In Seattle, a group of protestors wants a teacher fired after she shared mildly satirical cartoons from the Charlie Hebdo controversy, using them to spark a discussion of free speech and religious pluralism with immigrant students in her class, the Seattle-based Stranger reported.
The controversy exploded after Deepa Bhandaru, a volunteer teacher at the Refugee Women's Alliance, led a class discussion on free speech and shared some of the milder Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The center closed early last week in anticipation of protests from Somali immigrants, shuttering its doors and putting a note on the door.
"Je suis Charlie," or "I am Charlie," was the international watchword for the weeks immediately after the Paris massacre last month when 17 people were killed in an attack on a satirical newspaper and in related events.
In a letter to her colleagues, The Stranger reported, Bhandaru wrote that the workshop had gone well, with the students agreeing that "sometimes one person's freedom might offend another person, but that's the price we pay to be free."
Ironically, the thrust of Bhandaru's class discussion was meant to be conciliatory as well as informative, emphasizing, in her words, "how we as Muslims or allies of the Muslim communities counteract these stereotypes."
But she also wrote a plaintive apology to the offended parents that seems to contradict the essence of the class discussion.
"I have reached out to all of the Muslim youth in my program and their parents, apologizing and guaranteeing them that I will never make this mistake again," she wrote.
Some protestors would apparently be willing to allow the teacher to continue teaching, but only on the condition of contrition.
"Unfortunately, freedom of speech is always used as the fig leaf when people are bashing Muslims," Jeff Siddiqui, head of American Muslims of Puget Sound, told The Stranger. "If this was a deliberate act of provocation, I'd say fire her. Absolutely. But if now the person gets it and is contrite, I don't see why, because then we'd lose a good teacher."
“She should respect us as much as we respect her — her religion, her personality,” one protestor told The Seattle Globalist. “I don’t want to disrespect anybody for the way they are …I don’t think it’s free speech to talk about somebody’s religion, somebody’s beloved prophet like that.”
“We don’t want someone to brainwash our children,” Hassan Diis told The Daily Caller. “The prophet is very important for us. We want her to leave this community alone. We want the organization to hire someone who understands the culture and values of our immigrant Muslim community.”