The World This Week: A Question of Freedom

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Founder & Editor-in-Chief Atul Singh provides a roundup of the week’s events.

The bloody attacks in Paris resulted in 17 deaths. Four Jews were killed at a kosher supermarket. They were buried in Jerusalem. At an emotional ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited all French Jews to leave their homes and move to Israel. He declared that Jews “have only one country, the state of Israel that will accept them with open arms, like beloved children.” He went on to say: “Today more than ever, Israel is our true home, and the more numerous we are, and the more united we are in our country, the stronger we are in our one and only state.”

Meanwhile, the French staged a unity march that drew millions to protest extremism. Many commentators observed that the street gatherings were the largest in France since the liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944. The surviving staff at Charlie Hebdo marched as well and published a 3 million-copy print run. Muhammad, a prophet in the eyes of Muslims, is on the cover against a green background. The words, “All is forgiven,” are above the cartoon.

The reaction to the cartoon in much of the Muslim world has been severe. Egypt’s highest Islamic authorities warned that the cartoon would exacerbate tensions between the secular West and observant Muslims. Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously condemned Charlie Hebdo’s “blasphemous caricatures” and urged the international community to discourage the publication of such “provocative material.” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif then left to meet ailing Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the third high level contact between the two strongly Islamic countries in less than a year.

The fundamental issue here pertains to freedom of speech. Many Muslim countries such as Pakistan are terrible places for minorities. Blasphemy can and often does lead to death. This was the case in Christian countries until not too long ago. The reason Portugal, Spain and Italy are almost completely Catholic is because they killed anyone who didn’t believe in Christ.

David Cameron © Shutterstock

David Cameron © Shutterstock

However, after centuries of struggle, freedom of speech now includes freedom to practice any religion or even attack the idea of God. Therefore, the likes of Tony Blair and George W. Bush can be devoutly Christian, while the likes of Richard Dawkins and Stéphane Charbonnier can mock the absurdities of religion. The White House doesn’t like much of what Fair Observer has to say, but it has no right to shut down this publication. Legislators in Pakistan and Muslim demonstrators need to understand that freedom is a right in many democracies, which political leaders cannot fetter anymore.

Speaking of freedom, British Prime Minister David Cameron is demonstrating a Putinesque approach to the Internet. He wants British intelligence agencies to have access to encrypted communications to “keep us safe” and is proposing a new legal framework that will strangle the Internet.

Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 people in Nigeria at the same time as the carnage in Paris. Ethan Zuckerman points out that even Nigerian media gave more attention to the Charlie Hebdo killings over the slaughter in their own country. Some lives clearly matter more than others.

A record 97 skyscrapers were constructed in 2014. They were at least 200 meters-tall and 58 of them were built in China. Fears of a bubble in construction in China are justified, although it is hard not to be impressed by the soaring ambition of the Middle Kingdom.

Germany balanced its federal budget for the first time since 1969. Critics see this as misguided austerity. Supporters see this as admirable German prudence. The reality is more complex. German banks have bad debts on their books and a default by Greece might expose their balance sheets. For now, Germany’s economy is humming along like a Porsche engine. In 2014, tax revenues climbed to nearly €271 billion, people at work reached a record high of 43 million and the unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 6.5%. Germans know that these good times will not last, and they are setting an example for the rest of Europe.

To revive the anemic eurozone economy, the European Union moved toward quantitative easing. The European Court of Justice affirmed the European Central Bank’s ability to buy unlimited amounts of government debt. Mario Draghi vowed to implement an “expansive monetary policy” as inflation fell to 0.1% in France and 0% in Italy.

You can receive “The World This Week” directly in your inbox. Please click here to subscribe. You can also sign up to our Daily Brief on the same form. Meanwhile, please find below five of our finest articles for the week.

[seperator style=”style1″]Media Coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga Massacre[/seperator]

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© Shutterstock

While 17 people died over three days of terror in France, 2,000 were killed at the hands of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Consider two tragic events that took place last week. A small cell of Islamist terrorists attacked cartoonists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and shoppers in a Paris supermarket, killing 17 people and sparking international outcry, solidarity and support. Read More

 

[seperator style=”style1″]Saving Mes Aynak, Revisited[/seperator]

© Brent Huffman

© Brent Huffman

Mes Aynak, one of Afghanistan’s most important cultural treasures, may be destroyed by the end of 2015.

My documentary, Saving Mes Aynak, which deals with the imminent threat facing the ancient city of Mes Aynak in Afghanistan, will have its premiere at the prestigious Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels (FIPA) in France at the end of January. Read More

 

[seperator style=”style1″]Religion is Just Morality Tales for Grown-Ups[/seperator]

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© Shutterstock

Atul Singh argues that Charlie Hebdo occurs when religion is taken literally, and once people can question, find jobs and have hope, they shalt not kill.

In 1600, the Roman Catholic Church burnt Giordano Bruno, a Renaissance philosopher who proposed that stars were just distant suns and some of their planets could foster life as well. The Inquisitors declared… Read More

 

[seperator style=”style1″]Why I Am Not Charlie[/seperator]

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© Shutterstock

Scott Long supports free speech, opposes all censors, abhors the killings and mourns the dead, but he isn’t Charlie.

There is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo on January 7. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it. Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive… Read More

 

[seperator style=”style1″]Kurdish Voices on Iraq’s Future Must Be Heard[/seperator]

Flickr

Flickr

Aras Ahmed Mhamad speaks to Kurds about their views on the Iraqi conflict against the Islamic State.

The lighting advance of the Islamic State (IS) in June 2014 remains a direct threat to coexistence in Iraq. Sparking intensified religious conflict, and economic and political disintegration, the sudden surge prompted fears of further destruction in the minds of the country’s… Read More

 

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