This week, we shall see the hypocrisy behind the so-called secularism (or in the French case, Laïcité) which has allowed rogue press like Charlie Hebdo to insult the religion of over a billion people without official consequence. The French government claims that as a state practices Laïcité; it supports no religion or irreligion; a case they made for why although they did not approve of what Charlie Hebdo did, they could also not stop it, curtail it or even sanction the paper. Let us see whether facts and history support this claim.
Take this entry from Wikipedia for example:
“Although the concept of separation has been adopted in a number of countries, there are varying degrees of separation depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper relationship between religion and politics. While a country’s policy may be to have a definite distinction in church and state, there may be an “arm’s length distance” relationship in which the two entities interact as independent organizations.
“A similar but typically stricter principle of laïcité has been applied in France and Turkey, while some socially secularized countries such as Denmark and the United Kingdom have maintained constitutional recognition of an official state religion. The concept parallels various other international social and political ideas, including secularism, disestablishment, religious liberty, and religious pluralism. Whitman (2009) observes that in many European countries, the state has, over the centuries, taken over the social roles of the church, leading to a generally secularized public sphere.
“The degree of separation varies from total separation mandated by a constitution, as in India and Singapore; to an official religion with a total prohibition of the practice of any other religion, as in the Maldives.
“For centuries, monarchs ruled by the idea of divine right. Sometimes this began to be used by a monarch to support the notion that the king ruled both his own kingdom and Church within its boundaries, a theory known as caesaropapism. On the other side was the Catholic doctrine that the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, should have the ultimate authority over the Church, and indirectly over the state. Moreover, throughout the Middle Ages, the Pope claimed the right to depose the Catholic kings of Western Europe and tried to exercise it, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, such as was the case with Henry VIII of England and Henry III of Navarre.
“In the West, the issue of the separation of church and state during the medieval period centred on monarchs who ruled in the secular sphere but encroached on the Church’s rule of the spiritual sphere. This unresolved contradiction in ultimate control of the Church led to power struggles and crises of leadership, notably in the Investiture Controversy, which was resolved in the Concordat of Worms in 1122. By this concordat, the Emperor renounced the right to invest ecclesiastics with ring and crosier, the symbols of their spiritual power, and guaranteed election by the canons of cathedral or abbey and free consecration”
The German priest, Martin Luther, was one of the first proponents of ‘the two kingdoms’ that saw Europe change in the 16th Century. It was his proposition that the church should have little or nothing to do with the state and vice versa.
Matters came to a head in the 1530s when King Henry VIII announced himself the head of the newly founded Church of England and outlawed any other denomination. Catholics fled to Northern America away from the persecution in England. They grew in number and strength until the 1770s when they revolted against King George III, marking the beginning of what is now the United States of America. Greatly influenced by the writings of John Locke, one of the things the new state did was to abolish the establishment of religion by Congress.
From the little I have cited above, it is clear that the history of secularism lies in the struggle for dominance between those who abused spiritual authority and those who abused temporal authority. It was not for any altruistic reasons. The group that won the battle is the one determining what is right and what is wrong today. In trying to ban the influence of religion on the affairs of state, they have fallen into the same trap they claimed that they sought to destroy – the misuse of power.
Out of that irresponsible, yet powerful ideology many horrid ideas have sprung. It is from the fountainhead of secularism that concepts like free speech and LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transvestites) grew. Secularism has become a religion in itself. Talking or arguing against it is deemed another form of blasphemy now.
In essence, we have a French government whose laws had a distinct Christian history that they seek to blot out with the godless concept of laïcité. Yet, this is just on paper. Let us see some examples.
In the two French provinces of Alsace and Moselle, the Concordat between France and the Holy See remains because the area was under German control when the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State was passed. Catholic priests, as well as the clergy of three other religions (Lutheran, Calvinist, and Jewish), are paid by the state, and schools have religious courses.
Moreover, the Catholic bishops of Metz and Strasburg are named (or rather, formally appointed) by the French Head of State on the proposition of the Pope, which interestingly makes the French President the only temporal power in the world to formally have retained the right to appoint Catholic bishops, all other catholic bishops being appointed by the Pope.
The French President is ex officio, a co-prince of Andorra, where Roman Catholicism has a status of state religion (the other co-prince being the Catholic Roman Bishop of Seu de Urgell, Spain). Moreover, French heads of state are traditionally offered an honorary title of Canon of the Papal Arch-basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral of Rome. Once this honour has been awarded to a newly elected president, France pays for a choir vicar, a priest who occupies the seat in the canonical chapter of the Cathedral in lieu of the president (all French presidents have been male and at least formally Roman Catholic, but if one were not, this honour could most probably not be awarded to him or her). The French President also holds a seat in a few other canonical chapters in France.
In Wallis and Futuna, a French overseas territory, national education is conceded to the diocese, which gets paid for it by the State (for all the quotations, please visit this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state)
Having thus shown that the government is not entirely separated from involvement in religion, we go on to examples of where the French government and other western governments have used state powers to protect other religious groups from verbal or physical abuse by anyone; including the press.
In the United Kingdom, for example, it was a crime to blaspheme against God or the Anglican Church. As part of the drive towards godlessness at the helm of affairs, that was removed in 2008.
‘All blasphemies against God, including denying his being or providence, all contumelious reproaches of Jesus Christ, all profane scoffing at the Holy Scriptures, and exposing any part thereof to contempt or ridicule, were punishable by the temporal courts with death, imprisonment, corporal punishment and fine.’- (Whitehouse v Gay News Ltd  AC 617 at 665).
In the United States, the State of Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania have laws that refer to blasphemy.
In France itself, the Gayssot Act of July 13, 1990, makes it illegal to question the existence of crimes that fall in the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945. When Robert Faurisson challenged the act, the Human Rights Committee upheld it as a necessary means to counter possible anti-Semitism. In 2012, the Constitutional Council of France ruled that to extend the Gayssot Act to the Armenian Genocide denial was unconstitutional because it violated the freedom of speech.
What we learn from the above is that there has always been a supermarket shopping approach to how the governments of various countries have treated the protection of other people’s religious and human rights – they pick what they like and drop what they do not. The same government that forbids me from saying I do not believe there was a holocaust says it is right for me to say I did not believe the Turkish government once murdered a large number of Armenians. Both were genocides but I could dismiss one without any fear and yet I will be jailed for dismissing the other! Just like Animal Farm, where some animals were more equal than others.
The average Muslim and Christian is unaware of these facts and therefore makes highly uninformed choices when he has to decide whether to support or condemn actions that are results of an exercise of the so-called free speech.
I also saw people like Netanyahu and others in a march against the terrorist suppression of free speech that they claimed the shootings symbolised. It was an irony to see them in that kind of protest when notably, Obama’s government is trying to capture and jail two whistle-blowers that exposed the lies of the CIA and other agencies murdering innocent, unarmed people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries they have invaded in the last decade or more. Netanyahu is an accomplished mass murderer and a violent repressor of free speech. Snipers routinely murder neutral journalists covering the angles of the war that the Israeli government does not like to be covered.
In response to these hypocritical acts of the western world, many of our less informed brethren resort to sometimes-unwise acts of self-help. Every time blasphemous literature surface about Islam, the unthinking reaction for some has always been to go on the streets protesting. The jobless and the mischievous mix up with this crowd of protest and wreak havoc. Ironically, the greatest casualties are the Muslims themselves.
It is time to think in a new way. The law has guaranteed an unfettered use of free speech. Let us use it. In doing this, do not insult a religion or a god. The Islamic way is to address the issues. As I wrote earlier, those who are inciting us to react have an agenda behind their incitements. They get the results they want when we go berserk on the streets and attacking people who had nothing to do with the murder. That is a daft thing to do. Use the moment to educate as many people as possible about Islam and its prophet (PBUH). It reminds me of a group that has been asking for the credentials of their opponent to contest an election when what they should be asking is why their man should even be allowed to govern a primary school.
Despite the amount of desperation to make money which has driven a paper to caricature the noblest of humanity, we will behave in a noble manner and comport ourselves like the best of humankind. They may be crude, uncouth, irreverent, insulting and godless but we cannot descend that low to reply to them, we are Muslims, we are not Charlie!