Guest post: Those who want to limit free expression in the Muslim diaspora

Originally a comment by veil_of_ignorance on “The very existence of Charlie Hebdo is a manifestation of gross privilege”.

Inconsistent, self-defeating rubbish!

Generally, privilege is linked to the unequal distribution of something positive, something which people would like to have, something which Rawls might have called a primary good or Sen/Nussbaum would have called a capability. In this regard, free expression could indeed be a privilege if it is unequally distributed. However, given its nature as an universally-desirable good, people cannot be blamed for wanting it and using it. Privilege is always a problem of the distribution of a good and not of the good itself. Therefore, CH could only be criticized for their privilege if they exploited it to contribute to the unequal distribution of said privilege – i.e. by suppressing the free expression of others. This is certainly not the case. It might be true that CH had a larger capability of free speech/expression than the French Muslim population. However, the attacks on CH were not motivated by the desire the redistribute free expression – they were motivated by an ideology which fundamentally denies the desirability of free expression. Those who deny other people’s free expression can hardly ask for it themselves.

Furthermore, the author ignores the global context. Free speech in the MENA region is severely (and increasingly) curtailed by authoritarian and/or theocratic state and non-state actors. In fact, Muslims in France have for greater capabilities for free speech and expression than Muslims in Algeria, where thousand of left-wing intellectuals have been slaughtered by the FIS because they refused to be silenced. It is absurd and almost insulting to criticize CHs fight against the theocratic elements in Islam, which want to get rid of free speech, by referring to the limited free expression the Muslim diaspora. Those who want to limit free expression in the Muslim diaspora were the ones who shot.


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