Islam is not a race

January 15, 2015






By now, you have all heard of the vicious and bloody attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.


The attack, which left 12 dead and 11 wounded, was a disgusting assault on freedom of speech and civilization as a whole by cowardly swine who distort the teachings of a religion to further their violent goals.


Publications around the world published cartoons and articles condemning the horrid attacks.


However, another section of the population spoke up, their main argument being that while we might support Charlie Hebdo’s use of free speech, we do not have to agree with its message.


The cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were frequently and unabashedly disrespectful of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and other religions.


Some of the cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed in various states of undress (and one showing him kissing a man) were claimed by a few to be racist.


The claim of racism ignores one thing, however: Islam is not a race.


Race is something you are born with. It is something you cannot shed. It is also something that differentiates you in no way from your fellow man (or, at least, in an ideal world it wouldn’t).


Islam is something else entirely. It is a belief system. If they wished, they could wake up one day and say, “I am not a Muslim.”


Coming on the heels of European continent-wide anti-Islamic protests, a few commentators argued Charlie Hebdo’s satirical attacks on Islam was doing nothing but kicking European Muslims while they were down.


One more insult added to the growing consensus that they do not belong.



My opinion on the anti-Islamic protests can best be summed up by the famous Cologne Cathedral’s decision to extinguish their lights during the rally.


“Not in our light,” they told the gathered.



The protests against Islam, especially the ones demanding Muslims leave, are a cruel and xenophobic action that helps nobody and hurts many.


They show many people are still stuck in the mindset that all Muslims must be radical fundamentalists, a fact that is wrong both morally and factually.


But I do not think we can put Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in the same boat.


Do I think they had any respect for Islam? Hell, no. But staging protests against a religious group and poking fun at its prophet are two entirely different things.


Respect for a religion belongs in many places. If I go into a mosque, a church or a synagogue, I am not going to do anything that would be disrespectful to the beliefs of whatever house of worship I am in.


In the public dialogue, however, and especially in comedy, putting religion off limits opens up dangers of censorship.


Do I think Charlie Hebdo was a noble publication? No.


Its comedic writers very much intended to piss people off, possibly more than they intended to make people laugh. But the very fact that these comedians died for doing what they did shows what they did was important.


If someone threatens you with violence for saying something, you should say it louder.


Je Suis Charlie. Vie de la liberté d’expression.


John Sadler is a junior journalism major from Extension who serves as editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to jts040@latech.edu.


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