Je Suis Charlie

January 7, 2015

I had an interesting discussion on a forum earlier this evening regarding the dreadful terrorist attack in France on the offices of French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’.

It started off easily enough with a friend merely posting the hashtag of support “Je Suis Charlie”

To which I replied:

Je Suis Charlie too … although I despair at people who deliberately provoke others (and put the lives of innocent people in danger in the process) in order to make a point.

My friend took this to mean that I was condoning, or at least excusing, the actions of the fanatics who had carried out the attack. I felt that I needed to clarify my position: I am certainly not excusing, or condoning, the actions of the terrorists.  But, if you poke a bear with a stick and it attacks you, most people would stop poking the bear. 

I will not change my view that the publishers were acting irresponsibly. That might well be a sad indictment on the way the world is or, at least, my view of it, but there you go.

Apparently, it was I who was poking the bear as I got the response:

“So it is nearly ok for a bunch of terrorists to wreak havoc and terror in a country where freedom of expression is regarded as one of the pillars of their democracy….as is ours.
If this is an example of your “religion” then I’ll stay agnostic thanks.”

Well, no, that is not what I was saying at all. I sought to clarify once again:

That’s not what I said but if that’s how you wish to interpret it,  I can’t stop you. Nowhere did I say it was ‘nearly ok’ for the terrorists to do what they did. But take your argument to its logical, if pedantic, conclusion. The moronic terrorists were merely using their own freedom of expression… which you would not deny them.

I have no problem with people lampooning, by whatever means, extremists of any religion, creed, colour or opinion. Indeed, one of the Charlie Hebdo front pages was aimed squarely at the terrorists and not at the prophet. But others were aimed at the Prophet (along with other faith leaders).

ALL Muslims will have been offended by cartoons lampooning the Prophet, just as all Catholics will have been offended by the cartoons lampooning the Pope. Most have enough sense to complain about it rather than go on a murderous spree. Many will have just shrugged their shoulders and thought ‘sod it, it’s not worth the bother’. The Charlie Hebdo publishers WANTED a reaction. They got one. And I feel desperately sorry for all those involved. But they deliberately baited an insane, murderous bear.

If you think it’s ok to say, do or draw what you want in a deliberate attempt to provoke someone and then say “it’s free speech and you can’t stop me” then I disagree with you. To be deliberately hurtful and spiteful is wrong, is it not? Maybe you disagree and think it’s ok.

I get hurt when people make assumptions about me and throw insults at me (or those things I believe in, or am) because I’m white, middle class, have a faith and come from Liverpool. Does that mean it’s ok for people to carry on doing it cos it’s ‘free speech’ to say/do what we like about/to whom we want and what they may believe in (even if those beliefs have been sadly radicalised).

And, if you think only people of faith (even misguided faith) are violent extremists then, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Agnostics and atheists have their extremists, too.

So, yes, lampoon the terrorists but not the prophet. Because that is childish, stupid, infantile and pathetic. In my opinion. Which might well be wrong – but it’s mine and you can’t deny me the right to have it. Because that would be an infringement of free speech, too :)

End of conversation… but not of thinking.

Will self summed it up quite well, I think:

will self
It is impossible to condone, or seek to condone, the actions of the terrorists in Paris. But when your choice leads to harm coming to others, should you really have freedom of choice? In Child Protection issues, we teach that you should never offer unconditional confidentiality, that confidentiality is conditional on what we are told not leading to harm continuing to be done to the teller or others.

There is a risk that this might be interpreted as “they got what they deserved”. But that is so very much NOT what I mean.Clearly, they didn’t deserve to be murdered in cold, or rather, hot, blood. I’m not sure where I’m going with this…

The cartoonists, of course, provided the best responses – but the comments underneath say all that you need to know about the world in which we live and some of the idiots with whom we share it, as does this small selection of responses to a Muslim tweeter who had the temerity to say that the terrorists were not representative of the vast majority of Muslims:


I Am Charlie – as long as Charlie isn’t deliberately intending to be offensive to those who don’t deserve it.