Whenever an act of terrorism or unnecessary violence on a grande scale is committed, I find myself asking the same question: Why? What did the perpetrator want to achieve? Very rarely do they act without a goal or purpose, whether this to be to shock, gain media attention or they believe it is to stand up for their religion.
The attack on French publication Charlie Hebdo that left twelve dead is horrendous and cannot, for many reasons, go unmarked. The pouring of outrage that is currently sweeping the internet and social media shows that the world is shocked, and quite rightly so, but this is not enough. In all honesty who amongst my readers can name all of the journalists that have been beheaded in the shocking videos distributed by ISIS? Without googling it, I can’t. We need something to mark today and ensure that it stays in the public’s mind for years to come because today, a monumental change has occurred. Our right to freedom of speech is being challenged and we, like the cartoonists and editors of Charlie Hebdo, need to stand up and fight back.
‘Freedom of speech’ is under threat. Will journalists and the public alike now have to monitor what they say through fear of repercussion on a fatal scale? The nine Charlie Hebdo employees that lost their lives; Stephane Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac, Bernard Maris, Frederic Boisseau, Franck Brinsolaro, Elsa Cayat, Phillippe Honore, were dedicated to pushing the limits in their satirical magazine despite previous attacks on the publication, including a fire attack in 2011, for their controversial published cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in various actions which people could deem offensive. Editor Stephane Charbonnier had been under police protection since 2011 following a controversial illustration.
The world has come together in a show of solidarity for this. Social media channels were swamped with posts of ‘Je Suis Charlie’; I am Charlie, to support the people of Paris through this hard time. To me ‘Je Suis Charlie is so much more than support. It is a demonstration to all of the fundamentalists who think that they can silence the written, spoken or illustrated word simply because they disagreed with it. It is a clear voice amongst the chaos saying ‘NO’. We will keep questioning things we do not understand, debating things we do not agree with and laugh at things we find unfathomable. Our future will not be dictated by fundamentalists of religions that depict peace and goodwill in their scriptures.
People of all religions are standing side by side today and if this act was meant to put even more strain on the relationship between French people and the Islamic world, something that has been tenuous due to its history, then they have failed. The French are not turning their backs on all people of Islamic religion, they are focusing their energies on finding the three allegedly Al-Qaeda fundamentalists that committed this heinous act.
In the strongest demonstration of defiance against this act, the surviving journalists of Charlie Hebdo are planning to publish their publication next week. They have shown that they will not be silenced and fellow publications, most of which are currently under protection, have offered offices and editorial support to ensure it happens.
In 2012, Charbonnier told magazine Tel Quel that he would “rather die standing than live on my knees’. This struck a chord with me; he refused to be silenced by people who thought he was mocking them, stood strong against those who told him not to publish illustrations through fear of attack and today I stand here and join the world as I say with pride ‘Je Suis Charlie’