As a journalist, the attack on Charlie Hebdo hit home for me. Our job as informers, news gatherers and representatives of knowledge can leave us open to ridicule, loathing, hatred, and death. This is par for the course. What is not is the reaction of these extremists to a drawing of their beloved religious figure the Prophet Mohamed. In a recent article by Agence France-Presse or (AFP) Egypt’s Islamic authority criticized the newest edition, “This action is an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims,” the Dar al-Ifta said in a statement.
Charlie Hebdo is an equal opportunity offender of various religions like Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism to name a few. However, due to events throughout the last 15 or so years, Muslims have been given a bad rap for something that a small number of extremists have decided to undertake. We must remember that being a Muslim does not make one an extremist, just like the fact that not all Germans during WWII were Nazis, nor were all Americans held responsible for the killing of Native Americans before and during westward expansion.
So how does one equate murder with hurt feelings? It can’t. There is no doubt that the Charlie Hebdo covers were provocative. Some may call them racist, hurtful, or demeaning, but what is hurtful to one may not be hurtful to another.
Perhaps the root cause of the blow-back that Charlie Hebdo has received is the idea that certain things shouldn’t be published no matter what. Never mind that subjects that must be talked about are swept under the rug; like murder, same-sex marriage, abortion, fallacies of certain thinking, or that any religion must kowtow too despite the fact that these institutions do more to harm themselves than any paper or cartoon could.
In a free society, one must have the ability to express and print, either artistically or through words, the injustices that exist. Otherwise, they will continue ad infinitum. Hand in hand with freedom is the idea of balance which is something that these extremists have forgotten. By slaughtering the sentinels of freedom they have failed in their mission. Instead of silencing their critics the floodgates of conversation have opened.
As Albert Camus said, “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.” In this instance, the covers did their job as they made people talk and think. Je Suis Charlie!