While news arrived from Israel regarding the death of Ariel Sharon, undefeated hero of fair wars for some, die-hard champion of the most violent Zionism for others, in Paris the French Council of State, in a decision noted for its speed and controversial for its content, prohibited the presentation in the city of Nantes of comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala , artist from the suburbs of the capital, born of a Cameroonian father and a French mother. The arguments that the highest French court wielded were several, some more accurate than others, but were basically supported on the idea that the artist's new show, titled "The Wall ", sent a message of racial hatred and transgressed the limits of free speech by engaging in crimes such as denial of the Jewish Holocaust and "advocating the discrimination, persecution and extermination perpetrated during the Second World War". Immediately, voices advocating freedom of expression were heard, defending the right of the artist to disclose his political positions on a show that many find relevant and full of acute criticism regarding the foreign policy of the State of Israel and the Western world in general.
Taken by curiosity, I started digging through Youtube to find some of the recorded shows by Mr. M'bala M'bala, and I must confess that I found in some of them truly scathing and funny moments (you can see an example below). As I followed the English subtitles of the soliloquy, delivered in the most authentic vernacular jargon from the banlieues of Paris, I also understood the reasons why some critics (this editorial in Le Monde, for example) find it morally and even criminally questionable, for it is true that these shows cast doubt over the historical veracity of the Holocaust, incites violence against the children of Israel, and advocates for violence as the just defense entitled to Palestinians in the occupied territories. In favor of the comic and its methods of comic-political argument, it must be said as well that the way he makes his point is through a clever juxtaposition of concrete facts of "acceptable" official violence (colonial abuses of French in Cameroon, the use of chemical weapons by the Western powers, the Mossad assassinations , etc. ), on top of the violence, historically challenged, used by Palestinian extremists and their allies.
After all , Mr. Dieudonné has taken a step back and renounced to present his show, promising that he will change it for another one politically more acceptable. I think that was an easy step back, after having focused the media attention on the content of his message for a few days, precisely at the time of the death of one of the staunchest defenders of the use of violence as the only solution to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Perhaps this was for the better: I believe that everyone has the right to express political and religious views of any conflict or any believes, even if some will take offense (that is, after all, the meaning of freedom of expression); but I also believe that incitement to hatred and violence must be monitored, controlled and punished when the needed, and according to the laws of each sovereign state. And yet, I was thinking about the designs of European justice, and how it seems paradoxical (perhaps I should say hypocritical) that it made a decision so quickly in the case of Mr. M'bala M'bala, while it is still limping in a way so pitiful and so evident in the case of other pan-European examples of incitement to violence and racial hatred.
Let us stay in Paris, to go no further, and let us remember the famous cartoons of the leftist newspaper Charlie Hebdo, that for decades has been satirizing about extremism and laughing at political and religious fundamentalists in France and elsewhere . In 2006 Charlie Hebdo published a famous cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed saying : "It's hard to be loved by jerks", and immediately generated controversy over the stereotype that it created regarding followers of Islam. Again, here I think that the publication had the right to satirize about Islam, even if it was walking on the (nowadays dangerous) grounds of negative stereotypes. But those who sued Charlie Hebdo after the publication of the cartoon seemed to have a point, in that they showed clear evidence that the newspaper had repeatedly used the terms "Muslim" and "terrorist" interchangeably, thereby inciting racial stigmatization and making of so many French citizens who profess the religion of Muhammad an easy targets of popular hatred. Although President Jacques Chirac initially ruled against every manifestation that incited religious hatred, most political leaders in France supported the cartoon invoking freedom of expression . The Council of State, of course, did not condemn the publication of the cartoons, which had unfortunate results in terms of public order in the French capital.
Even more worrying is the threatening wave of racial hatred (mainly against Muslims) that is starting to take over some sectors of political power in Europe. In France, the stale ideals of Jean -Marie Le Pen (antisemitic himself and godfather of one of Mr. M'bala M'bala's daughters) have been rescued by his daughter Marine, who has compared the closure of certain streets in French cities to allow Muslim prayer with the Nazi occupation of the capital. In the Netherlands, a populist madman named Geert Wilders says to whoever that wants to listen that the Koran is a fascist book, that he hates Islam, and that the Islamization of Europe must be prevented at all costs. Even worse, a video widely circulated and directed by Wilders, shows extracts from the Koran followed by images of terrorist acts carried out by extremists is. I can hardly think of a more clear incitement to racial and religious hatred. Although several countries have (only temporarily) banned Wilders from entry into their territories, none of the criminal charges against him for inciting hatred have thrived. For these important European politicians, freedom of expression has always prevailed over hate crimes. Suppose we accept that rule. But why was not the same rule applied for Mr. M'bala M'bala?
Today's society has to deal with many ghosts: that of superstition, that of religious obscurantism, ethnic wars, etc. Yet, perhaps the most scary ghost that we face is that of our own ideological biases (and this applies also in Colombia). The political taboos of the twentieth century still haunt us and sometimes keep us from clearly discern the meaning of Justice. It is time for us to regard with new eyes, more self-critical eyes, the history of Mankind. It is time that things change, so that those who are first punished by the rule of law are not those who seek to draw attention to our contradictions, but those looking to establish themselves as representatives of the people perched on the rubble of our mutual hatred.