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Protest on PEN award to Charlie Hebdo

Text of the Protest Note Recorded by Chair Pakistan Focus on Pen America website (http://www.pen.org/comment/281#comment-281) :-

I am disappointed by the announcement regarding honoring of Charlie Hebdo with PEN award. This amounts to further provocating over 2 billion aggrieved Muslims the World over. Instead of closing the front and providing a healing touch to those hurt by the Charlie Hebdo caricatures, award aims at teasing the Muslims with a strong message that mainstream Western media would continue to side with such rash acts and actors. This would also make Charlie Hebdo category trash to feel confident that they could commit such rash acts and would not only get away with it , but would also be pampered. Message for the Muslim World is that you can go and hit the roof, we care two hoots for your sensitivities. Result: elevating the conflict to higher intensity.

Ironically, French law does prohibit speech that might invoke or support violence. France has speech laws that specifically address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This right is also recognized in international human rights law and the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ (ICCPR), subject to the provisos stipulated in its Articles 19(3) & 20. Article 19 of ICCPR states:

“1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.”
Furthermore, Article 20 of ICCPR states: “1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law. 2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

In 2010, UN Human Rights Council passed resolution “Combating defamation of Religions” that highlighted some Islam specific points. Concern was expressed that Islam is being frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism. Another resolution was passed in 2011 that expressed concern at the deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons in the media. Issue is on UNGA agenda; it adopts a resolution each year. However this resolution is non-binding. America and other Western countries do not implement this resolution on the pretext that it would curtail the freedom of expression.

Collective Human conscience has a responsibility towards History. It needs to harmonize and synergize its efforts to take the mankind out of this psychological morass. Pope’s statement, UNHRC resolutions and ICCPR provide adequate framework to resolve the issue. UN Security Council should cease the moment and adopt appropriate resolution under chapter 7 of the Charter.

To conclude I strongly condemn the announcement of PEN award for Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo should instead face accountability under French and International Law. Like some of the Nobel awards, this award for Hebdo Charlie is essentially politically motivated aimed at inflicting ling lasting insult of Muslims. I salute the group of 145 writers who have raised their voice against this unjust award to Charlie Hebdo.

[Featured image courtesy: “Paris 2006-02-11 anti-caricature protest bannieres dsc07473”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_2006-02-11_anti-caricature_protest_bannieres_dsc07473.jpg#/media/File:Paris_2006-02-11_anti-caricature_protest_bannieres_dsc07473.jpg]




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With love from India

My mother was forced to leave behind the city of her birth, Rawalpindi, when she was just 18 because of the tumultuous ruptures of Partition. She had never returned. When she was to turn 75, I thought the best gift I could give her was to take her, if it was at all possible, to the city and to the home in which she was born. I emailed my friends in Pakistan tentatively with my plan. They were immediately very welcoming. "Just get her a visa, leave the rest to us," they said. I applied for visas. It seemed then a small miracle that we got these easily. I booked our flight tickets, and before long we were on our way. Every night we would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night we found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice. “We will not charge money from our guests from India,” they would say each time. This happened for a full week. I have travelled to many countries around the world in the 60 years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan. This declaration is my latest act of sedition.

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