Free vs Hate Speech in France: Charlie Hebdo Threat

Charlie Hebdo Shooting

The line between free speech and hate speech, is constantly debated. When does one cross the line of expressing an opinion to openly to encouraging hatred of a group? Ridiculing a belief system is protected under free speech, as long as one is not inciting hate or violence against the followers of that belief system. Free speech exists to allow us to openly express our beliefs, and argue with others about theirs.

France has, for a long-time, separated church and state.

This, in turn, has taught them the worth of freedom and civil liberties. However, those civil liberties lead to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The Islamists are accepted in France, under the protection of free speech. They openly preach about their religion, and spread their ideals. Many Muslim beliefs are the exact opposite of the ideas expressed in the French constitution. However, their beliefs are tolerated in France, because of free speech.

Eventually, free speech can turn into hate speech.

But where is that line drawn? Everyone is free to voice an opinion. Politeness is not the issue, when it comes to voicing an opinion. People can even choose to listen to an opinion. Ridiculing a belief system is not hate speech, as long as you do not incite hate or violence against that belief’s system followers. This is the reason that preachers have the freedom to mock certain ways of life. Freedom of speech works both ways. If the freedom of speech to preach and mock certain ways of life exists, then the freedom of speech for someone to ridicule your beliefs must exist.

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The Charlie Hebdo shootings can be seen as the biggest threat to free speech this year. This is not because of intimidation, as the French did not cave into the demands of the terrorists. Charlie Hebdo had no choice but to publish a depiction of Muhammad, following the attack. If they hadn’t, the terrorists would have won and set an example that violence can silence criticism of a belief system. Muslims do have the free speech to express their anger at Charlie Hebdo for publishing a caricature of their prophet. However, being offended, does not mean hate speech has occurred.

Freedom of speech may cover publications, like Charlie Hebdo, but they do not add anything constructive to any idea. Free speech can be used to mock any religion. But buying a magazine or newspaper that mocks a religion for no reason other than to offend the followers of that religion, adds nothing to society. Freedom of speech does work both ways. The freedom to ignore and ridicule other people does exist. However, Charlie Hebdo was heading towards bankruptcy for a reason.

France is a country where even minorities can express their views, without the fear of being prosecuted. Ridiculing a belief system and is protected under free speech, as long as one does not incite hate or violence against the followers of that belief system. Free speech allows a society to openly voice their beliefs, and hopefully those beliefs contribute to society. However, a group simply being offended by one’s opinion does not make that opinion hate speech.

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Free vs Hate Speech in France: Charlie Hebdo Threat. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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