BOOK.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Zaphod

You are off the point... I am not saying anything against freedom of speech... all I am saying is liberty/freedom of any kind needs and have boundaries.

And people should acknowledge so.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke."

So, it's "normal" for religious people to react with violence when their faith is questioned? Religion is a matter of choice, like which football team you support. People should not be threatened or attacked for criticising a religion or football team.

The pope needs to be careful.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Daniel Neagari

Your obsession and hard stance regarding the "freedom of speech" is as stubborn and blind as any religion extremist.

That's because you still don't understand what's at stake. Countries where the "wisdom" of religious and ideological dictators cannot be challenged are usually backward, and most of their people, except for the ruling elite, endure very poor living standards. In countries where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are cherished, politicians are subject to continual scrutiny and challenge, and when they are caught out in lies or nefarious behavior, their careers are over at the next election. It took centuries of courageous struggle to achieve freedom of speech in the West, and now it's under real threat from religious lunatics with machine guns. And if we all submit to their terror, our freedom will be gone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Daniel Your position is as about as clear as mud. Please tell us what is and isn't fair game for satire. You keep talking about boundaries but refuse to give any indication of where you think these boundaries should be. What set of beliefs are we talking about here? Is it just religion? Just one religion in particular?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Daniel Neagari:

" You are off the point... I am not saying anything against freedom of speech... all I am saying is liberty/freedom of any kind needs and have boundaries. "

But we have boundaries. They are called libel laws. And they apply to real, life people, not to symbolic characters. And they are enforced by law, and not by firebombs and vigilantes. If you want a law that nobody must feel offended, ever, then we can not say anything at all.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others

But you can. That's free speech. What you cannot do is preach turn the other cheek while punching someone who says something you don't like.

he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected.

The correct response to satire you don't like is to treat it with disdain - ignore it. All but a handful of people ignored Charlie Hebdo's satire - they didn't buy the rag. In fact so many people didn't buy it that it was about to go under.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.

My faith is that people should be allowed to say, draw or write whatever they want without being murdered. Pope Francis insulted my faith with his insane joke about responding with violence to a perceived insult.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The easiest remedy for those who are offended by these kinds of images is a simple one: DON'T LOOK AT THEM.

The Pope is so wrong on this, as are the many others who are straw manning the idea of protecting free speech into the concept of "unlimited free speech". Few people are arguing for that. There are already many limits on speech, such as;

a/ incitement to violence b/ criminal conspiracy c/ breach of contract d/ libel and slander e/ uttering threats

None of these standards are disputed by even the most libertarian of free speechers. Simply being offended is part of the price of living in a pluralized democracy. Speech need not have any specific merit or public good behind it to deserve protection. It is overtly offensive and outrageous speech that needs protection the most of all.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Gah!!! Stick to reforming the catholic church, Pope Frank! There is no reason to listen to this guy on freedom of speech issues. He is just in need of a good Charlie Hebdo cover.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Not particularly religious, definitely not in the catholic way, but nevertheless I do admire the pope for his stance. He seems to be a rather level-headed and pragmatic individual.

Moreover, on the issue of "freedom of speech" above all else, some of its most vocal proponents strike me as being similar to the leaders of the French Revolution, each trying to outdo everyone else with their revolutionary zeal. Then again, being a zealot of any color, religious or otherwise, is a recipe for disaster.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Oh, religious people with their fairy tales can just suck it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The Pope has got it right. It only incites hatred and inevitable retribution. Air France are distributing the latest copy Charlie Hebo to its passengers. That is pure stupidity an irresponsibility. Fancy playing with innocent lives of passengers just to make a statement of solidarity and defiance.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

HontoTAVEinmat:

" Then again, being a zealot of any color, religious or otherwise, is a recipe for disaster. "

And appeasing religious and other zealots by caving under their threats is a recipe for an even bigger disaster. The law that says Mohammed must not be criticized belongs to Shariah countries like Pakistan and Saudi. Not to Europe! (Not yet, at least...)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How dare the Pope exercise his freedom of speech.

-1 ( +2 / -4 )

'The Pope has got it right. It only incites hatred and inevitable retribution.'

I've had my beliefs ridiculed in discussions and I didn't throw a babyish tantrum, threaten violence or death, boycott the house of or hate the person who did it. That's because I'm not babyish or hateful and these grown adults who act like a baby or threaten or carry out violence would perhaps be better off in theocratic hellholes with blasphemy laws where they can have their religious sensibilities unhurt rather than in the long pants school of grown up democratic society. As for 'inevitable retribution', it's logical that you have a low opinion of those who would inevitably seek retribution. Are you happy to cave into people like that?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

kcjapan, well said!

If limits are placed on speech that may offend some, including religion, then there IS no free speech.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you are going to satirize, then do it with taste and class.

Glad the pope said it. That magazine is trash.

Indeed, I had a look and decided quickly that the cartoons were pretty much crapp, regardless of the perceived insult to the Prophet, they simply weren't any good. It's not a matter of understanding French satire and humour. Class transcends culture and differences.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I also checked Charlie Hebdo out, didn't find it funny regardless of who they portrayed but just plain insulting.

As a European I am used to satire and know a lot of it from books, classic stage plays, comics, etc.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I love Charlie Hebdo. I love their sense of humor and I am offended by those who say it's trash. Do I need to get my kalashnikov and deal with you? Who decides what is offensive and what isn't? Obviously the courts of each country judging by the laws of EACH different country which were placed by the people of that country. If France accepts and allows CH to come out, who are you to say otherwise? Sue them and sue them again to eternity. That's democracy. Just as I respect the laws of S. Arabia and I don't go out in Mekka and shout obscenities against Allah, just as I don't go out in the centre of Bangkok and curse their King, just as I don't throw chewing gum on the streets of Singapore, in exactly the same way I respect the laws of France and everybody else should. You are absolutely free to disagree but just as the "muslims" (which ones exactly of the 23% of world muslim population?) demand respect for their religion, France demands respect for their democracy. Are these terrorists the representatives of the muslims of the world as they are made to be? Obviously not. Anybody, for whatever reason might get offended by something. If a Christian gets offended by the latest joke about president Bush, does that mean that all Christians are offended and therefore Bush is out of bounds? Or perhaps his voters (people he represented and believed in him) should start protesting. One more thing. In Afghanistan, the very first demonstration after the fall of the Taliban was when the US forces handed out football balls with the flags of all the countries of the world. The demonstration, during which 2-3 people were killed if I remember correctly, was because the S. Arabia flag has verses of the quran and therefore the demonstrators were offended because the children would kick that ball. Ignorance and religious fanaticism are offensive and obscene. Unless you want all of us to abide by the shariah laws. What if some muslims come out and say that they find the Christian depiction of god, which is the same god with Islam, offensive and demand that all churches around the world remove any images of god? Should the rest of the world yield? Where would this stop?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

CB is nothing to do with democracy. Its about cartoonists and ignorant people having zero respect for the Islamic faith.They are extremely tactless and show no sign of understanding the ways of the world. I am sad for the 4 deaths. Its CBs fault. If an Air France plane goes down soon. Who will we blame.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

'CB is nothing to do with democracy. Its about cartoonists and ignorant people having zero respect for the Islamic faith.They are extremely tactless and show no sign of understanding the ways of the world. I am sad for the 4 deaths. Its CBs fault. If an Air France plane goes down soon. Who will we blame'

Any decent person would blame the scum who did it. What does 'ways of the world' mean? Barbaric theocracies murder their own citizens for not thinking in the right way. Please pardon irreverent France for upholding values opposite to those which have created some of the world's most intolerant, backward and murderous cesspits.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Daniel Neagari: "You are off the point... I am not saying anything against freedom of speech... all I am saying is liberty/freedom of any kind needs and have boundaries."

So, hang on... you're for freedom of speech, so long as it's limited? You don't see the contradiction there?

"And people should acknowledge so."

Sounds a little 'extreme', don't you think? Are you outside of your own boundaries, then?

Anyway, one thing I'll give this pope is that he doesn't seem to be knocking Islam at all here, but saying across the board that there are boundaries. It's likely inspired by the fact that there is a backlash to the anti-Islam sentiment billowing over after this tragedy that is hitting Christianity. As for freedom of speech and having limits, ideally it should not, and by definition in particular or it is not free, but in reality some people WILL throw punches so long as there are individuals to offend. I'm for freedom of speech so long as it does not involve hate for the sake of hate (ie. knowing you are offending and doing it for THAT purpose alone; not doing something you don't mean to offend but ending up doing so), but the problem is that people can twist freedom of speech to their own ends and so long as a number of people believe in the same cause or are against it the debate will never be resolved.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

How dare the Pope exercise his freedom of speech.

Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. By which I mean the pope should be shouted down for his theocratic leanings by using other people's freedom of speech. Only intellectual cowards use absolutes in their arguments (and yes I see the irony in that statement)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Francis,

You, your Church and its members can believe whatever you want, and say pretty much whatever you want.

And so can I.

You said:

"You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Oh, Francis. I can and I will. I neither seek nor need you approval -- on anything. Your beliefs are just like all others: fair game. When you stick your nose in my business, as you have done here, then you will a reaction, and that reaction is scorn and mockery. And if you don't like it, too bad.

“There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others"

I, for one, only make fun of religion when its spokespeople or adherents say and do stupid things, as you do as follows:

"They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”

No, Francis, they are not "provocateurs." They are dead. They are dead because of the belief that 'you cannot insult someone's faith." And, yes, there is a limit. And the limit is killing someone because they insult your faith.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.

Yes, it is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Western ideals of liberty, equality, social justice and free speech are just that; Western ideals. And the foremost influence on the development of those ideas and ideals was the church. The concepts of human rights and social welfare come directly from Christian philosophy. Every aspect of western society is the result of church influence. The fact that a magazine like Charlie Hebdo, was conceived of, published and found a following; is a direct result of Christianity’s influence on western society. Even the concept of secular pluralism has its roots in Christian teachings. The west is the way it is because of Christianity.

Christianity wasn’t the only branch to spout from the tree of absolute, intolerant monotheism planted by Abraham, way back when. But while Christianity possesses an ideological perspective that allows for progressive social evolution, the other major branch Islam, well…not so much. In those places where Islam is the dominant faith system, progressive ideology is not really part of the game plan. Strict adherence to the word of the one true God as revealed by the one true prophet is the way to go and Islam’s influence on the Muslim world is just as pervasive as Christianity’s influence on the west. The Muslim world is the way it is because of Islam.

In a broad sense Christianity and Islam, both in their ideology and subsequent influence on their respective societies, have provided those societies with a perspective to view themselves and the world around them. And after all, what’s right or wrong or true or false is really just a matter of perspective. The West and the Muslim world have different perspectives and unhappily they are not compatible.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Kuya808

And after all, what’s right or wrong or true or false is really just a matter of perspective.

However, there are also objective measures. Compare Western and Islamic countries on the basis of living standards, education, life expectancy, healthcare, incomes, infrastructure development, women's rights, law and order... Which are better, and which are worse? Is that a coincidence?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

what’s right or wrong or true or false is really just a matter of perspective

Easy to say. Nearly impossible to really believe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Western ideals of liberty, equality, social justice and free speech are just that; Western ideals.

And those are the ideals enshrined at the UN as human rights because other systems were and are too backward technologically to press their case. I can live with that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nearly impossible to really believe.

How so?

You have two different societies, each built on the foundation of a different religious ideology. These ideologies share a common trait in that they are both absolute monotheists, but they have very different ideas about how to best express their relationship with their God. The relationship between Christianity and its God is different from Islam’s with its.

The relationship between Christianity and its God created an environment that allowed the evolution of progressive thinking which has guided western society to where it is now. Islam’s relationship with its God is not like that. It’s all about following the will of God as revealed by his one true prophet, anything that deviates from that is blasphemy and an affront to God.

The West looks at the attack on Charlie Hebdo and sees an attack on the very principles that identify them as a civilized society; the Islamist sees it as a righteous act of retribution against the unbelievers who would demean and defame the will of God and are waging a war against his people. The same event, but with a different meaning and significance for different people. Whether it is deemed good or evil is entirely dependent on the perspective of those that are making that judgment.

-4 ( +0 / -3 )

How so?

Because no one really believes that good and bad are entirely subjective. They may profess, as you do here, that belief, but they do not live that belief.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Because no one really believes that good and bad are entirely subjective.

No one?

That may be your personal opinion but it is not true for me. We disagree because we see things differently, we have a different perspective.

but they do not live that belief.

I do.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Of course there are limits, this is "hate speech" but "secularism" is not.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites