Indian officials have arrested former Uttar Pradesh minister and BSP leader Haji Yakub Qureshi after he defended the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. India has a law — similar to U.S. laws — have make it a crime to incite violence but the country appears to impose a relatively lower standard as evidenced in this case.
Under section 505 1 (c), it is a crime with intent to incite, or likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offense against any other class or community. However, Qureshi was arrested after engaging in free speech — obnoxious and offensive speech to be sure but still free speech. He believes as do some Muslims that whoever shows disrespect to the Prophet can be put to death. Qureshi does not appear to see any contradiction in declaring “Prophet Mohammad had conveyed a message of peace to the entire world and if anyone makes certain cartoons on him will invite death like the cartoonists and journalists in Paris,”
While some reports state that Qureshi offered a huge reward to the killers of the Paris journalists, he has denied those reports.
However, in 2006, Qureshi had offered a reward for anyone who would kill the Danish cartoonist who had created a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. That does cross the line from speech to conduct, as distinction reflected in in my Sunday Washington Post column. However, his current comments rejoicing in the murder of journalists remains free speech and should be protected. The arrest shows how these laws can be used to attack unpopular speakers. I find Qureshi a disgraceful human being who seeks to silence others to satisfy his own religious sensibilities, much as the Irish Muslim scholar discussed today. However, it is the great irony of free speech that it often protects even those who advocate against it.