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Howard Morry and Abe Freig photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Arab Jewish Dialogue and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on The issue of Reprinting Charlie Hebdo Cartoons of Mohammed

February 24, 2015




On January 25, 2015 the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Howard Morry and Ab Freig  co-chairs of the Arab Jewish  Dialogue (AJD) what the AJD's position was on the fact that  the University of Manitoba student newspaper reprinted the Charlie Hebdo Muhammed Cartoon.



Abe Freig wrote back on January 26 that the  his own position was public in that he had written to the Winnipeg Free Press applauding them" for the high moral stance related to its decision not to reprint the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and for refusing to follow the ignorance of certain news outlets" He wrote, " For the life of me, I cannot understand why a newspaper would hide behind freedom of expression to publish an article or an image knowing full well it will offend and/or promote hatred against the 1.6 billion law-abiding Muslims around the world."



On February 12, 2015 the AJD sent this press release below to the WJR on the subject:


Arab Jewish Dialogue Condemns Violence, Urges Restraint

For Immediate Release


The Arab Jewish Dialogue condemns in the strongest terms any violence that is justified on the basis of religion. We watched in horror as radicals purporting to act in the name of Islam murdered French journalists and Jewish shoppers earlier this month.


The Arab Jewish Dialogue also urges restraint, however, on any attempts, to show solidarity with the victims in France by publishing or circulating drawings of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. We believe there are better ways to show support for free speech and for the victims, without needlessly antagonizing Muslims throughout the world.


Canadians are learning that it is unacceptable in Islam to depict the Prophet Mohammed, whether that depiction is benign or insulting. Publications that reproduced the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and individuals who circulated the cartoons online, were perceived by many Muslims as gratuitously insulting both Islam and Muslims.


The members of the Arab Jewish Dialogue strongly support the right to free speech. In fact, we believe that freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our liberty. However, we also believe that exercising that right responsibly is the cornerstone of our tolerant and vibrant civil society.


The law does place some limits on freedom of speech, such as forbidding defamation and hate speech.


There are also spaces, like work places, schools and university campuses, where offensive speech is prohibited because co-workers and fellow students have no choice but to share space with one another.


But we also believe that we should exercise our right to free speech responsibly in the public square, where the law gives us more leeway to speak freely. We live together in a world that has grown very small, particularly through social media, and what we say or do echoes throughout the world and has the potential to divide us.


After eight years of talking about difficult and emotional subjects, we in the Arab Jewish Dialogue have found that we can always get our point across without undermining the dignity or self-esteem of any other person in the group.


Moreover we have found that disagreeing without gratuitously insulting one another builds trust, which in turn opens minds and encourages compromise and (ultimately) agreed-upon solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.


This is not an argument for more legal restrictions on free speech. It is an argument for the virtues of respectful speech.


We are proud that we live in a society that defends freedom of speech and at the same time respects and embraces the dignity and self-esteem of all of its citizens.


The Arab Jewish Dialogue Inc. (AJD) is a registered Canadian charity. The Arab Jewish Dialogue on Campus (AJDOC) is a student group registered with the University of Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU).

Their joint vision is for Canadians to be inspired by respectful relations between Arabs and Jews. 


Editor's note: 

On February 12, 2015 during his recent visit to Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau about the issue of reprinting Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed (following the recent terror attacks by radical Islamists in France ).  The WJR noted that the University Of Manitoba's student publication the Manitoban published a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Mohammed, whereas the Winnipeg Free Press did not. The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Trudeau what he thought the appropriate approach was regarding reprinting the cartoons.


Trudeau’s complete answer was as follows: “I won’t publish them [Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed] on the Liberal party website but I certainly have no problem with journalists deciding to do that. The freedom of the press to make those decisions is extremely important and I think that in a mature democracy that defends rights we have to make sure we defend all rights. I personally found that the Charlie Hebdo cover was extremely moving and very powerful and that’s something that I celebrate, our capacity to challenge one another, and I think that satire and free press is an extremely important and powerful part of political and civil discourse."   


Note: The Manitoban published an editorial by Ethan Cabel on Jan 14, 2015 entitled" Time to Stand up to Radical Islam" which reprinted a Charlie Hebdo cover from an issue of  Charlie Hebdo in 2011.  In that 2011 issue, Charlie Hebdo played off the fact that in French the words "Charlie" and "sharia" sound similar. Charlie Hebdo renamed its Nov 2, 2011 issue 'Charia Hebdo.' and announced the Prophet Muhammed as a "guest editor" to celebrate the victory of the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahada in Tunisia's elections. This Charlie Hebdo cover, which the Manitoban reprinted on Jan 14, 2015 showed Muhammed declaring "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter! On the day this particular cartoon appeared at 1 a.m., a molotov cocktail was thrown at the Charlie Hebdo offices.)

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.