Freedom of Expression – Rokhaya Diallo’s case in France
Freedom without exclusions, dialogue without censorship
In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris and Copenhagen European politicians and public opinion united in the strongest condemnation of violence and in defence of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The recognition of how important freedom is for European societies involves profound respect for different opinions, willingness to hear and engage with diverse points of view, and above all open, constructive dialogue.
It is thus with great concern that EMISCO, the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, notes the decision of the Mayor of the XX arrondissement of Paris, Frédérique Calandra, to veto the participation of Rokhaya Diallo – EMISCO board member, activist for human rights, journalist, documentary producer – in a debate otherwise dedicated to women’s rights at the local town hall.
Any attempt at censorship and restriction of free debate is a disturbing affront to the values of equality and freedom that form a proud part of the European humanistic tradition. But it is particularly disturbing that the Mayor’s decision to block the participation of Ms Diallo in the debate that her town hall is hosting on 3 March 2015 has been justified as a sanction against Ms Diallo’s expressed views on women’s rights and her fight against Islamophobia.
This incident comes only a few months after the authorities of the same arrondissement prevented the use of Arabic in everyday internal communications, in the name of ’neutrality’ and ‘secularism’ (laïcité). Such decisions make a mockery of the declared battle against every form of discrimination and the promotion of open dialogue as the best way to build trust between communities and state authorities.
EMISCO condemns the attempt of the Mayor of the XX Paris arrondissement to censor free debate by adjudicating arbitrarily which views are ‘acceptable’ and which are not. At a time when freedom of opinion is under attack, Islamophobic voices continue to poison inter-community relations, and Muslim communities across Europe face threats to their physical wellbeing and ways of life, the voice of dedicated activists like Rokhaya Diallo must be heard and allowed to inform public debate. There is no space or justification for exclusions and censorship in this process – least of all when these are practised in the name of freedom of expression.