Charlie Hebdo: Blasphemy as Civic Duty

Charlie Hebdo: Blasphemy as Civic Duty January 18, 2015

Blasphemy as civic duty in the preservation of liberty: The chief editor of Charlie Hebdo defends controversial depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, pointing out cartoon parodies of religious figures actually protects freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and even freedom of religion.

Speaking with Chuck Todd on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Gerard Biard, the new chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, explained the secular values motivating the publication, stating:

We only defend but one thing: Freedom, our freedom, secularism, freedom of conscience and democracy.

Biard, in his first interview with an American television network since the Paris terror attack, was asked by Todd to respond to comments made by Pope Francis. In some controversial remarks made last Thursday, Francis implied that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists provoked the Paris terror attacks, claiming:

One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.

In response Biard said:

Every time that we draw a cartoon of Muhammad, every time that we draw a cartoon of a prophet, every time that we draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of conscience, the freedom of thought.

Biard added:

We do not kill anyone. We should stop conflating the murderers with the victims. We must stop declaring that those who write and draw are ‘provocateurs,’ and are throwing gas on the fire. We must not place thinkers and artists in the same category as murderers. We are not warriors.

About the magazine’s newest cover image, Biard said:

(the cover image) is not just a little figure, a little Mohammed drawn by Luz. It’s a symbol. It’s the symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of democracy, and secularism

The Charlie Hebdo editor in chief also addressed those newspapers in democratic countries that declined to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons after the attack, noting:

When they refuse to publish this cartoon … they blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of religion, and they insult the citizenship.  It is this symbol that these newspapers refuse to publish.

When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out, when they decline to publish it, they blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of religion, and they insult the citizenship.

On Saturday the distributor of Charlie Hebdo said it had increased the total printing of Wednesday’s “survivors issue” to 7 million in response to unprecedented public demand.

Editor’s Note via NBC: During the interview with Gérard Biard, the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, there was a mistranslation of the term “liberté de conscience.” In many of the places where “freedom of religion” is heard in English, the correct translation should be “freedom of thought” or “freedom of conscience.”

Charlie Hebdo’s most recent cover depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad via CBS
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