Justin Trudeau says ‘freedom of expression has its limits’ when asked about Muhammad cartoon

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that freedom of expression had its limits when asked about cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

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Earlier this month, a French teacher was beheaded for showing a cartoon depiction of the prophet of Islam Muhammad during a debate on freedom of speech. 

Since then, France has been cracking down on radicalized Islamist cells within the country. Nonetheless, yesterday, three individuals were killed during church service when an Islamist terrorist entered the church. The church official was stabbed to death while an elder woman was beheaded. Another victim managed to escape but died shortly after from her wounds. 

Commonly, Muslims avoid visual depictions of Muhammad. Radical Islamists have made such depictions a severe affront to their religion, making it punishable by death in some countries. On January 7th, 2015, twelve employees of the magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed in an Islamist terrorist attack for publishing cartoons of Muhammad. 

During a press conference Friday, the Canadian prime minister was asked what he thought about the right to depict Muhammed in relation to the recent public violence in France. 

The prime minister answered that he would “always defend freedom of expression.” He then added: “But freedom of expression is not without limits. You can’t, for example, shout ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theatre; there are always limits. In a pluralistic, diverse and respectful society like ours, we must be aware of the impact of our words and actions on others, especially those communities and populations that still experience a great deal of discrimination.” 

Justin Trudeau explained further how speech and even facts can hurt people.

“It is a matter of respect, not to seek to dehumanize or deliberately hurt. There is always an extremely important debate, a sensitive debate to have about possible exceptions on issues where one does not want to hurt, but often the intention is less important and the fact can still hurt, so in a society based on respect for others and listening and learning, let’s have these complex conversations responsibly.”

Justin Trudeau also condemned the attacks saying: “these terrorists, these murderers, do not represent any religion”.

The French President Macron speaking yesterday about the murders said that France was “under attack”. Following the teacher’s brutal beheading, the French government projected the cartoon depictions of Muhammad on government buildings to highlight its support of the rights of French citizens.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron continues to take a tough line on radical Islam within the country. The President has emphasized that freedom of expression is an inalienable right of French citizens. He has shown without nuance that the Government will act when the safety of citizens exercising their rights, is threatened.

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