#MuslimsNeedFreeSpeechToo: Because free speech and Islam are not mutually exclusive.

The coverage over the Charlie Hebdo shootings have largely drawn a false dichotomy between free speech and Islam, as though you are either for one or the other. There have been people who have spoken up against the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and other bigotries in Charlie Hebdo’s comics while simultaneously supporting freedom of speech and denouncing the murders, while some Muslims have decided to participate in #JeSuisAhmed to grieve the death of Ahmed Merabat, the French Muslim police officer who gave up his life to protect Charlie Hebdo.

I want to take a different tack. Instead of proclaiming “Je Suis Charlie”, knowing full well that CH would be super unlikely to support me if I do end up dealing with major repercussions for my freedom of speech (I moved from Malaysia for a reason), I want to stand in solidarity with the other Muslims around the world who have had their free speech repressed, curtailed, and killed by non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Some of them were attacked for being Muslim, some of them were attacked for being the wrong kind of Muslim, some of them were attacked for reasons unrelated to their religion. Some of them are free, some of them are still under confinement (literal or figurative), some of them are dead.

This is just scratching the surface. This is hardly an exhaustive list. They are not alone.

Here are the stories of the people in the photo (left to right per row):

Pro-Palestinian protests in Paris have recently been banned by the Parisian police chiefs, within a day of the shootings.

Malaysian Muslim feminist organization Sisters in Islam were hit with a fatwa accusing them of “liberalism” and “pluralism”; when challenging this fatwa in court, right-wing Islamic political parties hassle them further.

British-Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami was one of a group of Iranian women arrested for trying to watch a men’s football match; she staged a hunger strike while imprisoned.

UAE lawyer and human rights activist Mohammed Al-Roken, who took on cases that no one else would touch, was one of 69 people convicted of a ‘plot to overthrow the United Arab Emirates government’.

Nisha Ayub, as part of Malaysian trans rights organization Justice for Sisters, spoke up for 16 transwomen jailed in Malaysia for ‘crossdressing’.

Prominent Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who had blown the whistle on U.S. involvement with the al-Majalah bombing, was jailed by the Yemeni government for “terrorism-related charges”. His pardon was rescinded partly due to a call from U.S. President Obama to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salleh about “concerns” over his release.

Syed Azmi Alhabshi, a young Malaysian man, goes into hiding after Malaysian Muslim authorities attack him for his attempt to educate people about dogs and Islam.

Canadian artist Sooraya Graham gets all kinds of backlash in and out of art school for her photo of a Muslim woman holding up a bra while folding laundry.

Palestinian journalists Sameh Al-Aryan and Rami Rayan were killed in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Hui Muslims in the western Chinese province of Gansu were brutally attacked by Tibetan Buddhists following plans to build a mosque in the city.

Sudanese youth activist Ussamah Mohammed was detained after criticizing the Sudanese government in an Al-Jazeera video.

Egyptian-German woman Marwa Ali El-Sherbini was murdered while testifying in court against Alex Wiens (now her killer) who had attacked her verbally at a park in Dresden for wearing a hijab. 

US-based imams Didmar Faja, Mohamed Said Mitwaly Ibrahim, Marwan Sadeddin, Omar Shahin, Ahmad al-Shqeirat, and Mahmoud Sulaiman were booted off a US Airways flight after frightened passengers assumed their praying and banter were indications of a terrorist plot.

Prominent Indonesian human rights activist Munir Said Thalib was poisoned with arsenic on a flight between Jakarta and Amsterdam; ten years on, there are still allegations that more people in power have yet to be brought to justice.

Pakistani-Norwegian singer Deeyah was attacked for her music video What Will It Be? which challenges patriarchal notions of women in Islam.

Syrian satirical cartoonist Ali Ferzat has come under fire for his work directly speaking up against the repression and injustices of the Syrian government.

Loujain Al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi were arrested in Saudi Arabia while actively opposing and defying a ban against women driving in Saudi Arabia.

As I said before, this list is not exhaustive: if you have any more names to add, or have some corrections, please feel free to add to the post.

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