Last week brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi shot 12 people dead at the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Although it should go without mentioning, I denounce what these self-identifying paper Muslims did, their actions go against my beliefs and my values. The lost souls and their loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.
The events were tragic. Reports have dramatized what happened by stating that it is an attack on the Western symbol of free speech and the goal was to destroy Western values. In fact, the French president stated that what happened was an act of war. We can contextualize the acts by looking at the atrocities around the world, especially those committed by or through Western powers, and because of it millions of innocent Muslims lost their lives. Seeing how the story was covered in the media I am offended because I have a feeling that lives matter only when they are being lost in the West; lost lives in other corners of the planet are just numbers. Indeed, other lives have as much value as lives in the West and should be respected and valued as well.
I am offended by the hypocrisy of the magazine. Charlie Hebdo believes that freedom of expression should have no limits in criticizing or insulting others, especially when targeting Muslims. However, Maurice Sinet, a former cartoonist at the magazine, was dismissed for suggesting that Jean Sarkozy, the son of the former president Nicholas Sarkozy, was converting to Judaism for financial reasons. He was accused of being anti-Semitic. I am offended because when Henri Roussel, one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo, tried to voice his opinion about the attacks at Nouvel Obs, Richard Malka, Hebdo’s lawyer, contacted the publication in order to stop them from publishing it. Being critical means targeting everyone. Satire means touching everyone’s sensitive spot. The double standard about freedom of expression is troubling.
I am offended by the official hypocrisy of France. On Monday, January 2nd, France’s interior minister said that local officials have the right to ban shows of Dieudonné M’bala, a comic whose performances are sometimes considered anti-Semitic. The city of Bordeaux was the first to cancel his show. The same comic was arrested on January 14th for posting on social media: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” He posted the comment after what he witnessed at Paris’s march against ‘terrorism’. Another 54 people, including four minors, have been detained for the same reasons. Several have already been immediately sentenced. France invited everyone to march for freedom of press and speech for all (I hope!), and its authorities are arresting other citizens for basically doing the same thing, only the satire is from a different view. I am offended because I am confused about where we draw the line between free speech and hate speech and, more importantly, who draws such limits.
I am offended because in the first few hours following the attacks, I learned about Stéphane Charbonnier, Bernard Maris, Jean Cabut, Georges Wolinsk, Bernard Verlhac, and Philippe Honoré, and whom I did not know before. It was two days later that I learned, by accident, that the cop who was first killed by cold blood on the ground was Ahmed Merabat. The first victim of the slaughter was a French Muslim. He was killed minutes before the criminals broke into Charlie Hebdo’s offices and committed their crime. I am offended because I believe that he deserves the same attention as the ones whom he died defending. Didn’t he give his life in defense of their freedom of expression?
I am offended because when the courageous Lassana Bathily saved 15 Jewish lives in the Parisian kosher market, he was automatically held by the police as a suspect for a few hours. Fortunately, he will be granted citizenship for his heroic action after almost 300,000 people signed a petition on his behalf. I am offended because I feel that we are worthy of “real” news only when we commit crimes; our names and pictures are relevant and newsworthy only when they demonstrate a hatred for “western values”. Otherwise, our good deeds will often go unnoticed. Is it because it’s conflicting the image the media wants us to draw about such events?
I am offended by Paris’s march against terrorism. Heads and representatives of states from around the world marched alongside the French in the city. I am offended by the levels of hypocrisy that were witnessed. Especially when looking at the CVs of most leaders who headed the march. Were the leaders marching for freedom of expression? Some of them would allow anything in their countries but free expression, or, were they denouncing terrorism? Some of them are registered terrorists with a good record of criminal atrocities in recent decades.
And finally, I am offended because I believe that all kinds of terrorism should be condemned and dealt with, including the killings of people by drone attacks in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc., not just the crimes being committed by brown people.