Freedom of expression and Islam: Charlie Hebdo’s lessons

This article studies specifics of Islamic understanding of freedom of expression and significant differences between Islamic and European understanding of that concept. Freedom of expression is recognized in Islam; however, it has significant and deeply-rooted peculiarities. In particular, Islam strictly prohibits imaging Prophet Muhammad, let alone making cartoons of him. For instance, from the perspective of Muslims, imaging Prophet Muhammad as a dog is extremely cynical, since a dog in Islam is an unclean animal inadvisable to contact with. Also, there is long-established perception of humour and its admissibility in Islam. For example, under Islamic law one shall not tell lies or scare another person; one shall not joke with an older person, a teacher, a scientist, a manager, a person who does not understand jokes, an unknown man or woman; a joke shall not be offensive or degrading a man or a family; one shall not joke about prohibited issues, tell dirty stories, disclose intimate details, resort to insults or slander. The article points out that Europeans perceive drawing cartoons of the Prophet as freedom of expression. However, in the eyes of Muslims such cartoons constitute violation of a number of prohibitions existing in Islam and therefore deeply insult their religious and cultural feelings. Such insults may cause religious conflicts with many victims, like the one that happened in the January of 2015 in the office of Charlie Hebdo French satirical weekly newspaper. To prevent similar and even more terrible tragedies in the future and release tension between Europeans and Muslims, primarily in Europe, the article explores the legal framework and conditions for restriction of freedom of expression set out in universal international law, the European Convention on Human Rights and relevant case-law of the ECHR. The set of the general and specific scientific methods of research were used by the authors according to the subject and scope of the study: sociological, statistical, dialectical, formal stylistic, axiological, hermeneutic, systemic, comparative legal method etc

Doi: 10.37635/jnalsu.28(1).2021.61-70