I am not Charlie

By RK Anand | 8:42AM Jan 14, 2015

COMMENT In 72 hours, more than a dozen lives were taken and Paris was shrouded in fear.

The catalyst being a satirical weekly that prided itself in the flagellation of all that is considered sacred, not only to Muslims but others as well.

To be honest, I had been unaware of Charlie Hebdo’s existence until two masked gunmen stormed its office and killed its staff during an editorial meeting.

Curious, I browsed the Internet for the caricatures that had spurred the bloodbath. What I discovered left me mortified.

The cartoons were distasteful and disrespectful. I believe that even Voltaire, who is often dragged into the discussion on free speech, would disapprove of them too.

Freedom of expression cannot and should not be used as a premise to defend such publications.

While resorting to protect the sanctity of a faith with bullets instead of debates must be condemned, Charlie Hebdo cannot be placed on a pedestal either.

Liberties must be safeguarded but there must exist a sense of responsibility.

It does not come with a carte blanche for one to spew the same kind of animus with ink that terrorists do with blood.

Operating in a nation with six million Muslims, knowing well that it could lead to a devastating backlash, Charlie Hebdo had diced with danger.

Its staff were courageous no doubt. Then again, there is a fine line that separates bravado from absurdity.

And these cartoonists gave their lives for what? Offensive images, which even made non-Muslims cringe.

Religious extremism must not for a single instance be justified, but insulting Prophet Muhammad offends not the jihadists alone but all Muslims, even those who denounce terrorism in the name of Islam.

Would non-Muslims condone a publication from the Islamic world lampooning their prophets and saints in a similar demeaning manner?

Indeed, the retaliation should not include murder, but then again, radicals and lunatics exist in all faiths.

Mutual respect

Just like the terrorists, Charlie Hebdo failed to make the world a better place, and it appears that their sacrifice had been in vain apart from strengthening the position of the right-wing in Europe.

If Charlie Hebdo chose to stencilise its creative juices to build and not burn bridges, the lives and deaths would hold greater significance.

Set aside the arguments on freedom of expression, there is nothing complex at work here apart from the simple value imparted on us as children – respect.

It is disheartening to note that when there appears to be massive coverage of the men behind the attacks and Islamic terrorism, there is little about the nature of Charlie Hebdo’s contents.

As activist Sally Khon succinctly put it, “It unsettles me to think that the reason so much of the outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo is driven not just by the violence suffered or a defence of free speech, but by the opportunity to implicitly support jabs at Islam. But judging by some of the coverage, it seems a fair assumption to make.”

The Charlie Hebdo journalists and editors did not deserve to die.

But while I sympathise with the families who have lost their loved ones to a heinous act of violence, I am, however, not Charlie.
RK ANAND is not a Muslim. He is a member of Team Malaysiakini.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 - 6:00 pm

    Charlie Hebbo failed to make a difference? The Hezbollah and Iran denounced the attackers.. No difference?

  2. #2 by Noble House on Thursday, 15 January 2015 - 1:49 am

    To denounce Charlie by saying “Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from criticism” is a straw man. Charlie never asked for freedom from criticism – that much we know!

  3. #3 by Justice Ipsofacto on Thursday, 15 January 2015 - 8:34 am

    The tiger is a very dangerous animal. So dont ever play with it. You might get killed. And eaten.

    How terrifying!!

    So are muslims anything like tigers? Quite clearly and fortunately, a large majority of them are not. Otherwise we would find ourselves in the company of a billion plus such dangerous animal. The world would be in a state of complete chaos and anarchy, even.

    Most (by that I mean a very very large majority) of them are humans, actually. They have feelings, no doubt, but at the same time they too have good basic sense, logic and are humane. Just like the rest of us. So they complain, criticise and may have no hesitation in taking legal actions to counter what they perceive as wrongdoings. They dont kill!

    It is those few animals amongst them who are always out marauding for trouble. And sadly the author here appears to argue in their favour.

  4. #4 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 15 January 2015 - 11:24 am

    Justice Ipsofacto :
    The tiger is a very dangerous animal. So dont ever play with it. You might get killed. And eaten.

    Saw drawing cartoons is like playing with a tiger? Why is that? There is nothing in the Koran about blasphemy or the punishments for blashphemy. Ironically, it is the Bible that has punishments for blasphemy, yet you don’t see Christians killing in the name of God (in modern times.)

    First, it is not nice insulting people or religions. But does that warrant a death penalty? Those shariah/hadiths are created by men, especially evil men who wanted to preserve their power by getting rid of opponents during the medieval times. It is all about politics.

    What shariah imposed should be imposed? That women should not drive cars as in Saudi Arabia.

  5. #5 by good coolie on Friday, 16 January 2015 - 9:43 pm

    Compare Britain’s position with France’s. Britain deems publishing such cartoons as incendiary and offensive) whereas France defends to death the right of free speech. Their respective cultures, historically influenced, is the cause of the difference.
    Any entity affecting the lives of citizens is open to criticism in France if there has been any transgression of the famous trinity of rights (Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality). We in Malaysia would never intentionally insult the leader or founder of any religion, and I agree with the writer of this article that what the cartoonists did was wrong. However let us not naively think that the cartoonist would have been safe if they had not critised the Prophet of Islam, but merely questioned Islamic extremist’s attitude towards women’s rights; or the right of a Muslim to convert to another religion.

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