Free speech should not chain people to hate - GulfToday

Free speech should not chain people to hate


Forensic experts arrive at the sight of the terror attack in Nice, France.

The UAE has taken the right step in the right direction by condemning the knife attack at a church in Nice. In a statement, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stressed that the UAE expressed its strong condemnation of these criminal acts and its permanent rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilising security in contravention of religious and humanitarian values and principles.

Tolerance for other faiths is a humane virtue that should be valued by all. The problem comes when some leaders or radical groups try to fan the flames of religious hatred.

Hate speech should not be kept on the boil, rather there should be a solid lid on it. It leads to the kind of unfortunate and gory incidents that we saw on Thursday. The knife attack on people praying inside the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, in which three people were killed including a woman the attacker tried to decapitate, is a glaring manifestation of this.

The UN human rights head has urged political leaders to take a hard stance against “hate speech”.

Michelle Bachelet voiced outrage at the attack in the Nice church.

In an email, she also condemned “the horrendous murder in a similar manner of Samuel Paty two weeks ago”, when the teacher was decapitated outside a school north of Paris, by an extremist, after he showed his pupils blasphemous cartoons during a lesson on freedom of speech.

But this so-called freedom of speech has, unfortunately, chained people to hate.

The stance taken by French President Emmanuel Macron, defending the cartoons, has roiled the Muslim world. Protesters have denounced France in street rallies in several nations.

Tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Bangladesh on Friday, chanting slogans such as “Boycott French products” and carrying banners calling Macron “the world’s biggest terrorist” as they marched through the streets of the capital Dhaka.

 There were several campaigns in Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey, to boycott French products.

Bachelet’s office said she was deeply concerned that “inflammatory rhetoric from very different perspectives is feeding the social, religious and cultural divisions on which such violence thrives.”

We must put an end to this once and for all, before more lives are snuffed out at the altar of rabid hate and bigotry.

Political and religious leaders, apart from the media, should not only avoid inciting violence, hostility or discrimination themselves, they should speak out firmly and promptly against hate speech.

They should also make it very clear that violence cannot be justified by prior provocation.

France’s interior minister Gerald Damarnin said more militant attacks on its soil were likely. Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools, and the country’s security alert is at its highest level.

France has warned its citizens they face a security risk “everywhere” in the world in the wake of the attack in Nice, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian remarked.

He said France’s highest attack risk warning had been sent to citizens abroad “wherever they are, because the risk is everywhere.”

The security threat is only aggravating the woes of the French who have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. After enduring two months of lockdown between March and May in a bid to staunch the coronavirus, they are going through it all again for at least a month.

What should be highlighted in bold letters is that entire groups should never be stigmatised, or have their human rights violated in any way, because of such individual acts. Pitting groups against each other leads to sheer conflict and utter distress. The way to communal peace and amity is tolerance.

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