I’ve had a few days to let the tragic events in Paris settle and permeate in my mind. Who would have thought that such horrors could unfold so close to home. And for what? Revenge? Scaremongering?
The Charlie Hebdo shooting has been dominating Twitter and the news for the last few days with people declaring their solidarity, defiant in their support. However these events have sparked much wider debates on a number of subjects, revealing both good and bad aspects of our society.
The way in which everyone rallied together is something that I love about humanity. Even in the face of such brutal violence, we all manage to come together as one enormous unit and show solidarity against hatred and violence. But there are always opportunists who opt to take the more negative path and aim to incite hatred within a society that is still in shock and emotionally fragile after these attacks.
Rupert Murdoch for example believes that all Muslims should be responsible for the attacks in Paris as the terrorists were acting in the name of our faith. So let me get this straight. Approximately 1.6 billion people on this earth are responsible for the actions of three violent men. Ahmed Merabat, the police officer who was gunned down should be held responsible as well as Lassana Bathily, the employee in the kosher supermarket who hid customers in a large freezer to avoid being killed. Religious profiling much Rupert?
I’ve seen countless Muslims condemning the attack and I’ve done so too. But what I don’t like is this expectation some people have for us to be apologetic for the attacks. There’s no need for us to apologise for these attacks happening because these men do not reflect the faith we practice and try to live by daily. We would never expect Christians to apologise for Hitler’s actions because we all know the vast majority are the polar opposite to the dictator. Are we shocked and upset at the shooting and murders? Of course we are. We’re humans too. We can only imagine what the families of those victims must be going through. This idea that we need to validate ourselves to show that we stand with the majority is ridiculous. Being Muslim doesn’t mean we have an irrational train of thought. I think the fact that two Muslims were killed, (one police officer and a copy-editor) should be enough for people to know that the men responsible do not care about their religion or anyone other than themselves and their selfish, warped reasoning for unleashing this kind of violence.
These men have done much more damage to Islam and to the Prophet they were avenging in comparison to the cartoons published. I have to say, I’m pretty secure in my religion and wouldn’t let a couple of cartoons anger me to the point of murder.
Now, I support free speech and expression – how can I not? I’m a journalism graduate who enjoys nosing around for different perspectives and opinions on loads of topics. However what people may not understand is that free speech is exactly that. Free. That means going against the tide now and again. If we really are all about freedom of speech then I have the right to express that “I don’t like those illustrations Charlie Hebdo published.” I have the right to explain that I found them quite distasteful – and not just the Islamic ones. I also have the right to say that I do feel that Charlie Hebdo often crossed a line where their content stopped being satirical and became somewhat offensive. These are my thoughts and I too am entitled to them, even if they may not be echoed by the mass media. Does that I mean I don’t stand in solidarity? Nope. Does that mean these journalists and cartoonists deserve to die? Of course not. Their material, like most media we consume, is a matter of preference.
Do I think they had an agenda? Of course. All publications do. This was made even more clear after learning that the magazine once fired Maurice Sinet for depicting Nicholas Sarkozy’s son as a Jewish convert. He was accused of anti-semitism and was told to apologise, which he refused to. In the end he was dismissed from the magazine. I do find it astonishing that such heavy punishment was taken for this circumstance, however mocking portrayals of both Islam and Christianity are seen as expressing “freedom of speech.” Surely freedom of speech should extend to everything and everyone, right? Plus, it’s not like our media is completely free and unbiased.
Yasmin Brown for the Independent pointed out other notable cases to do with freedom of speech: “Not good is the way the powerful control our right to know or speak. People are prosecuted for thought crimes; the BBC films on the monarchy have allegedly been blocked by the royal family; the Chilcot report on the Iraq war is still withheld.”
If we are going to stand for free speech and expression we should remember to stand for it everywhere. Not just in our hometown or city. We should support it in areas of the world where leaders silence civilians and where the media purposely ignores. Hashtags are another growing trend and whilst I haven’t used the #JeSuisCharlieHebdo, that doesn’t mean I don’t stand in solidarity against violence and hatred. For me, #JeSuisCharlieHebdo is reflective of the magazine itself and for me, I don’t feel it’s a representation of who I am. I will stand by #JeSuisAhmed, for the police officer who died trying to tackle these violent monsters and better yet, #JeSuisLiberté in support of free speech and peace. In this way, it is a hashtag that reflects a cause that everybody should feel inclined to stand by.
If there’s anything to take away from this unfortunate attack, is that it’s never been more important to stick together. This is the message we should all be spreading. As far as I’m concerned, as long as there’s a pen in our hands and people are sitting up and taking notice of what needs to be done, there’s nothing any terrorist, racist or bigot can do.