Religion should not be a political argument

Here is a segment of Gerard Biard on Meet the Press.

The chief editor of Charlie Hebdo is defending the magazine’s controversial depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, saying it skewers religious figures only when faith gets “entangled” in the political world.

“We do not attack religion, but we do when it gets involved in politics,” Gerard Biard said in an interview with Chuck Todd broadcast on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“If God becomes entangled in politics, then democracy is in danger,” Biard said through a translator in his first interview with an American television network since his magazine was attacked by Islamist terrorists. The attack on Jan. 7 killed 12 people, including staff members.

And not just democracy. Human rights are in danger, freedom of speech and inquiry are in danger, for women freedom of travel and work and reproduction and dress are in danger – so many rights and freedoms that we take for granted are in danger. The god invented by people two or three thousand years ago doesn’t like people like us; it wants us tamed and silenced and enslaved.

I transcribed a bit that starts around 2 minutes –

Every time that we draw a cartoon of Mohammed, every time that we draw a cartoon of  the prophets, every time that we draw a cartoon of god, we defend the freedom of conscience, we declare that god must not be political or a public figure. He must be a private figure. We defend the freedom of religion. Yes it’s also the freedom of speech, but it’s the freedom of religion. Religion should not be a political argument.

H/t Dave Ricks


  1. says

    Religion should not be a political argument

    I don’t actually buy the argument that religion can be separated from politics. Unless you (effectively) don’t believe strongly or act on your religion – religion is political control and that’s all it is. Saying “yeah, but it doesn’t control me” is missing the point of the entire exercise. Someone who says their religion doesn’t affect their actions is an atheist.

  2. Kevin Kehres says

    I find it almost impossible to engage in a fruitful discussion over this issue because of the dogged persistence of many to filter French culture through American values.

    Honestly, the French are a different people than we are. It’s a very different culture. Just as Spain is different, and Germany is different, and Greece is different, and on and on. And yet we treat them like they all have the same values as one-another and also have (or should) have the same cultural biases as Americans.

  3. Dave Ricks says

    A few minutes before NBC aired Meet the Press yesterday, Chuck Todd talked with local NBC Washington DC co-anchors Angie Goff and Adam Tuss to introduce the broadcast of Meet the Press as a whole. I transcribed what they said about the interview with Gérard Biard:

    ADAM TUSS: He was unapologetic, right?

    CHUCK TODD: Unapologetic, but tried to offer the explanation of what he says is the editorial line that he draws when it comes to satirizing religion. He says they only choose to satirize religion when people are trying to use the prophet Mohammed, Jesus, as ways to advance a political agenda. And he says they are not mocking believers, that he is trying to draw that line. Now a lot of people don’t view that there is a difference between doing that, but that was his explanation, that they’re not attacking people who believe, that have faith, they are only attacking those who are trying to use it for political purposes. But it’s a — you know — I understand the nuanced argument, but it is a tough one to sell to folks of faith, I think.

    ANGIE GOFF: Since all this, we’ve seen more protests erupt, as well as more terror plots foiled in the last week. So when we’re talking strategy — what the US is doing to avoid these near-misses — are we at a point where we need to change strategy, as we see this global terrorism network continue to evolve and just get bigger? US officials have admitted that.

    CHUCK TODD: Well there seems to be, the one piece of the strategy that has never really worked is an old phrase I’m going to borrow from Vietnam: Hearts and Minds. That’s the missing piece here, because we kill a lot of the enemy, but we haven’t defeated the enemy — right, the radicalization part of it — so the question is why. Why is it that they can cut off a snake head, and four other groups pop up. It’s been constantly a problem, and it moves around, so the name has changed, but the ideology is the same. And I think now we’re at 14 years of this. And so the Hearts and Minds aspect of this, that you hear the President talk about it, you hear others talk about it — but it is, I think there — there’s this feeling there isn’t a lot of good answers right now.

    I don’t have good answers either, but part of the problem occurs to me: Even if political satirists are careful to maintain the distinction Biard explained — to satirize the use of religion for political purposes, not satirize individual belief — the religious individuals who want religious government are bent on conflating those things. As Pat Paulsen said when he ran for US President in 1968, “Freedom of speech in no way guarantees freedom of hearing.”

    I still think the political satire should exist. The alternative would put totalitarianism off-limits from satire.


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