Montreal, 8th January 2015 — Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT), an association which promotes secularism and supports the rights of atheists, condemns the horrific attack yesterday on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which two well armed and very professional gunmen killed 12 persons, including eight journalists and two policemen, before shouting “Allahu Akbar” and bragging that they had avenged the prophet Muhammad, then fleeing through the streets of Paris. . . .
This is a tragic and horrific event. We express our condolences to the friends, colleagues, families and loved ones of the deceased and the wounded. Beyond the grief and mourning for this senseless extinguishing of human life, this event is an attack on the fundamental freedoms of all human beings: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to be informed. It is a blow in favour of obscurantism and dogmatism.
The best way that we as Canadians can honour the victims of today’s attack and pay homage to their legacy is to repeal Section 296 of the Criminal Code which makes “blasphemy” a crime and to work assiduously for the repeal of all laws in all countries which criminalize “blasphemy” or apostasy. We must also repeal paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Hate Propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code because it exempts religious discourse from prosecution, thus granting a dangerous privilege to religions, permitting them to make hateful statements with impunity. . . .
It is this sense of entitlement held by religious leaders and many believers, the attitude that their tenets are so divinely important as to be above the law, to be more important than even basic human decency, which is at the root of today’s attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Imtiaz Ahmed, an Ottawa imam, manifests “this sense of entitlement” and believes religion is “so divinely important as to be above the law.” Ahmed’s opinions are given far too much space in a National Post article:
An Ottawa imam has denounced the terrorist attack on a Paris weekly newspaper that killed 12 people, but he says satirical cartoons of religious leaders should be illegal.
Imtiaz Ahmed, an imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said it should be against the law to publish cartoons that depict religious figures in a derogatory way.
“Of course we defend freedom of speech, but it has to be balanced. There has to be a limit. There has to be a code of conduct,” Ahmed said.
“We believe that any kind of vulgar expression about any sacred person of any religion does not constitute the freedom of speech in any way at all.”
Who are “we,” and who are religious figures and sacred persons? Are imams, priests, ministers sacred persons or is Ahmed referring to Jesus and Muhammad: main characters in grim fairy tales and in the Jesus and Mo comics?
According to Imtiaz Ahmed, “there should be limits placed on freedom of speech to prevent the publication of offensive material”; however, Ahmed can say whatever he wants and can advocate for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression because he is protected by section 319(3)(b) of the Criminal Code:
No person shall be convicted of an offence . . . if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text.
Ahmed wants to decide what is and is not “illegal”; he wants depictions of “religious figures” to adhere to “a code of conduct.” Atheist Freethinkers, and atheist freethinkers disagree: “nous sommes Charlie Hebdo.”