It’s a fascinating story, in part because Europe looks at freedom of speech much differently than we do in the states. Our laws here tend to protect political speech more than in some European countries at least. In this case, a young French (presumably Muslim, based on the rest of the article) 3-year-old boy named “Jihad” goes to nursery school wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “I am a bomb” written on the front, and on the back it reads “Jihad Born Sept. 11.”
You can see a picture of the t-shirt on this page.
The thing is, the boy’s name is Jihad, and he was born on September 11.
Little Jihad’s teacher, thinking the shirt was praising the September 11 attacks, called the principal who called the mother. The mom, who was born in Morocco, apologized and said had no intent to convey a political message. Everyone thought the matter was over.
Well, the principal contacted his higher-ups, they contacted the city’s conservative mayor, who then contacted the local prosecutor. So Jihad’s mom, and his uncle who bought the shirt (who also claims he never considered the shirt political, and didn’t even mean it as a joke), were called in by the police for questioning, which can be a particularly scary experience in France as compared to the US, where it’s still not fun.
Mom was asked all sorts of odd questions like whether she timed the birth for September 11, and uncle was questioned about terrorist links, of course.
Eventually, the prosecutor did find a law to go after the mom and her brother (the boy’s uncle) for a 1918 law called “apology for a crime.” I did some research on “apologie de crime” and it exists in Argentina as well (I’m sure among other places). It seems to be exactly what it sounds like – publicly defending a crime, in this case the prosecutor alleges that the uncle and mother are defending the September 11 attacks.
Initially they were going after the mom and uncle for a several thousand dollar fine, but now have reduced their request to a symbolic one euro fine. But, as the Post notes, good luck getting on an airplane ever again after being convicted of having sympathies with the September 11 attacks.
I really do find this story fascinating, because it gets to the heart of what I used to love about 60 Minutes back when we were kids, and LA Law (of all things) did a good job of this as well – presenting both sides of a story in a way that you full appreciated each side, and even felt your loyalties shifting as you learned more facts. This story felt that way to me. At first, I was outraged that a mother would put that shirt on her kid (not that I’d prosecute). Now I’m not sure what to think.
Is it really possible that the mom and the uncle had no idea that the t-shirt would be perceived as it was? And then there’s the larger question of countries have laws against such things as, basically, hate speech. We protect such speech here, generally. In Europe, less so. Then again, Europe has had a different history than we’ve had, in terms of the impact of hate on the continent (though this particular law was passed way before Hitler). But you could argue that slavery was our unique history based on hate, so perhaps things aren’t that different there than here, in terms of each locale having a history of discrimination.
What do you think? Is naming your kid Jihad akin to that story we ran years about the couple that named their Adolf Hitler Campbell (his siblings were named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeanne)? And should the mom face any kind of official blowback for putting a t-shirt like this on her kid, even if she did in fact mean it to be a reference to September 11 (which she denies)?