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As a Muslim journalist, I’m not OK with the Charlie cover

I’m appalled by the renewed satirizing of Prophet Muhammad in Charlie Hebdo, not only as a Muslim but also as a journalist.

My condemnation stems from the fact that the Prophet is a revered figure in my faith who should not be drawn out — let alone satirized in untoward illustrations — according to widely held Islamic traditions.

But my condemnation goes deeper than that. As a person of faith, and a person of colour, it baffles me that the right to freedom of speech is being used as a right to be racist and bigoted toward Muslims, which is made clear by the obscene cartoons in editions of Charlie.

Muslims are a racialized demographic, with the majority of French Muslims coming from a North African background, while in Canada, the majority of Muslims are of Pakistani, Indian, Arab or Iranian origin.

I’ve heard the phrase “Muslims aren’t a race” many times, but just about every asinine image of Muslims or the Prophet in Charlie depicts them as brown or black individuals.

Working in the media, I understand the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech and how that involves making moral judgments in news coverage on a daily basis. One of the main reasons why I got into this profession is because of its power to be a voice for the minority.

I can’t help but feel that publishing the satirical Muhammad cartoons does nothing more than allow a select few to flaunt their privilege to laugh at images that further antagonize an already marginalized group, especially in France.

These cartoons play into people’s fears of Muslims and are used to justify increased surveillance on a national scale. They also fuel the rampant Islamophobia that is now raging in France, with at least 60 reported anti-Muslim incidents since the Charlie attack, from firebombs and pig heads thrown into mosques, to veiled women subjected to insults on the street. At the same time, I understand that Islam forbids violently censoring free speech, as the gunman did in the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The Prophet himself faced violence and verbal ridicule from individuals, but never used harsh words or physical force in return. It’s his example that I’ll continue to follow.

Ali Zafar is a copy editor and writer for Metro News.

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