Blasphemy, Charlie Hebdo, and the Freedom of Belief and Expression

RASHAD ALI, FEBRUARY 2015

This briefing paper discusses the reactions to the horrific events that unfolded in Paris in January 2015, with the murders of a group of journalists, a police officer, and members of the Jewish community. Responses have ranged from the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ to those highlighting the Muslim victims of terror, to those defending the right to get offended and react, but not violence. So what is blasphemous and insulting about these cartoons? Why has such an extreme perspective on speech been used to explicitly justify murder and acts of terror in the minds of the perpetrators? Rashad Ali discusses the inconsistencies and contradictions in terrorist and extremist interpretations of Islam and blasphemy, and demonstrates the need to highlight the ideological flaws in their narrative.

The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Download Report

The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right

This report presents the findings of a research project of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit about the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, including alternative social media platforms and alternative media outlets. While these platforms draw in a global audience this report focuses specifically on the German speaking and Germany-focused communities and outlets within this ecosystem. Drawing together ISD’s digital ethnographic work across dozens of forums and channels with the latest in machine learning and natural language processing, this report provides an overview over the size and nature of the far-right communities on these platforms the motivations for participating in these communities and assesses whether banning far-right groups from mainstream platforms leads to the displacement of their followers to ‘alternative’ platforms. We also analyse the role of alternative ‘news’ outlets in disseminating far right concepts, drawing on the‘Hate Observatory’, a joint initiative of ISD and the MIT Media Lab , based on their Media Cloud software, and compare the frequency and types of coverage of far-right themes in mainstream and alternative media. This report also recommends steps to be taken by tech companies, government, civil society and researchers to counter the far-right online.