The discussions necessary to understand not only the attacks on journalists, but also our reaction to these attacks – are they reflecting Islam or just extremism – strikes at the heart of Western core values – freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Proclaiming ‘Je suis Charlie’ Hebdo makes us realize a difficult problem with tolerance: that we have to tolerate to some degree intolerance, at least in speech. Which insult is worth protecting? What is hate speech? Should the French, in defending Muslims from their extremist members prohibit Marine Le Pen’s Front National from joining this weekend’s unity rally for freedom of speech, well knowing that the latter wants to oppress freedom of expression of some Islamic cultural identity and even calls for a reinstatement of the death penalty in France?
Neither Christian nor Muslim, Arab nor European cultures allow all forms of expression. But how they differ in regulating public life is certainly the core issue in resolving cultural integration and coexistence. Our American Constitution is specifically protecting freedom of speech, religion and assembly, and today promotes the strongest protection of the individual, not just a particular creed. When fundamentalist Evangelicals claim that our Nation is a Christian Nation, they lay the same claim of religious law on the public sphere as does Sharia law in Muslim countries.
We want all citizens – including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Atheists – to live their life according to their believes, without allowing any group to force their particular creed on the other groups. Protecting minority rights is what this Democracy and Republic is all about. The American Revolution brought us a Constitution that defines liberty as the freedom from Government intrusion into our homes, practices of thought and religion. This must be most ‘sacred’ to all of us. This separation of Church from State. And any participant – old or new – must adhere to this fundamental agreement while living her life as she wishes.