We have previously discussed the wholesale attack on free speech principles in France from limits on religious garments to stripping the Internet of anonymity to attempting to criminalize historical accounts. The most recent case involves a woman who named her boy “Jihad” and then dressed her three-year-old in a sweater with the words “Je suis une bombe – I am a bomb” on the front, along with his name and ‘Born on September 11th’ on the back. She was given a suspended jail sentence for “glorifying a crime” — it is a crime that is only punishable if you disregard the most fundamental principles of free speech. It turns out that the boy was born on September 11, 2009.
The case arose in Nimes in Southern France. The prosecutors had an easy case to make once it was established that “glorifying” crime is a crime in France: “We have to rule that they (the mother and uncle) knew of the provocative nature of the T-shirt.”
The shirt was actually a present from his uncle Zeyad, 29, who insisted “I had no intention of being provocative or shocking people. For me the words ‘I am a bomb’ mean ‘I am beautiful’”. I fail to see how Zeyad was not trying to be provocative or how “I am a bomb’ could possibly be viewed as meaning ‘I am beautiful.” However, it does not matter. Even if it was meant to be provocative, that is the purpose of much of free speech — to take on controversial or verboten subjects. The t-shirt seems to have a clear political message on the attitudes following 9-11.
The mother said that she liked the t-shirt because it had her son’s birthdate on it.
A lawyer for the mayor Claude Avril displayed the underlying contempt for free speech by insisting “Idiocy is often the best alibi to hide our real intentions. The most scandalous aspect of this is the manipulation of a three year-year-old to convey the words of terrorism.” Really? I thought the most scandalous aspect of this was a person claiming to be an attorney and actively using the law to punish the exercise of free speech but that might just be me.