Cambridge Professor and British Muslim theologian, Abdul Hakim Murad (Timothy Winters), argues that the Paris attacks were the acts of criminals with troubled pasts and little religious knowledge, and have been condemned by a rare show of unity among Muslim leaders in France and worldwide. Globally, Muslims admit that such lawlessness is an increasing worry. No significant Muslim scholar supports the radicals in Iraq and Syria, but some young people simply pay no heed. In an age of individualism, angry minds tend to ignore established religious leaders.
But, he states, there is more at stake here. Charlie Hebdo, like the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten several years ago, did not simply publish images of the Prophet. That, on its own, would probably have occasioned little comment. The difficulty lay in the evident intention to mock, deride and wound. To portray the Prophet naked, or with a bomb in his turban, was not the simple manufacturing of a graven image. It was received, and rightly so, as a deliberate insult to an already maligned and vulnerable community. Mosque burnings and a raft of legal disadvantages are increasingly a fact of life for Muslims in Europe.
The English legal tradition recognises not only the right to free speech, but the right to protection from agonising insult, slander and abuse. In the case of vulnerable minorities that legal concern seems particularly appropriate. It is also in line with the tolerant and courteous national character.