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Page of Calligraphy with Stenciled and Painted Borders from a Subhat al-Abrar (Rosary of the Devout) of Jami Author: Maulana Nur al-Din `Abd al-Rahman Jami (1414–92) Calligrapher: Sultan `Ali Mashhadi (ca.1440–1520) (Photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)


Pope Francis in Manila (The Independent, UK)

To read Pope Francis’ Statement, go to “There are limits,” says Pope Francis (19 January 2015)

According to journalist Stefano Hatfield, Pope Francis expressed “his” views on the Paris attacks.

“In case you missed it, Francis was giving his views on the Charlie Hebdo affair. He said he supported free speech, BUT… and, as you can tell, it was a big “but”. The Pope illustrated what he meant through an apparently light-hearted reference to what would happen if his advisor insulted the Papal mother.”
(The Independent, UK)

It would be my opinion that, freedom of speech is a major issue, a global issue, and that it therefore warrants a comment from one of the world’s major leaders. Why should Pope Francis not give his views on freedom of speech?

At least 18 Nobel Laureates are asking for a resolution to Raif Badawi’s sorry condition. I look upon them as “superior” minds possessing the credibility and authority that have earned them a Nobel Prize. Such people should speak out when people are murdered, or when a blogger is about to be tortured to death because he advocated more tolerance towards liberals in his country, and did so peacefully.

A more lenient reading

May I propose, moreover, a more lenient reading of Pope Francis’ comment. Pope Francis did not condemn freedom of speech itself, but he advocated prudence and recommended that humans use freedom of speech for “the good of all.”

“Whoa! The Pope advocating not turning the other cheek? This really is new territory for the man who has been an admirable champion of the poor and scourge of corruption in his own Church during his brief time as boss.”

May I also propose that Pope Francis did not advocate retaliation. Turning the other cheek, remains the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, yet, it is “normal” to defend one’s mother if she is cursed.

An Anecdote

As a nine-year old, I kicked a big fellow who was attacking a small fellow who wore eyeglasses. The small fellow could not defend himself. He would have broken his glasses and his mother would have punished him. When I kicked him, the big fellow loosened his grip and I told the small fellow to run away as quickly as possible. This was not vengeance, this was indignation. A small fellow was being attacked by a bully and could not defend himself, so I became the little fellow: “Je suis toi.” (I’m you.).

Similarly, the Pope would be indignant if someone cursed his mother, which would not be vengeance. The punch would be an instinctive: “Don’t you dare insult my mother.” In fact, he may not have meant an actual punch, but words. Vengeance implies a degree of premeditation.

“Mr Cameron challenged the Pope, who said, in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, that people ‘cannot insult the faith of others’. The Prime Minister said: ‘I’m a Christian; if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but I don’t have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them.’”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2914996/David-Cameron-returns-claiming-Brobama-new-Reagan-Thatcher.html#ixzz3PT6SbLA4

Under Wikipedia’s entry on freedom of speech, I see restrictions: to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, hate speech, etc. It is a long list. Violation of these restrictions may threaten the rule of law, an ideology dating back to Greco-Roman antiquity.

The people who killed in Paris were haters who did not comply with the afore-mentioned rule of law and may have been taught hatred. I heard one of the Kouachi brothers say they had not killed, others had killed: the French, for instance. (See Kouachi brothers’ radicalization).


If one reads Michel de Montaigne, Blaise Pascal (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662; 39), Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), and other thinkers, one will find a plea for moderation in everything. Moreover, if one looks at liberalism (see Liberalism, Wikipedia), its proponents have rejected “hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings.” (See The Social Contract: Hobbes, Locke & Rousseau)

Proponents of liberalism have also opposed “traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in government with representative democracy and the rule of law”.


“Pope Francis is clearly a different breed of religious leader. But this week he blew it.”

I do not think Pope Francis “blew it.” I agree with British Prime Minister Jim Cameron. One does not wreak vengeance:

“I’m a Christian; if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but I don’t have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them.”

I would also say:

“I’m a Christian; if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but I don’t have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them.”

Furthermore, I might say:

“I am a Muslim; if someone…”

However, Pope Francis did not advocate vengeance. He advocated prudence. It could be that, at the age of 9, he might have kicked a bully who was attacking a little fellow protecting his eyeglasses, but vengeance, in 2015.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

At the moment, however, vengeance is about to be wreaked once again on Raif Badawi. He is scheduled to be flogged on Friday 23 February, which does not make sense.

Given that Mr Badawi’s case has been referred to the Supreme Court, it would seem one should not torture him until the Supreme Court has made its determinations. Judges require time to examine the facts and, until they do, it would seem appropriate to consider Mr Badawi’s earlier sentence null and void. I trust members of the Supreme Court will protest.


Ninety-year-old (90) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, is an absolute monarch, but above him there are international bodies, two of which are the United Nations and International Law. More importantly, king Abdullah has a conscience.

I still think that once they are apprised of the facts, king Abdullah and Saudi Arabia officials will not allow further torture and incarceration of Raif Badawi. I do not have the right to presume they will not be just and compassionate.

  • There is no absolute freedom of speech;
  • no one can be inhumane in the name of morality; and
  • there are cases when provocation can lead to a bloodbath.

In short, there are limits!

With my kindest regards to all of you.


Sources and Resources

Beethoven, Symphony no 7, 2nd movement
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Raif Badawi
Raif Badawi (Amnesty International)

© Micheline Walker
21 January 2015