This comment examines the tension between freedom of expression and freedom of religion by embedding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a wider, century-old European tradition of publications mocking religion, including Christianity. It describes, and draws lessons from, the 19th century blasphemy case against the British Freethinker newspaper, whose “technique of offense” was similar to that of Charlie Hebdo. Finally, the comment tackles the problem of violent response to text or images that mock religion, pointing out that malicious intermediaries often carry such messages between social groups or across national borders—greatly escalating the risk of violence.
Stefan Simons“Charlie Hebdo” Editor in Chief: “A Drawing Has Never Killed Anyone”Der Spiegel20 September 2012 available at <www.spiegel.de/international/europe/charlie-hebdo-editor-in-chief-on-muhammad-cartoons-a-856891.html> 12 October 2015.
Jason Abbruzzese‘What is Charlie Hebdo? Behind the covers of the French satirical magazine targeted in deadly attack’Mashable7 January 2015 available at <www.mashable.com/2015/01/07/charlie-hebdo-magazine/#YOuptZLQtGqx> 12 October 2015.
Christopher Hitchens‘Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion’Slate4 February 2006 available at <www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2006/02/cartoon_debate.html> 12 October 2015.
Angelique Chrisafis‘Charlie Hebdo attackers: Born, raised, and radicalised in Paris’The Guardian12 January 2015 available at <www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/12/-sp-charlie-hebdo-attackers-kids-france-radicalised-paris> 11 October 2015.