By: Romeo Adzah Dowokpor
Around the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, placards wore a famous quote from French novelist Victor Hugo: ?Freedom begins where ignorance ends?.
The Trafalgar Square? in central London , the Canadian city of Montreal?? and other cities across the world? came?? alive with a united chant of ?Je suis Charlie? from believers of free? speech (without sensitivity? and responsibility l guess). The football community was not left out? of the show of solidarity as? a minute of silence? was observed? by players of Lyon and Toulouse before their French Ligue 1 match kicked off Sunday.
It was a solemn but? historic moment? when about 40 world leaders? last Sunday? joined over a million of protesters? to match? in Paris following the murder of? two police officers? and 10 journalists? by lslamic extremists at the Paris office of the French satirical? magazine Charlie Hebdo and also the killing of four Jews at a Kosher supermarket .
The attackers, who were man-hunted? and killed by the police, accused the magazine of attacking the faith of Islam? and also? caricaturing Prophet Mohammed? in a very blasphemous manner to the chagrin of Moslems across the world.
It would be recalled that Charlie Hebdo? gained prominence in 2006 for provoking Muslim protests? around the world when it republished disparaging? cartoons of Prophet Mohammed which first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
President Jacques Chirac, who was then the president of France, joined others in condemning the publication and said ?Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,? . He stressed on the need for exercising utmost responsibility? and circumspection in the spirit of freedom of expression even as a bulwark? against anything that takes away one?s right to express a view on? any matter one deems fit.
But the captains of? the pencil? at Charlie Hebdo would not bat an eyelid for caution even after it was sued a year later by two Muslim organizations even though the court ruled that their publication did not provoke religious hatred.
In 2011 , the office of the magazine was firebombed and in 2012 sparked another controversy by doing what it likes best: mocking the Islamic faith. This again caused protests across the Muslim world leading to the loss of many innocent lives.
It is, however, interesting to note that before the attack last week, Charlie Hebdo?s editor Stephane Charbonnier sketched what became his last cartoon art asking why an attack on France had kept long in coming. ?Still no attacks in France. Wait! We have till the end of January to send our vows.?, Sadly, he could not live to see the end of January
The killings that took place last Wednesday must be condemned. No one deserves to die for expressing his dislike for any belief or faith and? not even to the extreme extent? of? ridiculing? such faiths. Why have men elected themselves to attack and kill on behalf of God or Allah? Religious fanaticism or? divine directives? I do not and can not serve a God who commands me to attack or kill anyone on his behalf.?? Such a God must count me? not as his child. Men have committed one too many dastardly acts in the name and on behalf of God. Enough already.
Having said that, one?s freedom of expression and association must go with responsibilities? and should never? be a carte blanche?? to? engage in stupidity, arrant provocation? and downright carelessness of the interests, faiths, beliefs and views of others. I believe it was in the spirit? of this that Maurice Sinet was sacked by Charlie Hebdo after refusing to apologise for publishing in a column statements that the magazine? considered to be racially spiteful.
It is in this regard that l share in the sentiments of Henri Roussel, one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo, that the magazine?s editor Charb? was reckless in his continuous publication? of materials that touched on the sensitivity of the lslamic faith which eventually dragged him and his colleagues to death at the hands of their attackers.
Intriguing enough, while 40 leaders across the world marched in solidarity with the 17 victims of the Paris attack, Muslims in Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Sudan took to the streets to demonstrate, with some getting violent, against the French satirical magazine for its anti-lslamic publications.? This unfortunately has led to the loss of four lives and destruction of properties in the Nigerien city of Zinder.
Marching for and against Charlie Hebdo? This would continue to happen if sanity and caution is not brought to bear in our attempts to overstep sensitive boundaries in respect of the beliefs and faiths of others under the? timeworn and abused? clich? of ?Freedom of speech?. It is also worth mentioning that the foreign minister of Morocco, Salaheddine Mezouar, who represented his country in France for the Unity March refused to participate when he spotted ?blasphemous cartoons depicting the Prophet? among the demonstrators.
The African Disease
And what was the motivation for some African leaders to fly all the way to France for the Unity March over the loss of 17 lives? What have these leaders done at ECOWAS and AU levels to dismantle? the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria which has killed over 9,000 people so far? Do our leaders value the lives of their own or once their safety is guaranteed by heavy security arrangements they do not care a button about the masses?
During that same week of the Paris attack, it was reported that Boko Haram went on rampage again by killing about 2,000? people in Baga and Doro Baga in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, a figure that the government denied by putting the number at 150. Guess what? The Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was busily tweeting and screaming #JeSuisCharlie on her handle expressing her ?deepest sympathies to the journalists and their families? Mama Ngozi did not find it appropriate to do same for the many lives lost in her own country. Perhaps, she was so much used to the death of her own people. The country is currently in an election mood and giving adequate protection to the lives of women and children and dismantling the front of Boko Haram have become a secondary issue. All eyes on Aso Rock.
It is however gratifying to hear President John Mahama pushing for an all-nations army force? across Africa to deal with the Boko Haram menace. Better late than never
We can longer continue to blame the West for the problems of Africa when our leaders have lost focus on the way forward by being clueless on the path to choose to make this continent better for us all. It is equally shameful and pathetic to observe the passive and dormant nature of the ruled in Africa towards holding public officers accountable for their mismanagement, corruption and incompetence due to petty partisan politicking, tribalism and other useless factors.
When Hara-Kiri Hebdo , another satirical magazine was banned in France? for mocking the death of President Charles de Gaulle, its staff moved to form? what is now known as Charlie Hebdo in 1970. The paper in its editorial made the point that the death of? 145 people in? a fire outbreak at a discotheque in France during that same period? deserved? much attention than De Gaulle?s and this got the regime in France livid to place the ban.
17 lives have been lost and 40 world leaders? and millions across the world have marched for them. Who is marching? for the 100,000s of women and children that have died and continue dying? in Afghanistan and Iraq since the US-NATO led invasion that went in search of weapons of mass destruction that never existed? 404 journalists(374 of which were Iraqis) have? lost their lives since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 according the BRussells Tribunal. Who is marching for them?
Several 1000s of lives have been lost in Libya since France with other western powers ousted Muammah Gaddafi in Operations Harmattan, Ellamy, Mobile and Odyssey Dawn which saw the firing of over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Who is marching for them?? The political atmosphere in Libya has since deteriorated.? These same western powers have armed what they call ?freedom fighters? and ?rebels? (same people they call ?terrorists? when they attack them)? who have killed about 200,000 people in their quest to oust Assad from power in Syria. Tell me, who is marching for them?
Adlai K. Stevenson, a former American politician and diplomat, could not have been wrong when he said ?A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.?
Our world is sick of political hypocrisy; we need an urgent cure to this malady to make Mother Earth a more habitable place for mankind; our women and children.
President Francois Hollande honoured, posthumously, three police officers who lost their lives during the Paris attacks. Lieutenant Franck Brinsolaro, Ahmed Merhabet and Clarissa Jean-Philippe were given a state burial on January 13.
One other police officer who was assigned to investigate the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Commissaire Helric Fredou, was reported to have committed suicide? Wednesday evening at the police headquarters in Limoges. On Thursday morning, he was found dead with a bullet in his head. What could have driven him to kill himself when a very important task of unraveling the circumstances? surrounding the attacks was given him? Where is the report that he was working on and who has taken over that task after his demise and how soon will that report be out?
Ahmed Coulibaly, the jihadist who killed the four Jews at the supermarket? had a criminal record which French authorities were aware of even before? 2009? when he met? the then French? President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace. What happened to him after?
Concerns are also being raised? about why such an attack on France when not too long ago she voted in the UN for an independent state of Palestine? and also her call for sanctions against Russia to be dropped. Was the Elysee Palace becoming? too compromising for the cause and needed to be shaken a little? The Charlie Hebdo attack was a false flag? Too much for conspiracy theories.
The writer, Romeo Adzah Dowokpor, is a journalist, social commentator, poet and a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra. He can be reached on [email protected]