Monday, January 12, 2015

Charlie Hebdo, Sharia Law, and the Right to Be Offensive.

Three gunman killed twelve writers in Paris last Tuesday. The writers, who worked at the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, were likely targeted because the magazine had published a cartoon of Mohammad. As the BBC reported:

The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

If you're a writer, you have to take notice. This attack is an assault on freedom of speech and your creative liberty. It is an attempt to dissuade anyone from violating Sharia Law's prohibition of making images of Mohammad.

Don't think this could affect you?  U.S. cartoonist Molly Norris of Seattle, Washington, had to go into hiding after suggesting that there be a "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" in response to censorship that itself was in response to death threats over a depiction of Mohammed.

In my novel, Rock Killer, some of the villains are Muslims. While they are more interested in political power than religious purity, if some splinter group of Muslims armed with AK-47s took offense, I might have to go into hiding. (I'm not very worried about this, to be honest.)

As artists and writers, we need to maintain our creative freedom and fight for our right to say what we want without fear of reprisal from terrorists or governments (I'm looking at you, Canada). Of course, what Canada does is not along the lines of what happened in Paris, but it comes from the same mindset of "You offended me, you must pay!"

Do I think you should post a cartoon of Mohammad? No. But you should not let this cow you into worrying about offending anyone with your writing. We can not back down even in the face of this evil.

But more than that, we must maintain our right to offend others. If we cannot offend anyone, we cannot do our craft. Someone, somewhere is likely to be offended by pretty much anything. No one has the right to demand not to be offended no matter if what offends them is a cross on a hill or the existence of hard core pornography.

And, because you never know who might come to power and decide what you write is "too offensive," you don't want government taking action to keep some from being offended (yes, Canada, I mean you). "What, you write about recovery from sexual abuse? That offends me!" And believe me, almost everything you write is likely to offend someone (this blog post might offend a few).

We can not let what happened in Paris stop us from writing what we want. We can not let the government or any organization stop us from writing what we want. Does that mean there will be stuff out there that offends us? Yes. But it is better to suffer that than have someone else decide if what we write is too offensive to be in print or on the web.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, if we don't offend or push boundaries, than we'll come to a standstill as humans. Sometimes it's uncomfortable to face certain things, but sometimes that's why it's so important to do so.