I was moved to tears, when I watched over 1 million people walking down the Champs-Elysées arm in arm in last week’s global demonstration of solidarity against terrorism. Didn’t mind the media hype (even as the Russians marched side-by-side with the Ukrainians, while on the same day killing each other at the Donetsk Airport).
Freedom of speech is the foundation of a democracy, and lived my life defending that freedom. However, I get concerned when that freedom disrespects and demeans what is sacred to others; then it’s no longer just about freedom, it becomes a hostile, provocative act that distances people from each other.
The great majority of Muslim people are not radical extremists who express their anger by killing people. Muslim people of faith did not cause 9/11 or kill the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists; terrorists who hijacked the faith murdered them. The great majority are outraged by the terror, they are also outraged by images of their prophet shown as a perverted fornicator.
Muslims in France are already economically marginalized, their religious garb banned in public, now as a group portrayed as terrorists, and it is turning them into mistrustful, cynical, xenophobes. It’s happening to us all; as a civilization we are all turning inwardly, getting armed, and guarding ourselves against strangers.
When freedom of speech injures our souls as human beings, then it steals from us a greater freedom… to treat each other with loving kindness, generosity, respect, and to recognize ourselves in each other.
My granddaughter is living in Paris with her beloved, he happens to be a Muslim from Morocco. I know and love him; he is kind, considerate, a loving son and brother, educated, and fluent in three languages. We talked after the horrific massacre, he respects freedom of speech, but he also feels that when his sense of higher purpose and his community are insulted, that such freedom is abusive and it enrages him.
I understand his anger and encouraged him to go to the demonstration and share his feelings publicly; I’m hoping he will lighten up and become less offended by the excesses that are committed in the name of free speech, and that one-day we will march down the Champs Elysées together saying Je ne suis pas Charlie…We Are Love.