In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo events, I felt the need to write something rather different from my normal types of posts. Wednesday the 7th of January was a sad day – for the writers/caricaturists of Charlie Hebdo who perished in a single instant due to a group of people who deemed the content they were creating offensive, their friends and families, France, and finally all of us.
I have observed a trend on social media, particularly Facebook, that goes something like this: ‘I, who am an active social media member, am going to remain silent about this./ Am going to find an opinion article about how the Charlie Hebdo, a socialist left-wing newspaper is not all that innocent…oh but I do not condone murder!’
If you’re challenging their innocence, you are indeed condoning murder.
This, to you reader, may seem like a harsh statement. You may find it subjective, you may find it to be a grey area, you may even find it islamophobic of me but in this case there is no grey area. Too many of us walk on eggshells for the fear of being deemed as ‘offensive’ or intolerant. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali has said : “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice”.
Are we excusing racist islamophobes with a Muslim-hating agenda? No. Charlie Hebdo satirized the leader of their own country, other political figures, many other public figures, various social topics, the Catholic church, and yes…they satirized Islam. They satirized xenophobia, homophobia, and oppression. There is no greater tool against ridiculousness as humour – regardless if such humour is your cup of tea or not. See freedom of speech is our Human Right, and it does not exempt themes that some may deem to be ‘controversial’. It is the ability to say, critique, speak of subjects that could offend. Yes, freedom of speech is precisely that – the right to offend.
So why is it that we are treating a certain religion as ‘untouchable’? We certainly don’t feel the need to tiptoe around Catholicism. Anyone will voice out openly ‘what complete morons’ when thinking about the Westboro Baptist Church, and so why are we afraid to agree that religious extremism is a problem in Islam? It is a problem that countries function on the Sharia law that oppresses women in more ways than one, a law that condemns homosexuals to murder, a problem in countries that function on their twisted interpretation of Islam. Saying that this religion cannot be subject of ridicule is not only siding with the extremists, it is also going against the majority of Muslim people, who are peaceful, progressive, and who treat Islam as their personal comfort zone and use it to feel as part of a community. Those people have perhaps glanced at the article, and cringed at it. They may have written a reiteration in return, but they would never even think of killing to avenge.(see #notinmyname).
Was offending with words and imagery an invitation to kill? We need to rethink our values system if so. So if someone offends you, reiterate with words, with art, with peaceful expression. Violence is not a right, violence is not a form of expression.
I would like to finish this again with Hirsi Ali’s words, “There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.” Let’s all take a minute to stop and think about that.