Letters to the Editor: Samuel Paty and free speech
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Letters to the Editor: Samuel Paty and free speech

Send us your comments: PO Box 815, Edgware, HA8 4SX | letters@jewishnews.co.uk

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Gathering in homage to Samuel Paty, at Place de la République in Paris. (Wikipedia/Author	Siren-Com)
Gathering in homage to Samuel Paty, at Place de la République in Paris. (Wikipedia/Author Siren-Com)

Samuel Paty and free speech

Last week French secondary teacher Samuel Paty was murdered in a horrific manner outside his school by a deranged jihadi. Yet in some circles, there has been an almost Pavlovian response to this act of wickedness which refocuses blame on the victim. While condemning this barbarity, some also seem to consider that the teacher’s actions were wrong and invited the terrorist consequences that ensued. 

Such a view is deeply warped on many levels. From what we know, Paty was teaching his class about freedom of speech and used cartoons of the prophet Mohammed to illustrate his point. While such images are considered idolatry by many Muslims, France is not governed by Islamic law and does not have a state duty to revere religious symbols. 

In a country governed by laïcité, the belief that the public space should be free of religion, it feels alien to curb free expression just to protect the feelings of a Muslim minority. In a secular society, no faith can or should be immunised from criticism, satire or mockery. It is a hallmark of critical inquiry to question sacred symbols, to challenge dogma and deference, and to open up minds to fresh perspectives. One has to believe that this was Paty’s intention. The jihadi attacked not just one schoolteacher but fundamental values. 

To believe that Paty invited the attack is to engage in perverse moral reasoning. It is also tantamount to arguing that such heinous acts of violence are somehow expected of Muslims. 

So we must stand in solidarity with Samuel Paty and the right to free expression. And France must continue to crack down on jihadis who shed the blood of innocents for their evil cause. 

Jeremy Havardi, By email

 

Tax on family and friends visiting

Sky News reports that in return for a further bailout of Transport for London, the government is demanding that the Congestion Charge be extended to the boundaries of the South and North Circular roads. 

Jewish north-west London straddles the North Circular Road, separating Hendon to the north from Golders Green to the south. Extending the Congestion Charge would impose a daily tax on travelling between these areas. Is this really what the government wants?

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, By email

Jewish Museum needs hechsher 

Although grateful to learn of the Jewish Museum’s financial lifeline, I was startled to see it no longer has a canteen with kosher certification, surely a prerequisite for a Jewish institution. Perhaps now it will be able to resume the provision of a canteen with a reliable hechsher.

Glenda Aussenberg, By email 

Charedi rules

I cannot reconcile the behaviour of Charedim here and in Israel when the most important of our commandments is to save life, and saving one life is like saving a nation.

Harold Schogger, By email 

 

Maybe people can change iuntias inct

I recently davened in a shul where the rabbi was the Shaliach Tzibur. There was someone davening in the back whose voice seemed to rise loud enough for the rabbi to hush him. About a minute later, the rabbi hushed him again. Then I noticed his voice and hoped he would lower it so the rabbi wouldn’t have to hush him again, but he did. 

It reminded me of when I was davening and there was someone next to me almost yelling the davening. I tried to accommodate his desire for attaining great kavana (purpose) but, at a certain point, I couldn’t focus anymore. I motioned slightly and he quieted down. 

These instances made me wonder about a hypothetical situation. Let’s say parents are read a shidduch (match) of two boys in yeshiva. One is an illui (prodigy) but sometimes davens out loud and must be quieted. Another is not an illui but knows Shas well, and there have been no issues of him raising his voice during davening. It would seem a hard choice; after all, maybe the illui can change.

Steven Genack, By email

 

Let us hope for miracle 

It is truly wonderful to read of all the work that is going on around the world to try to formulate a safe and effective vaccine against this coronavirus.

And it is marvellous to see almost every day acts of generosity and lovingkindness by communities and individuals to help make life safer and more comfortable for all of us.

But having had our seders over Zoom, or alone, or just with our household, and having hoped and prayed that by the autumn life would return to a semblance of normality, here we are in 5781 with little improvement in our lifestyles since lockdown began at the end of March.

We have commemorated Yom Kippur, and celebrated Succot and Simchat Torah as fully and wholehearted as we were able. The secular year offers one more festival, and it is one that celebrates a miracle. Let us hope that this Chanukah will be a time during which medical research surprises us by providing a means to allow us to feel safe again going about our daily lives.

Nadia Haus, N4

 

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