Disclaimer: I DO NOT CONDONE THE ATTACK ON CHARLIE HEBDO IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. This is a mere observation. Are we clear?
I’m sure by now Charlie Hebdo needs no introduction. In case you’re wondering what the foodge Charlie Hebdo is, it’s a French newspaper that publishes cartoons of a satirical nature. But let’s fast forward a little bit.
On Wednesday morning, two radical Islamists (I stress that their actions don’t reflect Islam as a whole) entered the Charlie Hebdo offices and opened fire on staff members during a meeting. 12 people (including two police officers) were killed and 11 injured in the crossfire.
The attack prompted the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, which was trending on Twitter the day of the shootings. It has been used a whooping 6,500 times per minute, making it one of the most popular hashtags in Twitter history. A few dissenting hashtags, such as#JeNeSuisPasCharlie have also made their way into the Twittersphere.
As a journalism student, I can see why the right to freedom of expression is so fiercely defended. It helps keep people informed about current events. It helps us to ridicule the powerful via satire (which is a dying art but that’s another post for another day). It permits creatives to express themselves. There are countries where freedom of expression is practically non existent (*cough* North Korea #noshade) and we are appalled, then we thank our lucky stars that we live in a society that allows us to express ourselves freely.
Having said that, freedom of expression is not an excuse to reinforce prejudices and stereotypes. There is a fine line between freedom of expression and pure disrespect. Charlie Hebdo played jump rope with that line several times. Wanna question me? Let me show you a few things.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think freedom of speech is a valuable asset to a well-adjusted society. But let’s not act like the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were martyrs. Before Wednesday’s events, the paper had a reputation for parodying religion, particularly Islam, in a crude manner. They even suffered a firebomb attack on their offices in 2011 because of a similar cartoon. In a country where there are tensions between Muslims and the wider French community, this added more fuel to a rapidly growing fire.
To conclude, lemme leave this cartoon here. It perfectly sums up how it would be if Jews were ridiculed instead of Muslims.
P.S. Happy New Year – Sorry for the absence btw!
P.P.S. Share this among your friends on Twitter, Facebook and all that good stuff. Thanks x