It was in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, last week: Samuel Paty was brutally murdered for showing his students a caricature of Muhammad. The assassin, an Islamist fundamentalist, showed up at the end of his college on the day of his departure for the All Saints holidays. Once the teacher was identified, he was beheaded in the middle of the street.
At the University of Ottawa, Verushka Lieutenant-Duval was harassed for using the word “nigger”. Far from being supported by her administration, she was suspended after being the subject of a campaign of intimidation and threats on the Internet. She also says she feared for her safety.
Even if they obviously do not have the same magnitude, everything contributes to bring together these two events which occurred thousands of kilometers apart. What are Samuel Paty and Verushka Lieutenant-Duval guilty of if not for having exercised their teaching profession with integrity and not having yielded to communal pressures which encouraged them to self-censor?
The first gave a civic and moral education course on freedom of expression. It was in this context that he used to show his students two caricatures of Muhammad. It was not a question of passing a moral judgment on these drawings and even less of promoting them, but of knowing if, in a secular society, one was free to caricature Mahomet. It was for breaking a precept of Islam that he was assassinated.
Verushka Lieutenant-Duval was teaching theory queer intended to illustrate how this word has changed in meaning over time. Exactly like the word “negro”, which has not had the same meaning throughout history in the mouths of a slave owner, Aimé Césaire, Jean Genet or James Baldwin. It was for violating the new anti-racist dogma that she was harassed and suspended.
Because the people who kill in the name of Muhammad and those who censor words share the same way of thinking. For Muslims who take the Koran literally, any portrayal of Muhammad is sacrilege. So are anti-racism fanatics who believe that words have a given essence once and for all and that just saying them, regardless of the context, makes you what you would once have called a devotee of Satan. The fundamentalist logic here is exactly the same.
Islamists and racialists share another thing in common. Like all fundamentalists, they infantilize the citizen and deem him incapable of forming an opinion for himself. As if readers of Charlie Hebdo were not able to judge for themselves from a caricature. As if a university student could not judge, depending on the context, the use of a word. We touch here at the heart of the democratic and republican idea for which there is no revealed truth. Living in a democracy means accepting, while respecting the law, being constantly exposed to contrary ideas. Even shocking. The right not to be shocked does not exist in our regions.
Any complacency with regard to these censors can therefore only be fatal. After Muhammad, what other god (religious or secular) will we be forbidden to caricature? After the “word in n”, what other word, in s, in r or in z will we declare taboo? The alphabet will not be enough! It will be noted in passing that this layer of English
(« N word “) With Puritan accents ironically recalls” The One-Of-One-Must-Not-Pronounce-The-Name “, otherwise called” the Dark Lord “in Harry Potter. Just yesterday, in Quebec, the giant clam frogs also believed they were avoiding purgatory by saying “tabarnouche”… instead of “tabernacle”? Hence the richness and diversity of our swear words.
We’d be laughing about it if it weren’t so bad. As they follow the same logic, it will come as no surprise that these two fundamentalism, Islamist and racialist, find a way to ally and support each other. It has even become a habit. When it comes to Islam, the anti-racist movement is absent subscribers, like the far left in general, for fear of “amalgamation”.
Besides, would the murder of Samuel Paty not have deserved a reaction as massive as that of George Floyd in the United States? same Justin trudeau forgot to send condolences. Of course, Samuel Paty has the fault of being French, not American. But what displeases him most, both Islamists and racialists, is this universalist thought inspired by the Enlightenment for which man is not first defined by his sex, his race or his religion.
It is this idea that Emmanuel Macron recalled on Wednesday during the tribute paid to the Louvre, citing the words of the secular educator Ferdinand Buisson addressed to the teachers:
“We must take the human being, however small and humble he may be […] and give him the idea that he can think for himself, that he owes neither faith nor obedience to anyone, that it is up to him to seek the truth and not to receive it ready-made from a master , of a director, of a leader whatever it is, temporal or spiritual. “