Justice Katju: What was wrong in what Macron said?


Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

There is a lot of uproar in the Muslim world, and even in countries in which Muslims are in a minority such as India, against French President Macron. But what exactly did Macron say?

Justice Markandey Katju

I carefully heard Macron’s speech on the Internet. He did not say anything against Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. All he said was that 1) there is a crisis in Islam, and 2) if you are a French citizen you must permit cartoons of religious figures.

As regards the first statement, in fact, there was a crisis in Islam soon after the Prophet’s death when there was a schism between Sunnis and Shias, and there have been schisms regularly thereafter, for example between Wahabis and Sufis, Deobandis and Barelvis. There is as yet a schism between those who go to Dargah and those who regard going to Dargahs as idol worship.

The Prophet and Islam spread the great message of equality, which gave social emancipation to the suppressed sections of society, but in India and Pakistan most Muslims follow the caste system (see my article ‘Caste among Indian Muslims’  on my blog, Satyam Bruyat).

There was a crisis in Islam when the great Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk modernized Turkey banning sharia, burqa and madarsas and suppressed the clerics, for which he was reviled and castigated bu many orthodox Muslims in many parts of the world. There was a crisis when the Ahmadiya sect was persecuted (see my article ‘Barbaric persecution of Ahmadiyas in Pakistan’ at rabwah.net ) and Ordinance XX was made by Gen Zia-ul-Haq for this purpose.

There was a crisis when blasphemy laws (sections 295B and 295C) were made which were used to persecute minorities in Pakistan, for example the Christian woman Asiya Bibi. Even the lawyers defending such alleged blasphemers were often killed.

And there is a crisis when some bigoted Muslims commit acts of violence in many parts of the world, the latest incidents being the beheading of the French schoolteacher Samuel Paty in Paris and killing three persons in a church in Nice.

So what was wrong with what Macron said?

As regards Macron’s second statement, it must be remembered that France is a liberal country that does not have blasphemy laws like sections 153A and 295A in India, or like sections 295A, 295B or 295C in Pakistan.

So, while blasphemy is an offense in India, Pakistan and other countries having blasphemy laws, it is not an offense in France or other countries not having such a law.

The cartoons of Prophet Muhammad were made in France (and Denmark ) not in India or Pakistan, and it is perfectly legal to make them there.

In fact, Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine whose 12 members were killed and 11 injured by two fanatics in 2015, had also published cartoons of Jesus Christ and other religious figures of Catholics, Jews, etc — not just of Prophet Muhammad.

So, President Macron was right in saying that such cartoons were legally permissible in France.

I personally believe that no one’s religious feelings should be hurt.

Muslims respect the Prophet ( which I do too ). But that is a different issue. If one is living in a certain country one has to obey that country’s laws.

So if one does not like such cartoons then one should leave France (or other countries not having blasphemy laws ) and migrate to some other country.

But if you wish to live in France and are offended by such cartoons, the only option you have is to either ignore them or peacefully and legally protest against them, not take the law into your own hand by committing acts of violence.