Demand That France Show Consistency in Free Speech Policies Surrounding Anti-Islam Film

Target: Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault

Goal: Eliminate the free speech double-standard set forth by French leadership about an anti-Islam film

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French weekly, recently published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad criticizing an anti-Islam film, as well as the related violence it has sparked. These pictures have only been further antagonizing, but French leadership has gone on record saying that it defends the newspaper’s free speech rights to publish such images.

In 2011, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula filmed the anti-Islam movie, Innocence of Muslims. Videos were uploaded onto Youtube in 2012, allowing it to be spread and eventually shown on an Egyptian-Islamist television station. Riots quickly broke out in Egypt and Libya by those angered by the film, spreading eventually to other Muslim and Arab nations. At least 28 deaths have been attributed to unrest over the film.

There had been a planned protest scheduled to be held by people angry over the film in France, but the French government has now declared that it is banning the protest and will not authorize it with its police forces. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that, “there’s no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn’t concern France come into our country. We are a republic that has no intention of being intimidated by anyone.”

The double-standard presented here is both nonsensical and harmful, whichever way one chooses to look at it. If Ayrault and the government support enough freedom of speech to allow the spread of inflammatory religious images, it should be tolerant enough to simultaneously allow the opinions of those angered to be expressed freely.

If the government chooses not to stand for protests under the logic of discouraging further violence and unrest, there is merit to the ban on protests. However, this should then be consistent with zero tolerance for the free publication of insulting religious imagery within the media. This imbalance needs to be corrected. Sign this petition and demand that France eliminates this absurd double-standard.


Dear Prime Minister Ayrault,

Recently, you expressed your belief that there is, “no reason to let a conflict that doesn’t concern France come into the country,” in regards to a planned protest by people who were angered by the anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims. Yet, you’ve also declared that the publication, Charlie Hebdo, has the free speech protected right to publish inflammatory images of the Prophet Muhammad.

There is a conflict here, as your stance on both issues is at odds. If you believe that there’s “no reason” to allow unrest over this film to enter your country, why then would you tolerate the publishing of crude religious imagery in your newspapers, satirical or not? It’s existence does just that; it brings the conflict into your media. Likewise, if free speech is truly being maintained, why bar the expression of justified anger resulting from this type of imagery?

It is necessary that you come down on one side or the other and show consistency for the good of your people. As a responsible leader, you must allow free speech across the board or disallow the spread of media which only adds more oil to the fire.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: See Wah via Flickr

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