The Charlie Hebdo conference – US Muslim students take charge

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SHAFAQNA – The MCTC Muslim Student Association – Minneapolis Community and Technical College held a Charlie Hebdo forum on Feb. 18, in the Helland Center in Minneapolis, to educate the public about the shooting earlier this year in France. The forum panel featured three MCTC professors and a Muslim student.

The night started by explaining what Charlie Hebdo was and what it represented. Charlie Hebdo was a satirical magazine that made fun of political and famous figures. They drew a picture depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and it offended a lot of Muslims. A group of enraged young Muslims took it upon themselves and shot 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo building.

The first speaker, former student and practicing Muslim Shovkat Metekov, shared his thoughts on the shooting. Metekov said that he is like anyone and has favorite foods and but he tries his best to practice Islam.

“If you see something good within me, it is what Islam taught me,” he said. “But if you see something bad then know it is me.”

He explained that Islam is a religion and if a few people are bad, it does not mean that the masses are bad too.

“Islam says stand for yourself, not hurt people,” he said.

The next speaker Ruthanne Crapo, a Philosophy professor at MCTC, explained the history between France and the Muslims. France colonized Muslim lands in the eighteenth century and they knew they were not welcome there. In the early twentieth century, France killed more than one million Algerian Muslims. She explained that the Catholics did not revolt because they are like family and gave the example of someone criticizing their siblings but going over the line if they criticize the siblings of someone else let alone someone who they had shared a bloody past.

Dr. Matthew Palombo who is also a Philosophy and a World Religions teacher followed and spoke about absolute free speech and absolute censored speech. He explained the two extremes of speech.

“The first that absolute free speech is offensive to someone at some time in someplace and since it is offensive we should have absolute censored speech,” he said.  “Or it will be used to regenerate ignorance, hate, and that will result in destruction. “Therefore, censored speech is good to promote the common good for all.”

The argument there is if speech is morally good then it should be free. He explains that we should find a balance between both extremes especially when it comes to justice.

The last speaker, Arabic and World Religions professor Nadia Mohamed explained the clashes of narratives between the French and the Muslims on their views of Muhammad (PBUH). The French see him as a man who prompted violence and the Muslims see him as a merciful person.

Since there is a clash of narratives both sides need to hear each other out and have dialogue. The disconnection between religions has furthered conflict through history.

“Nothing justifies killing innocent people,” Mohamed said.

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