Is France turning its again on blasphemy?

Their nation born of revolt in opposition to Church and Crown, the French have lengthy cherished provocation and irreverence as a part of their revolutionary identification.

And with it the liberty to blaspheme.

However a deep-rooted custom of unapologetically poking enjoyable at males and gods alike could also be in peril 5 years after the lethal jihadist assaults on satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, the nationwide flag-bearer of outrageous commentary, observers say.

As many as two million folks and 40 world leaders marched in Paris after the bloodbath in January 2015, in a fierce defence of freedom of expression eternalised by the rallying cry: “I’m Charlie”.

However as 17 suspects go on trial over the assaults subsequent week, some appear to have misplaced their urge for food for affront.

Solely half of French respondents to a survey performed by pollsters Ifop for Charlie Hebdo in February this yr mentioned they supported the “proper to criticise, even outrageously, a non secular perception, image or dogma.”

Most opponents have been underneath 25.

“In a world that calls itself secular, a France that describes itself as much less and fewer spiritual, blasphemy has paradoxically turn into a serious taboo,” mentioned Anastasia Colosimo, a professor of political theology on the Sciences Po college in Paris.

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“Anti-clericalism or atheism is more and more seen as offensive. It’s now not trendy.”

It is a shift for the primary nation in Europe to decriminalise blasphemy — formally in 1881, however in observe already within the aftermath of the 1789 revolution.

“The refusal of the idea of blasphemy is imprinted within the very origins of the (French) republic,” political historian Jean Garrigues advised AFP.

“It’s linked to the historical past of the Church, to the supremacy of the Catholic Church in French society and (its) affiliation with the monarchy” overthrown by revolutionary republicans.

“It’s one thing that really goes to the guts of French identification.”


However some have pointed to a creeping tendency to self-censor, pushed partly by concern of violent retribution of the type unleashed on Charlie Hebdo by brothers Cherif and Mentioned Kouachi 5 years in the past.

The assault, within the identify of “avenging” the Muslim prophet Mohammed, claimed the lives of 12 folks, together with 5 cartoonists.

“With the assault of 2015, the truth of risking one’s life resulted in even stronger self-censorship,” mentioned Colosimo.

Charlie Hebdo, a fiercely secular and anti-racist publication, prides itself on being an equal-opportunity offender of bigots and non secular leaders of all persuasions. Nevertheless it got here in for specific criticism for a few of its Mohammed drawings, and never solely from Muslims.

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For Garrigues, a rising tendency to drag punches was pushed largely by a need on the political left to “not seem hostile” to minority teams.

In response to Charlie Hebdo itself, the outcomes of the February Ifop ballot revealed “big confusion between insult in opposition to a faith and its symbols — which is authorized — and a name to hatred in opposition to believers — which is punishable by legislation.”


Charlie Hebdo has continued to attract Mohammed and critique Islam.

However some say it has misplaced its zest, and one of many publication’s most outspoken journalists, Zineb El Rhazoui, give up in 2017 claiming it has gone mushy on Islamist extremism.

Cartoonist and Charlie Hebdo editor Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who misplaced using his proper arm however survived the 2015 assault by taking part in lifeless, advised AFP in January there was a normal tendency in France for political cartoons to be “extraordinarily consensual”.

“There’s not a lot editorial risk-taking on the a part of the newspapers and the drawings have gotten a bit insipid,” he mentioned.

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Critics say freedom-of-expression protections have progressively been watered down.

In 1972, the so-called Pleven Legislation, in a bid to combat racism, created the offences of insult, defamation, and incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination.

Holocaust denial has been unlawful in France since 1990.

“Because the Pleven Legislation, we now have solely toughened prohibitions, elevated penalties and lowered … rights,” mentioned Colosimo.


In January this yr, a renewed debate about freedom of expression erupted when an adolescent obtained demise threats for calling Islam “a shitty faith” in an expletive-laden Instagram rant.

France’s then-justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, whereas decrying the threats in opposition to the woman, got here in for widespread criticism for saying she had dedicated an “insult to faith”.

President Emmanuel Macron got here out in a robust defence of {the teenager}, Mila, and the correct of all French folks “to blaspheme, to criticise, to caricaturise faith.”

“Freedom of expression doesn’t exist to guard nice discussions,” mentioned Colosimo. “It’s there to guard discussions which offend, which shock, which alarm.”

And with no protected public platform for heated discussions, she warned, “we might encounter them in a distinct method, in phrases which can be much more violent, or in actions.”

Shreya Sharma

Hey this is Shreya From ShoppersVila News. I'm a content creator belongs from Ranchi, India. For more info contact me [email protected]

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