The Charlie Hebdo Affair and the Right to Take Offense: Religious Sensibilities Versus Freedom of Expression in India

  • Lyombe EkoEmail author


India’s journalistic field is ensconced in a complex, politico-cultural, religious, and communitarian environment that has given rise to a geography of freedom of expression that recognizes the right to take offense at perceived objectionable media content and seek legal redress against that content. This chapter describes and explains the tensions between the journalistic and religious fields of India using, as a case study, disputes and controversies spawned by the 2006 Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons controversy and the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. Specifically, it looks at the tension between the human right/rite of freedom of expression and the human right/rite of freedom of religion. This tension is complicated because, in India, the human right/rite of freedom of religion comes with a collateral religious rite of freedom from blasphemy. After tracing the legal contours of freedom of expression and the legally recognized entitlement of respect for religion, as well as the right to take offense, we explore the censorious religious and legal actions taken against the Urdu-language daily Avadhnama and its editor, Shireen Dalvi, for republishing the “Weeping Mohamed” Charlie Hebdo Mohamed cartoon to illustrate an editorial critique of Charlie Hebdo’s Mohammed cartoons.


Charlie Hebdo Je Suis Charlie Religious field of India Freedom of expression Freedom of religion Journalistic field of India Mohammed cartoons 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Journalism and Creative MediaTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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